Students pitch ideas to benefit Elkhart train museum

Students pitch ideas to benefit Elkhart train museum

High ability students from Concord Intermediate School have some fresh ideas they hope will help breathe life back into Elkhart’s National New York Central Railroad Museum.

This week, students shared those ideas with a panel that included a mix of Concord Community Schools partner organizations.

The National New York Central Railroad Museum, located at 721 S. Main St., Elkhart, highlights the Elkhart area’s railroading history, with steam and diesel locomotives and passenger cars on display and a large model railroad exhibit.

In late January, approximately 150 fifth- and sixth-graders from high ability classes at Concord Intermediate School were invited to tour the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart. Click here for a story by The Elkhart Truth about their visit.

Afterward, they visited ETHOS Science Center where staff showed them a variety of interactive exhibits to help the students formulate a plan for boosting attendance with activities for all ages, explained high ability teacher Christina Chapman.

Students then split into groups of four or five to research and plan their proposals. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they presented those ideas “Shark Tank”-style to museum staff, as well as representatives from the Concord School Board, Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, and ETHOS Science Center.

Students pitched ideas ranging from a train-drawing contest to a feature film about the museum, and a virtual reality train ride or a train-themed escape room.

To fund the various projects, students recommended tapping local resources such as the RV industry or putting their baking skills to the test for a bake sale benefit.

Matt Hughey, curator for the museum, was among the panel of judges during Wednesday’s presentations.

“There seem to be some common themes among the ideas that could really work well for us,” Hughey said.

Some ideas — such as LEGO building stations — would be a great addition to the displays already in place at the museum. Other ideas — including fresh paint, additional signage, and advertising efforts — are topics that have been broached by the museum staff in the past, but having students weigh-in emphasized the need.

“We’re excited about this and looking forward to sharing it with the museum staff, the city council, and the mayor’s office in the future,” Hughey said. “It’s great to see all the big ideas the students have and I’m excited to hear the council’s reaction to it.”

Hughey plans to take the students’ ideas and suggestions back to his co-workers at the museum and together, they’ll decide which concepts might be the best fit and more feasible.

From there, Concord Intermediate School students from the top-rated groups will be encouraged to share their ideas with the Elkhart City Council.



REMINDER: No school on Monday, May 27!