MARTINSBURG (AP) — Just off East Martin Street in downtown Martinsburg and interwoven with Caperton train station, there are small, multicolored stickers littering the floors that encourage the Mountain State's youth to follow these pathways and portals to different eras in the Eastern Panhandle's railway history.
The For the Kids, by George Children's Museum celebrates its fifth anniversary at the beginning of November and, according to Director Robbie Babbitt, only plans to expand its exhibits and community presence in an effort to educate and engage more of Berkeley and Jefferson counties' youth.
``The way we look at it is we are teaching children about the culture of this area, the history too,'' Babbitt said. ``That is giving them pride of place, a sense of attachment and giving them the background they need to be future leaders in this area. These are children who are going to grow up understanding the importance of where they live.
``With the drain of people leaving West Virginia anything we can do to grow that attachment at an early age will help to make the future leaders want to stay here so we see it as civic building. We are building citizens here and people who have allegiance and a sense of attachment to the Eastern Panhandle.''
According to Babbitt, the museum, consisting of three main exhibits, teaches children about the ins and outs of railway travel in the area.
Children can get views of passing trains from the red pathway which leads to the highest point in the museum, the Pedestrian Bridge, where children magnets to load and unload passenger railcars are along the walls.
The yellow path leads kids back in time in the immersion galleries, known as the ``Tunnels Through Time,'' as Babbitt said they are given the opportunity to learn history in a hands-on way in a 1600's Native American village, a furnished log cabin of the 1700's and a 1800's general store. This area also includes a Pedal-a-Watt gallery theatre, where children take a virtual 3D bike tour of the Washington Heritage Trail.
The last exhibit, known as The Grand Idea exhibit, takes kids into the oldest part of the building, the Old Berkeley Hotel and the original train station waiting area, sponsored by the North American Railway Foundation, where children get to have the hands-on experience of punching tickets and seeing a train station ticket office.
Babbitt said while the children and their families heavily enjoy these exhibits, these first five years have come with their own challenges and lessons.
``Our biggest challenge has been promotion, advertising and getting the word out into the community,'' Babbitt said. ``We still have people who come to this museum, have lived in Martinsburg for years and have never heard of it. It's the best kept secret in the world, and it's terrible it's a secret because everyone that comes here likes it.''
Babbitt said in an effort to learn from these mistakes, he has made an effort to become more involved with the community and utilize the museum's social media.
Babbitt said the museum does have consistent support from individuals and businesses in the area, and their recent escape room fundraising endeavor has been a ``great, successful'' project that has only broaden that support.
``The first escape room we did was overwhelmingly successful. We learned a lot from that one so we are working out those kinks,'' Babbitt said.
For more information on the museum, the escape room as well as the upcoming dinner, visit forthekidsbygeorge.org.