Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cardboard Challenge!

For the third year, the Museum is participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge , an annual worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role of communities in fostering imaginative play, inspired by the incredible story and film Caine's Arcade .

Beginning this weekend – Saturday and Sunday, October 3 & 4 – and continuing Tuesday, October 6 through Monday, October 12, kids and families will design and build original creations using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations. Collaborate to invent and construct games, gadgets, robots, rocket ships and much more!

In honor of Cardboard Challenge, we're reposting a favorite story of creative cardboard construction from a past year's event – sort of like our very own Caine's Arcarde!
A mom, dad and their seven kids all busied themselves with their own projects, individually or in teams. Parents and 11-year-old Alvin got to work building a drive-up coffee shop – a tall structure that required dad’s help to attach the roof and stabilize the building. They added a box to serve as the drive-through window and then mom illustrated the storefront. Alvin labored over food preparation, creating delicious donuts and M&M cookies from colorful foam shapes, which he served with coffee in small cardboard cylinders. And “Alvin's Coffee Shop” was born!

After offering free samples to rave reviews, Alvin created a menu to post by the window, took his station, and provided stellar service in a structure that mom was amazed to realized they'd spent over an hour and a half building. Watching this wonderful moment unfold, I was impressed by how Alvin’s parents followed his lead and worked seamlessly together to realize his creative vision.

Megan Fischer, Interim Executive Director

Friday, September 11, 2015

Little Rhody

New at the Museum: peek into the atrium walkway window boxes to take a tiny tour of Little Rhody.   Follow a quahog on a playful journey to some of the greatest hits and highlights of the Ocean State – sampling frozen lemonade, strolling through WaterFire, taking a spin on a Looff Carousel, and more!

The imaginative excursion was created by AmeriCorps members Mary Burke and Ali Sandler with support from other members of the their team and exhibits department staff Robin Meisner and Jessica Neuwirth.

Mary spoke about the concept and process:
“We wanted to do something that would appeal to visitors and be fun for both kids and grown-ups and the idea of Rhode Island emerged.

The hardest part was figuring out what scenes they would be. We generated a list of ideas, then divided them up, drew sketches and gathered materials that would make good miniatures – though we didn’t always know what they were looking for!

Once we began assembling the scenes, it became clear what was needed and how to use materials – the process prompted me to look at materials in new ways and wonder, what could it be?

I’m curious to know which boxes will be visitor favorites. I hope they say, “Remember when we went there?” or “We should go there!” – that the boxes are a real conversation starter.”

Little Rhody will be on view through the fall so make a point to do some sightseeing on your next visit!

Mary's favorite scenes include the Rustic Drive-In, Del's Lemonade truck and Point Judith Lighthouse.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Power of Problem Solving

This article, by Museum Education Director Cathy Saunders, was also posted on Kidoinfo.  

As summer winds down and parents think about preparing for the school year, it’s easy to get caught up.

At the Children’s Museum, we’ve been thinking about problem solving a lot lately. We’ve looked at
the obvious connections between the playful learning experiences we try to foster and some of the formal educational standards. Problem solving is a foundational skill that appears in the RI Early Learning Development Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards and is something that we have a lot of fun with.


How do you know when your child is exercising problem-solving skills? There are times that seem obvious – she completes a complicated puzzle or negotiates taking turns with a friend. But sometimes it can be easy to miss moments where a child is building his problem-solving toolkit.

Here are some of the things we look for and celebrate:
  • Asking questions can indicate thinking process. Questions and wondering signify curiosity and interest. A “What happens if…?” shows planning for investigation.
  • When a child uses descriptive language she is using observation skills and trying to connect meaning between vocabulary and her observations. This is true of a toddler discovering that a ball is “round” and “big” or a 9-year-old describing the same ball as “a sphere” and “the size of my hand.”
  • Seeking peer support is evidence of a child trying to figure something out; she is looking for assistance and negotiating a social relationship.
  • Stick-to-itiveness. It takes persistence to find solutions through trial and error. Each time he tries he is gaining new information about what works and what doesn’t.
And these are some ways we like to spur children’s problem solving:
  • Ask open-ended questions – you know, those questions that don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer and that need to be answered with descriptive language.
  • Offer just enough support – give a hint or stabilize a wobbly piece.
  • Invite children to problem solve with you. Ask them for their ideas and solutions when puzzling something out.
  • Problem solve out loud. How are children going to know how much problem solving we do on a minute-by-minute basis unless we clue them in? They need to hear us reason things out and think things through.
Problem-solving opportunities occur throughout the day – when getting ready for school, making a meal, playing… Seize the opportunity in those small moments to notice and encourage your child’s innate ability to use logical thinking to reason things out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Heart Gallery Returns

Every year, hundreds of Rhode Island children are in state care, awaiting permanent families. The children are generally between the ages of 5 and 17 and many have emotional, intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Nearly all have suffered abuse or neglect. Some have been waiting for several years and have had multiple placements, resulting in numerous losses and separations.

