DALTON A family trip to one of Ohio’s science centers can last all day and requires planning ahead, packing extra snacks, and praying that none of the kids collapse, forcing all the family to pack their bags and get home early.
Lori Colon and Delight Howells hope to deliver the same adventure of exploration, creativity and learning found at places like the Great Lakes Science Center and COSI a little closer to home.
The two women helped build the future Wayne County Children’s STEAM Playlab on Friday. The 30,000 square foot science center will be located directly west of the Das Dutch Kitchen in Dalton and housed in a 50,000 square foot facility built by Howells’ father, Dallas Steiner, and their family.
Colon is chairman of the board of directors of Playlab, which has launched a $ 7 million fundraising campaign in hopes of completing the children’s science center by fall 2022. Howells is the managing director of LincWay , Inc., which is the family business that operates the entire facility.
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Two dreams become one
Each guided by faith, Colon and Howells separately dreamed of opening a children’s learning museum in Wayne County and, through mutual acquaintance, found themselves in pursuit of making their dream come true.
“It ended up coming back to me, ‘Hey! There’s another lady who started a nonprofit and she’s working on a children’s museum, ”Howells said. “Lori and I ended up getting together and it was the coolest reunion ever…. We realized that the things the Lord had given us were very similar.
Howells’ dream began when she visited a children’s museum with her family in 2016 and suggested to her mother that Wayne County needed a similar place where the kids could go and learn with hands-on activities. At the time, she was a nurse manager for the Stark County Health Department.
The Department of Health encouraged Howells to obtain a master’s degree in business administration. With the direction of the Lord, Howells pursued the degree with the intention of using it for his work in the health department.
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After his father transferred ownership of their family business, Venture Products Inc., in early 2020, they began to think about how to use some of the extra resources they now had in their possession. Howells suggested opening a children’s museum. Even though she meant it was a joke, her family supported the idea and she quickly started figuring out how to do it.
Her research brought her to Colon, whose dreams of a local children’s museum began when she was the former director of the YMCA daycare. She developed the philosophy that children learn best by doing.
“The most important tool we can give our children is the power of play,” Colon said at Friday’s ceremony. “From this philosophy was born the dream and the idea that Wayne County needs a place in our community that focuses on educational, creative and hands-on learning for children.
Dig for dinosaur bones or travel to space
The Wayne County Children’s STEAM Playlab will feature seven to ten themed exhibits, including a dinosaur dig, an art and music center, and a NASA space room. Colon is very excited about the Kid City Hall, which will represent the Wayne County community with a former farm and farm, hospital, restaurant, library, bank and municipal building.
“At the children’s museum, [kids] can learn if they prefer the arts, if they are more inclined to mechanics, maybe they want to know more about all the different countries in the world, or what a star is made of, ”said Lindsay Grassmyer , secretary of the board of directors of playlab.
The playlab works with Boss Display, an interior design company based in Columbus, to create its exhibits. The company started in the late 1930s making panels and displays and entered the world of interactive exhibits in the late 1980s when it got a call from COSI to create its practical and responsive science exhibits. to children.
The company has also collaborated with the Wonder Lab in Cleveland, the Imagination Station in Toledo, and the Mighty Children’s Museum in Chillicothe. Company representatives installed a vertical wind tube and bubble hoop displays as an example of their work.
The exhibitions will be aimed at children from birth to 14 years old and at all levels. The playlab will also provide a room for children who are over-stimulated and need a smaller, quieter space to refocus.
The science center will create youth development programs for students aged 11-14 to volunteer and gain experience to become experts in different areas of the playlab while being mentored by an educator to adults.
The playlab will also have a Junior Counselor Program for students aged 15-18 who can be employed and work alongside adults in day camps, STEAM classes and multicultural education programs, parent evenings and family evenings.
Educational programming for nearby students
Rachel Speelman, vice-chair of the playlab board, can’t wait to bring not only her two children to the playlab, but also the students in her special classes in the local South East school district. Wayne County school districts are limited in their field trip options and the playlab will provide an affordable and convenient location to bring students.
“They are all very happy to partner with us,” Speelman said of local school districts.
The playlab creates educational programs to reach specific ages and achieve specific program goals in consultation with local and regional educators. It also aligned its educational programming with Ohio curriculum standards.
The playlab plans to offer one-year memberships to school districts so that one of their schools or classes can plan field trips to the facilities.
“The way to make life is to unite”
The Wayne County Children’s STEAM Playlab partnered with the Steiner family on the building project. The business name LincWay, Inc. derives from the location of the facility on Old Lincoln Way as well as the idea suggested by Howells’ sister-in-law that “the way to live is to unite.”
In the additional space of the building, the Steiner family will be opening LincWay Cafe & Market, providing a new place to grab a quick bite for the Dalton community and a place for local artisans to sell their wares. They will also open an art studio and workspace where small businesses can rent individual offices or rent conference rooms.
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Contact Emily Morgan at 330-287-1632 or [email protected]
On Twitter: @ mogie242