Sunday, January 31, 2016

New in ThinkSpace!

The Museum is committed to providing experiences that promote different types of play and to keeping fresh by frequently changing elements of our exhibits. Investigate two intriguing new drawing stations in ThinkSpace that challenge visitors’ spatial thinking:
  • Mystery Box  Reach inside, feel a hidden object, and draw what it might be. This activity asks visitors to make careful observations using their sense of touch to identify the parts of an object and construct an image of the whole, then to create a drawing – a spatial representation – of what they think is inside the box.
  • Mirrored Image  Draw a picture or write a word so that it looks right-side up in a mirror. This activity encourages visitors to practice their spatial sense through an exploration of symmetry and mirroring.
The Museum exhibits team has a growing practice of prototyping new activities – testing them out with visitors and getting feedback. Exhibit Designer Chris Sancomb created simple, quick and cheap mock-ups of the new drawing activities and Exhibits Director Robin Meisner and Exhibit Developer Jessica Neuwirth tried them out over several sessions with visitors. They observed how visitors used the activities, noted how they interpreted the instructions and labels, and determined whether the activities were at the right challenge level for a variety of ages. After each round of testing, the team made a few changes to see how they affected visitors’ experiences and reactions.

Exhibits Director Robin observes kids trying out the mystery box prototype.

The activities target older children and multiple kid testers talked about how they liked that it was tricky – that they couldn’t do it right away and had to keep trying. And adults were just as engaged as they tried to figure it out for themselves. The exhibits team enjoyed observing how kids naturally helped one another understand how to use each activity.

The team ultimately decided on two versions of the mirrored image activity to give different levels of challenge. They also opted to try out LCD writing tablets instead of using and wasting a lot of paper and are interested to see how visitors respond.

Research shows that spatial thinking is a skill you can improve with practice and the more visitors of all ages try these activities, the better they’ll get!

Exhibit Designer Chris practices his spatial thinking.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Snowflakes On Display

New in ThinkSpace, see close-up photographs of the intricate structures of snowflakes by Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at California Institute of Technology. Dr. Libbrecht studies the molecular dynamics of crystal growth, particularly how ice crystals grow from water vapor – or the physics of snowflakes. He has experimented with and perfected techniques for catching and photographing snowflakes, and he regularly grows his own designer snowflakes!

Graphic designer Valerie Haggerty-Silva installing the display.

The ThinkSpace “geometry gallery” features changing displays of objects that provide strong visual representations of spatial thinking, highlighting shapes in everyday life and the designed environment. Studying snowflakes is a great way to explore their geometric properties and to practice recognizing patterns within shapes, then to classify snowflakes into types. Dr. Libbrecht has identified about 35 types of snowflakes and his photographs allow for the close study of the structure of snowflakes and their geometry.

Click here to see more of Dr. Libbrecht’s snowflake photographs, as well as other resources and activities exploring snowflakes, snow crystals and other ice phenomena.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Wishing you an abundantly joyful and PLAY-filled new year!

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

Also see Museum visitors ring in 2016 at our annual New Year's Eve ball drop:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Talking Back: Cole, Age 3 (and 4!)

It's been quite some time since we've shared the musings of Cole, one of our most prolific and pensive young visitors, who is now older and even wiser. Here are some of his collected thoughts from the year past, left in response to queries on our talk back boards:

How does your family play together in winter?

How do your kids play before or after school?

What are your favorite places to visit in Rhode Island?
How do you encourage creative play?

Thank you, Cole (and Cole's dad), for keeping up your correspondence. As always, we enthusiastically await your next communiqu̩ Рthough we do challenge you to broaden your motifs beyond the recurring hot coffee (and other calming beverages). We expect that you'll more than rise to the occasion.