Sixteen of these children are featured in the 10th annual Rhode Island Heart Gallery, an exhibit of professional portraits by local photographers on view in the Museum’s atrium walkway through September. A project sponsored by Adoption Rhode Island, the Heart Gallery has helped increase awareness of the need for loving adoptive homes for children in foster care since 2005.

The Museum also exhibited Heart Gallery photographs in 2007 and 2013, and staff felt – then and now – a powerful connection to the striking portraits and accompanying booklet, which features the heartfelt stories, hopes and dreams of the children pictured.

“I would love to be part of a large family with a mom and a dad and
siblings. I can be the oldest or youngest or in the middle, it really doesn’t matter,
I just want a family who wants me.”

It’s particularly compelling to have the display at the Museum because our Families Together program – a collaboration with the Department of Children, Youth & Families – works on behalf of children in foster care every day, providing therapeutic visitation to help court-separated families rebuild relationships.

All children need the love and support of a family, and adoption is only one of the ways that people can help.

Museum visitors can meet representatives from Adoption Rhode Island and learn more about adoption on Friday, August 21 from 5:00 - 7:30 PM; admission is free from 5:00 - 8:00 PM, sponsored by MetLife Foundation.

Friday, August 7, 2015

All Aboard the Fantasy Flyer!

Climb aboard this train traveling adventure through a new fantasy land located in our lobby display case.  Created by AmeriCorps members Elizabeth Boyer and Mary Rocha, the scenes incorporate a mixture of natural materials, handcrafted items and objects from the Museum's collections, in addition to a train kindly donated by Norman Meisner, father of Exhibits Director Robin Meisner.

“We put so much of ourselves into this piece, said Elizabeth. “It is the perfect mixture of our personalities and love of playfulness.  The world is such a marvelous place through the eyes of a child and we wanted to incorporate a hint of magic and fantasy in a seemingly realistic setting.”

The display features two wildly whimsical scenes, connected by a superhero-led train ride.  Trek through a feline-filled desert or visit the very friendly Yeti and his happy penguin friends.

“We wanted our display to instantly spark the imagination while inviting visitors to tell their own story based on what they see,” said Mary.  “Our goal was to not only get them to take a moment and look, but to feel inspired and creative.”

Make sure to check out this delightful display on your next visit to the Museum!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Game On!

This spring and summer, Museum visitors have taken a peek at Playful Pastimes in the atrium walkway window boxes – an assortment of silly scenes inspired by familiar games, from Go Fish to Twister, that invite visitors to think about their favorite ways to play. Created by AmeriCorps members Lucia Carroll and Savannah McMullen with guidance from Exhibits Director Robin Meisner and Exhibits Developer Jessica Neuwirth, the boxes are a mix of clever plays on names and visually appealing interpretations of popular games.

Savannah and Lucia's work in progress

On their process… 

Savannah: "Coming up with the games themselves wasn’t hard, it was more about what we could do with each game. We had a couple of misses where we ran into problems – we were planning on doing Candyland for a long time but we couldn’t get the textures right to make it look like candy."

Lucia: "Or even not just being able to think of an idea we felt was as successful or did the other boxes justice. We tried to be strategic about the games that we picked."

Savannah: "It took a lot of sketches to plan out the tiny space. We had to think spatially – how the whole box could be filled, front to back and top to bottom, without being too crowded. We did brainstorms on games and then sketches, and then different sketches and more brainstorms!"

Lucia: "For me, they were consistently in process, always being edited, until the due date. There’s always something more you can add to them, but I had to figure out what was feasible and go from there."

On materials…

Savannah: "It was mostly about what would work to make the game miniature – using astroturf for grass, wine toppers for tiny chairs, benches and thrones made out of popsicle sticks… We were really open to everything and the potential of materials."

Lucia: "I feel pretty proud that we made most of the stuff in the boxes – we made a concerted effort to make our miniatures and use found items."

“It’s fun to see parents and kids looking at them together,” Savannah concluded. “We wanted to make them straightforward enough to figure out but also enjoyable for everyone – something for the kids to look at that also amuse the parents as much as possible.”

They most certainly are – play along over the next few weeks and see many games you can figure out!