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Thrivent Magazine Fall 2021

STEM kit initiative grows after Thrivent Action Team

Thrivent Action Team volunteers putting together STEM kits

Children's museum offers hands-on learning at home to area children.

When children couldn’t visit the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, during COVID shutdowns last year, the museum, with the help of a Thrivent Action Team, brought education and fun to the children at home instead.

Thrivent client Erik Weibel, 19, organized a Thrivent Action Team in April of 2020 to create STEM kits—hands-on science, technology, engineering and math projects—for families to do together at home.

“With everything from schools to parks to the children’s museum being closed, we felt kids were missing out on hands-on education as well as things they could do for fun,” says Erik, who works part-time at the museum, where his mom, Ginny Weibel, is the director. “We had the idea of continuing to serve the community by creating kits that families could use at home.”

The Weibels started the kits with items they found while doing projects at the museum during its closure. With the community impact card, Erik’s Thrivent Action Team purchased additional items, and the completed kits were placed in the Little Free Library in front of the museum.

The project snowballed—both in use and sponsorship.

Parents have told us about how hard the isolation was, and how the new kits gave the kids something to look forward to. This project has legs, and it’s still growing.
Ginny Weibel

“We started by distributing 40 kits a week in one county, and it has grown to more than 400 a week in five counties,” says Erik, who is majoring in electronics engineering technology at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

After the successful Thrivent Action Team, local businesses and organizations got on board to donate materials and dollars to meet the growing demand and to continue distributing kits even after the museum reopened. More than 7,000 kits have been distributed. Kit topics have included fossil identification, building a balloon-powered car, sundial kits and sprouted seeds.

“It turned into a really fabulous project,” says Ginny Weibel. “Parents have told us about how hard the isolation was, and how the new kits gave the kids something to look forward to. This project has legs, and it’s still growing.”

For the Weibels, children’s education and literacy are a family affair. Erik’s dad, Louis, also has used Thrivent Action Teams to encourage children’s education. His most recent project was for the Alpha GeekCon21 event held in May at the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum. The two-day event featured opportunities for learning, playing and imagination through cosplay, video games, board games, speakers and workshops.

“More than 400 people attended, and the families that participated had a lot of fun,” Ginny says. “The cosplay piece of it [dressing up as a character from a movie, book or video game] really helps kids—especially those with social anxiety disorders—express themselves.”

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