BIG IDEA: Betsy Hartschuh and the Akron Children’s Museum

What’s the Big Idea with Betsy Hartschuh and the Akron Children’s Museum?

photography by Svetla Morrison

See more of her work, including her Akron’s Big Ideas series, at her website here

Name: Betsy Hartschuh
Age: 36 (but I still feel 20-something)
Hometown/Home now: Born in Akron but currently residing in Sharon Township.
Occupation: attorney/mom to three

Betsy Hartschuh wants to make Akron an even better destination for families with children. (PHOTO: Svetla Morrison)
Betsy Hartschuh wants to make Akron an even better destination for families with children. (PHOTO: Svetla Morrison)

What’s your Big Idea?

Akron Children’s Museum where… “We plan to create a gathering place for children and families, where play inspires exploration, discovery, and problem solving. Picture a space where children spend hours tinkering with machines, creating art, filling mini shopping carts with healthy food at a pint-sized grocery store, or splashing in a water table as they learn how canals work.”

Why do you pursue your Big Idea?

“Nearly 250 cities across the US currently have indoor, interactive spaces for children to learn through play. We want to provide these same opportunities for children in and around Akron. We are motivated by the enrichment possibilities for our community’s youth. Investing in early childhood education is tremendously valuable and can yield a return of up to $16 for every dollar invested. Playful learning environments at children’s museums stimulate curiosity and create lifelong learners. Akron’s economy and culture will benefit from enriching our children’s early childhood education experiences. Recent cuts in state funding for public schools, combined with the fact that less than 2 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Ohio are enrolled in pre-school, means this type of educational opportunity is not just important, it is vital.”

When did you know your Big Idea was a good idea?

“Two moments stick out to us. First, the turn-out at our initial brainstorming session in 2012 was truly amazing. More than 30 people showed up to roll up their sleeves and figure out how to help us make the museum a reality. Many of those people remain involved in the Museum today. The second moment occurred when good friends, who are Akron-natives and Brooklyn transplants, made a generous unsolicited donation. Their belief in us was both inspiring and humbling. We had not yet fully developed our concept when these friends handed us a check and told us they knew we would make this dream a reality. We can’t wait for them to bring their daughter to the museum.”

How do you hope your Big Idea makes Akron a little better?

“I hope Akron becomes an even greater travel destination because of ACM and that visitors frequent all the other fantastic attractions – like the Art Museum, Akron Zoo, Rubber Ducks, Lock 3, etc. during their stay. I hope Akron-area companies will find ACM to be an appealing asset to attract and retain professionals with young families.”
//CUTLINE: Betsy believes Akron’s economy and culture will benefit from enriching early childhood education experiences. (Photo: Svetla Morrison)