Expanding Students’ Minds at the Children’s Museum

. November 10, 2014.

As executive director of The Children’s Museum of Findlay, Erin Poling has been inspired by the community’s support of the fledgling organization – and she sees a bright future of growth ahead.

Poling, a Findlay resident, was a member of the Children’s Museum’s board of directors which unanimously voted her into her current post. The museum, located inside the Findlay Village Mall, opened in July 2014. It offers a number of community-sponsored, hands-on exhibits for kids to explore under the categories of the arts, engineering, mathematics, pretend play, science, technology, infant and toddler, and a traveling exhibit.

Poling and her husband, Scott, are expecting identical twin boys in December and have a 5-year-old daughter, Darby. Before the museum, Poling worked as adult services director for Blanchard Valley Industries through the Hancock County Board of Developmental Disabilities. She is a Findlay High School and Miami University (of Ohio) graduate.

What made you interested in this position and the Children’s Museum?

My mom is a real estate agent in town and she has often told me that one of the top questions she gets is “What is there to do with kids in Findlay?” I went on a vacation to Hilton Head with my parents and we saw a teeny tiny interactive children’s museum and thought, “Why couldn’t Findlay have one like this?” I then ended up meeting Jim and Nikki Bonomo, founders of the museum, at a mutual daycare and they offered me a board position, so I was happy to take it, and now, here I am.

What kind of an opportunity do you think this is for Findlay?

I think it’s an amazing growth opportunity for the companies and families here. It also fills a void. I know from experience it’s pretty hard to drive to Toledo for something like this with a toddler who needs a nap everyday.

What have you enjoyed seeing take place most at the museum?

The community volunteers and sponsor support have been amazing. And I love seeing parents and grandparents interact with the kids, in almost a forced, different kind of interaction (with the hands-on activities). It’s just so different than anything you could be doing in your living room. I hate to say it this way, but when kids leave crying because they don’t want to leave, you know it’s a success.

Do you have a favorite moment that you’ve witnessed while working here?

There is a boy in one of our families who comes in regularly who falls on the autism spectrum. When they brought him in for the first time he just lit up. He was playing and talking to the other kids here and interacting, which is something they said he doesn’t normally do. It was pretty impressive, and it helps you to know that the environment in here is working right.

What do you see in the future for the museum?

The initial plan has been to have the museum here for about two years and treat it like a study. If the community is receptive and the museum is able to sustain itself, we’d love to find a space downtown where we can expand and partner with the Historical Museum, the Performing Arts Center, Awakening Minds Art and other places there. Once we find a space, we will launch a capital campaign to raise funds and make it happen.

Children’s Museum of Findlay, 1800 Tiffin Ave #201, Findlay. 567-250-9616. facebook.com/ChildrensMuseumofFindlay