Imaginative Learning

Heather Sellgren helps spark children's imagination

Sellgren2 Res

HEATHER SELLGREN recently landed in the role of executive director of The Children’s Museum of Wilmington downtown. It is not any surprise that she ended up there. Her past career and volunteer choices have been pointing her in this direction, including working with nonprofits and other organizations benefiting children.

The museum is a local nonprofit for kids ages one to 10 that promotes hands-on art, science, and literacy-focused learning for children and families. Now at the helm of the museum, Sellgren is bringing a wealth of knowledge to her role from her experience in nonprofits, grant writing, fundraising, and maybe most importantly, being a mom herself.

Shortly after moving to Wilmington, her daughter was born. She immersed herself in being a stay-at-home mom, and once her daughter was school-aged, Sellgren supported her activities by volunteering with such organizations as the New Hanover County Council of PTA’s, Thalian Association Children’s Theater, and Communities in Schools.

Before working at the Children’s Museum, she served as the director of development at The Hill School of Wilmington. Clearly, access to education is important to Sellgren.

“I want to help give every child a strong early childhood learning experience,” she says. “Being involved in children’s education means being involved in the future of our community.”

Although not an educator herself, she equally values the importance of a solid educational foundation for all young children.

“I recognize there are many barriers that prevent children in our community from having equal access to resources that are the building blocks for that foundation,” Sellgren says.

The Children’s Museum is providing that answer. It offers educational programming and interactive exhibits that help lay the groundwork for children to be successful in school, according to Sellgren.

“We are one of just a few places in downtown Wilmington offering programs specifically designed for children under the age of ten,” she says.

The museum’s layout is created right from a young child’s wish list. Does your child like water? There is a new Wonder of Waters hands-on exhibit. Would your child like to be doctor for the day? There is a cool science station called The Science of You.

Sellgren is still navigating her new role.

“Like so many nonprofits, everyone in the organization wears many different hats, including myself,” she says. “Every day is different for us and, especially in these past few months, the staff and I are constantly thinking of ways to tweak our operations to accommodate the demands of the pandemic.”

Speaking of the pandemic, Sellgren says it affected “just about every aspect of our day-to-day operations.” But for an institution that has been around for more than 25 years, she was not going to let a pandemic stop her vision for children’s education.

“From the day we closed to the public, the staff immediately went to work developing ways we could continue to connect with our families,” Sellgren says. “Educators delivered virtual programming for storytime, STEM experiments, and at-home art activities.”

Sellgren and her staff even offered craft bags with instructions, which they gave away to the public via curbside pick-ups.

The museum is currently open and up and running with pandemic protocols in place such as reserving tickets in advance, temperature readings, and replacing “used” toys for clean ones throughout the day.

And clearly upcoming events show that momentum is not slowing down. There is a special Valentine’s Day event, All You Need is Love, coming up as well as an off-site Enchanted Character Walk at Long Leaf Park in March which is currently sold-out.

“Our team has done a great job of modifying the events in order to adapt to the strains of the pandemic, which includes reduced capacity, pre-packaged materials for crafts, and adjusting the activities to accommodate social distancing.”

To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to

Want more WILMA? Click here to sign up for our WILMA newsletters and announcements.

Categories: Culture