Play Time: Learning through Fun

As Director here at ECM, one of the best things about my job is that I get to watch little ones learning through play in many different ways in our exhibits and programs. Last month we had some unseasonably warm days here in Edwardsville, IL.  We love it when that happens because then we can open our Discovery Garden exhibits.  As I walked through the garden, setting out blocks and musical instruments for the kids to use, I happened upon something wonderful.

In the Sand Box two little ones were working together to build a bridge.  With no arguing, they shared shovels and buckets as they built up the sand and then dug a tunnel underneath it.  They then drove a couple of “cars” (which were really rocks) over their creation to test its strength.  They continued to add more and more “cars” until the bridge toppled over.  Did they become discouraged?  No, they discussed improvements they could make together to build a stronger structure and then….they did! As I watched them jumping up and down and high-fiving each other, I couldn’t help but think about how these two little ones had only met that very morning here in our sandbox and had already become friends and were able to work together to successfully build a rather complicated structure.  They used measurement to build up the sand for the bridge, they learned about structural stability through testing the sand bridge with rocks, they kicked their imaginations into gear to visualize the rocks as cars, and they used interpersonal skills to solve problems together, all without breaking a sweat. Most importantly, they had fun!


Dr. Abby Schwent, ECM’s Director



What is ECM?

Children’s Museum (noun) definition:

Children’s museums are institutions that provide exhibits and programs to stimulate informal learning experiences for children. In contrast with traditional museums that typically have a hands-off policy regarding exhibits, children’s museums feature interactive exhibits that are designed to be manipulated by children

What does ECM do?

Here at ECM, our main goal-and our work really-is to provide innovative, joyful learning experiences for the children in our community.  We feel very privileged to do this work and we see children and their families from all over the St. Louis and Metro East areas.  In fact, we served families from 125 different area communities last year.  ECM is a 501 c(3) non-profit and while our operating revenue (admission, membership, and program registration fees) covers our operating costs (staffing, supplies, building and exhibit maintenance, etc.) we really exist because of the generosity of our community. This generosity can be seen in the names of local businesses and individuals who have made our exhibits possible, and who we are SO grateful to.

We believe firmly in the power of play as a tool for childhood learning.  With community support over the last year we opened eight new exhibits that are on the cutting edge of early learning including our beautiful Discovery Garden.  Our attendance doubled as we welcomed 24,000 visitors.  Our education team ran 76 programs for families and 78 field trips and outreach programs to schools.  Through those programs we were able to reach over 4,000 additional children with our unique, experiential learning activities.

We gave back to our community by becoming a member of the nation wide Museums for All initiative, offering free admission to families on food stamp assistance. We partnered up with the Land of Goshen Farmer’s Market to plant the Little Goshen Giving Garden.  In addition to teaching little ones about gardening, this garden supplies the Market Foundation’s Beet Box truck with healthy, organic produce for under served communities.  We offered many free programs for the community including our monthly story time: Lap Time, Farm Day, National Ice Cream Day, and Photos with Santa.  We serve as a collection site for Support the Girls and as a Bag Share location in partnership with Bring Your Own Glen-Ed.  We host a Little Free Library in our Discovery Garden.  With our Halloween Candy Collection in 2018, we sent over 400 pounds of candy to cheer up our troops overseas. We are committed to our community because, you see, ECM is not just a museum.  We are a part of Edwardsville where families meet, friendships are made, children learn, local history is preserved, and-maybe most importantly-FUN is had by all!

When you support ECM through your yearly membership purchase or through a donation of any size, you are giving a gift to the children of our community.  You’re supporting learning, growing, giggles, family bonding, and new friendships.  You make all of that possible for the littlest members of our community.




New Exhibits

Welcome back to ECM!  We missed you during our closure in September.  We are open again with expanded hours (Monday and Tuesday 9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)  We hope to see you and your little ones at the museum soon!


Our mission has always been and continues to be to stimulate curiosity and cultivate learning at the age of wonder.  We are executing on it this fall with the opening of five brand new exhibits.  Each of them hold different experiences and opportunities for joyful learning and family bonding. We are so proud of the new exhibits and grateful to our donors.

Hawthorne Animal Hospital

Anderson Hospital Nursery

Friends of Leclaire School Room

Art Studio

Discovery Garden

2018 promises to be a year of growth.  Stay tuned for more new programs, exhibits, and activities!


Dr. Abby Schwent, Director