Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Volunteer Week, April 9-14, 2017

On any given day at the Providence Children’s Museum, you will find many volunteers contributing to its mission in many different ways. They welcome visitors at the Admissions Desk, they assist the Development department with fundraising, they create materials for Education programs, and of course, they support kids’ play. In many cases, visitors’ fond memories of the Museum are due to interactions with these volunteers.  

PCM celebrated its many volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 9-14, 2017. Museum staff treated our volunteers to sweet and savory snacks in the kitchen and seven volunteers won gift cards in our daily prize drawings. Volunteers were invited to dress up in themed costumes each day for Spirit Week, and some went all out: Nelly Gonzalez rocked our world with her 80’s attire on Decade Day! 

At the Annual Meeting on April 12, the Museum honored Allyson Chrupcala, Kerri Cronin, Dave Graff, Julio Lopez, Mayra Mendoza, and Michelle Rivera with Volunteer Excellence Awards. These outstanding volunteers have consistently gone above and beyond in their service to our visitors. They exemplify the dedication displayed by all of our volunteers, who have collectively served 11,484 hours in 2016 and 3,561 so far in 2017! 

All of this time and effort freely given by our volunteers is a major reason why we are the most visited museum in Providence and the second most visited museum in Rhode Island. The next time you visit, thank a volunteer! In the words of our Annual Meeting special guest Tim Gunn, volunteers “make it work!”  

(And by “it,” we mean the Providence Children’s Museum!)

Ariana Dickie greets our guests with a warm smile. 

Allyson Chrupcala, Julio Lopez, and Mayra Mendoza receive their awards.  

Allyson and Mayra pose with special guest Tim Gunn of Project Runway! 

Development Intern Mackenzie Griffin talks with a guest. 

Our volunteers are versatile! Play Guides Lila Mitchell and Megan Haugh man the bar during the Annual Meeting. 

Photo Credit to Oeil Phography 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Annual Meeting, April 12, 2017

As part of the 40th year celebration, Providence Children’s Museum invited special guest Tim Gunn to speak about creativity at the Annual Meeting on April 12.
Earlier in the day, Tim Gunn had mentored a group of students from Highlander Academy in Providence in a fashion design exercise using newspaper and other craft materials. The students worked in teams to create outfits inspired by the Museum’s exhibits.
Tim Gunn is best known for his role as mentor on Project Runway and Project Runway Jr. and children might recognize his voice as that of Baileywick on Disney Junior’s Sofia the First. Before that, he served as faculty and Chair of Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design and as Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne.
After presenting awards to Museum volunteers and voting to elect new Board Members, Providence Children’s Museum Executive Director Caroline Payson, who has been a personal friend of Mr. Gunn for 30 years, facilitated a conversation with him in front of an audience of almost 200. They opened the discussion by acknowledging creativity as “a muscle, not a muse,” where you can build your confidence and get better at it, especially at a place like the Museum.
Mr. Gunn described the creative act as “life-saving” in his own childhood.  A self-described book worm, he studied classical piano for twelve years and his love of Legos led him to begin his studies in architecture. He loved that there was no “answer in the back of the book,” instead exploring what was inside and how to draw it out. This led him to appreciate discipline, quality, and work that is conceptually solid, which has been the foundation of his entire career.
Several times in the conversation, Mr. Gunn described how inspired he has been when working with young people. Not only has he been impressed by the quality of the work they have produced, such as during the fencing challenge on Project Runway Jr, but he admires the passion he sees young people exhibit and their “unerring commitment to technique.”  He was unnecessarily worried that young people would be discouraged by an honest critique and by the show’s framework which requires an elimination at the end of each episode. Instead, the participants were eager for useful feedback and exhibited extensive confidence and poise.
During the question-and-answer portion of the conversation, one 18-year-old aspiring fashion designer asked for advice for those just starting out. “You need to find a point of view,” said Mr. Gunn. “Know who you are.” Then, referencing an earlier point about the importance of remaining relevant, he added, “and know what’s going on in the world.” When answering a question from a parent wanting to encourage creativity in children, he suggested providing sincere encouragement. “Ask, ‘what do you want to do? What makes you excited? What makes you want to leap up and train to do something?’"
Mr. Gunn stressed the importance of places like the Children’s Museum that help young people discover these future passions.  Some of the Annual Meeting attendees were specifically interested in fashion design, some were more generally interested in creativity, and some came specifically to celebrate the Museum, but everyone left that evening having been truly inspired.

To watch the video of the entire conversation with Tim Gunn, check the Museum’s Facebook page.

Friday, February 3, 2017

On Display

The “geometry gallery” in our ThinkSpace exhibit features changing displays of natural and handcrafted objects that provide strong visual representations of spatial thinking, which is fundamental to innovation and scientific creativity.

Exhibit Developer Jessica Neuwirth installs the new case.

Discover the newest installation, 3D models and 2D tessellation patterns from the Arthur Loeb Design Science Teaching Collection at the RISD Nature Lab. These materials are used as teaching tools to illustrate some of the principles of pattern, symmetry and structure found in nature and the built environment.