(PS – A belated happy birthday to Cole!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

PlayWatch: Stories of Creative Play

The only two other people in Water Ways were a man and his son, who was approximately 3 years old and completely engrossed in throwing balls into the vortex. I began painting a flower on the slate wall and, within 30 seconds, I heard a small voice. "Can I paint with you?” The little boy had wandered over to investigate what I was doing. "Absolutely! What would you like to paint?" Without hesitating, he answered, "Let's paint a police chase! And the truck is faster than the police cars! And they have sirens and are going fast!"

I was uncertain how to paint sirens with water, but the two of us gave it a shot. We painted two police cars, a pickup truck and a very winding road on which the chase was taking place. As the water began to evaporate from the slate board, we would touch up certain spots and add details like flat tires on the police cars. Once the picture was done, the little boy admired it for a second before he ran off to find his dad. As I looked at the painting, I could see the remnants of my flower. I was grateful the boy and his imagination had come along because the picture we made together was much more exciting!
Maggie Dawson, Experience Coordinator

A little girl, about 3, was in Play Power with her father. Dad was playing with the creature columns, and I was about to say 'hello' to the girl when I noticed she had a very determined look on her face. I watched as she slowly started taking staggered steps, like you'd see in a western movie stand off. "Red light," she said, and stopped. "Green light.” I was confused until I realized she was playing "red light, green light" with her reflection in the dome mirror!
Megan Beauregard, Experience Coordinator

Monday, November 30, 2015

Support Recess for Rhode Island

The Museum is proud to be a founding collaborator of Recess for Rhode Island, a coalition of organizations and individuals advocating for a statewide recess policy that:

  • Recognizes that children’s self-directed free play is essential to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional health and well-being.
  • Provides at least 20 minutes of recess – optimally 30-40 minutes – every day for all elementary school students (active outdoor play as often as possible).
  • Allows children to freely engage with each other and determine their own play, within reasonable boundaries, during well-supervised recess.
  • Stipulates that physical education class and mandated participation in adult-led sports and games, while also beneficial, shall not replace recess.
  • Prohibits denying recess to an individual student or a class as a disciplinary measure. 
  • Requires accommodations during recess for children with mental and physical disabilities.
  • Recognizes that for some children a supervised school setting is the only safe place self-directed play is available.
Visit to sign on to support a statewide recess policy that promotes time for play, and find resources and research about the importance of recess.

Also follow Recess for Rhode Island on Facebook for the latest recess news and updates.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Serving Up a New AmeriCorps Team

The Museum was excited to welcome a new AmeriCorps team – our 20th! – in September to begin a year of playful, powerful service.  The team extends the Museum's reach by inspiring inner-city children with after-school math and science programs at the Boys & Girls Club and Highlander Charter School, facilitating play-based problem-solving activities for Children’s Friend Head Start preschoolers, engaging Museum visitors in play and exploration, and recruiting and supporting Museum volunteers.

The 11 MuseumCorps members bring with them a wide range of skills and experience.  Cara was a mentor at New Urban Arts in Providence, and Elizabeth interned as an aquarist at Save the Bay.  Jillian has been at the Museum for year already as a work-study student.  Leigh was captain of her swim team at Brown University, and Meg has a degree in Geology.  Taylor is experienced in the Japanese practice of gyotaku, or fish printing, and Filipa is an aspiring cartoonist/animator.  Hayley taught English to children in France, and Monica is majoring in Spanish.  Rachel was an AmeriCorps member with City Year Boston, and Anna spent a year of service at a homeless shelter in New Jersey. 

Each team member is passionate about inspiring children’s lifetime love of learning.  “More than anything,” says Rachel, “I'm excited to be in a program that encourages kids to find the fun in learning!”  The team is also focused on giving back to the community through national service.  Leigh has heard many stories about the positive impact AmeriCorps has had on communities and she says, “I am excited that I now get to be a part of it through Providence Children's Museum!”

The new AmeriCorps team planned a frightfully fun Boo Bash celebration.

Welcome, team!

The Museum’s AmeriCorps program is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and Serve Rhode Island, with support from additional sponsors for the Head Start and Learning Club programs.