Many thanks to our colleagues at the RISD Nature Lab for loaning these objects, which will be on display through June.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 – A Record Year!

Did you know that in 2016, Providence Children’s Museum:
  • Welcomed a record 168,270 onsite visits, 30% free of charge. 
  • Brought engaging hands-on activities to 1,100 Head Start preschoolers and 250 school-age kids through after-school and summer programs at inner-city community centers, as part of its AmeriCorps program. 
  • Hosted over 1,400 low-income children and their family members at free Museum family nights. 
  • Conducted therapeutic visits for 438 children and parents in 152 court-separated families, as part of the Families Together program. 
  • Provided nearly 400 charitable memberships to low-income families. 
  • Engaged over 1,800 visitors with research by the Museum's academic collaborators in its Mind Lab
  • Welcomed 9,492 members in 2,077 families. 
  • And MUCH more!

All told, 46% of the Museum’s 2016 operating budget supported services for children and families in need.

Thank YOU for making this important work possible!

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Wishing you a wonderfully PLAY-filled and inspiring new year!

Can you identify where in the Museum you can find each of these images?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Fostering Empathy Through Pretend Play

By Suzy Letourneau (Research & Evaluation Specialist) and Robin Meisner (Director of Exhibits)

The Museum’s recently reinvented Coming to Rhode Island exhibit explores history through four story galleries – an English colonist’s farmhouse (1640), the new Fort Adams worksite (1835), a Cape Verdean packet ship (1892) and a Dominican bodega (1961). The exhibit uses these stories to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up the world. Empathy is the ability to sense, understand and share other people’s emotions, and it allows individuals to take others’ perspectives, communicate and collaborate.

Children develop social and emotional skills like empathy as they begin to understand their own identities and appreciate differences between themselves and others, and research shows that pretending is a natural avenue for this development. In Coming to Rhode Island, children engage with each story through pretend play, allowing them to practice social and emotional skills in developmentally meaningful ways.

Toddlers (and even infants) start to notice and react to others’ emotions, a foundation of empathy. They also start pretending in simple ways and playing in parallel with other children, setting the stage for social skills and later forms of pretending. In the exhibit, a toddler might offer fake food to someone who says they are hungry or share with another child while playing side by side.

Children ages 3 to 5 begin to engage in more complex forms of pretend play, from wearing a costume or using props to creating stories with different roles. Children in Coming to Rhode Island might pretend to cook in a kitchen, build a fort or sail a ship. When pretending together, they talk about their ideas and decide how a story should unfold. In the process, kids learn that other people might not think and feel the same things they do, and they practice seeing other’s points of view and learn to work through conflicts.

Children ages 5 to 7 start to understand similarities and differences between themselves and others, and can take many different perspectives. When playing together, they create elaborate stories and practice empathy by imagining what others might feel in different situations. In the exhibit, kids might take on roles that are very different from their own lives. They might think about what life was like for the people whose stories appear in the galleries, and they recognize differences between their own lives and those who lived in the past.

Children ages 7 to 11 begin to recognize that different people might have different interpretations of the same situation, and that multiple perspectives can be equally valid. They also start to understand that people’s feelings are influenced by what others think and how others act towards them, helping them develop deeper empathy for others. In Coming to Rhode Island, older kids might reflect on how other’s previous experiences shaped the decisions they made and their perceptions of the world.

While children begin developing empathy and perspective-taking very early on, these skills continue to grow throughout their entire lives. In Coming to Rhode Island, older children and adults might question stereotypes and challenge assumptions, and appreciate the diversity represented in our community.

Click here to learn more about Coming to Rhode Island and get a peek at the process of creating the exhibit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Coming to Rhode Island Art

One of the Museum's core values and defining features is the quality and beauty of its learning environments. To enrich visitors’ experience and inspire creative exploration, the new Coming to Rhode Island spaces incorporate the work of these additional outside artists:

  • The photographs on the walls of the Story Center at the end of the time tunnel are by Brown University graduate Lucas Foglia, who lives in San Francisco and whose work has been widely exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia. All of the photographs were taken in Rhode Island, many at Southside Community Land Trust’s gardens, and strikingly showcase the state’s diversity.

  • The intriguing interactive installation in the Story Center resulted from a collaboration with Pawtucket-based French artist Philippe Lejeune. The sculpture’s reflective surfaces challenge perception and encourage exploration of how something looks from a different and unexpected perspective – a fundamental skill for understanding and engaging with people from different cultures. The installation is part of a larger body of Philippe’s work, called The Glass Project, a group of pieces which are “experiments in transforming the way we see.”
  • The illustrations of John Quigley’s descendant and his brother and him leaving Ireland were drawn by illustrator and former Museum AmeriCorps member Maris Wicks, whose work can be seen in each of the Coming to Rhode Island galleries. To create the illustrations, Maris worked from photographs of John Quigley’s fourth great granddaughter, Margo, and historic images of his hometown in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Click here to learn about other Museum art works.