Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrating Our Volunteers

This post was contributed by Jillian Winters, AmeriCorps Museum Educator.

Last week, April 10 to 16, Providence Children’s Museum celebrated National Volunteer Week. It was a fun-filled week complete with spirit dress-up days and an ice cream sundae bar to honor and recognize the incredible work our volunteers do to make the Museum the wonderful place that it is.

The Museum would not be able to open its doors without volunteers. Volunteers greet visitors at the Admissions Desk, play with children and grown-ups in the exhibits, help staff develop programs, and work behind-the-scenes to complete special projects. In 2015 alone, 375 dedicated volunteers, interns and college work-study students collectively gave 11,147 hours of their time to the Museum!

“Getting to work with our volunteers and work-study students is wonderful in and of itself – seeing their playfulness and how much they take the Museum’s mission to heart. But even something as simple as tracking volunteer hours becomes a daily reminder for me of the tremendous impact they have on our organization as a whole. Whether those hours were spent playing with families in exhibits, stuffing envelopes for a mailing, or setting up the night before a big event – it ALL matters.”
Turenne Bedell, Volunteer & AmeriCorps Coordinator

“I simply couldn’t do my job without our interns. I’ve always felt that, because the Museum is such an enthusiastic and exciting place to be, we attract the best of the best to our internships.”
Sara Clarke, Events Manager

“My favorite part of my job is getting to interact with our volunteers. Whether they are in Water Ways or at our front desk, our volunteers inspire play and learning through their passion and commitment to our Museum.”
Amanda Howard, Experience Coordinator

Thursday, April 21, 2016

THE LAND Screening and Discussion

Providence Children’s Museum is partnering with Grand View Child Care Program to present a screening and discussion of “The Land” at Rochambeau Library, 708 Hope Street in Providence, on Monday, May 2 from 7:00 - 8:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public – click here to RSVP.

The 2015 documentary short film is about the nature of play, risk and hazard and is set in a Welsh adventure playground where children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails.  The Land is a playspace rooted in the belief that kids are empowered and understand their own capabilities and limits when they learn to manage risks on their own.  The film has attracted national attention after being featured in a number of recent articles including “The Overprotected Kid” a provocative piece in The Atlantic by Hanna Rosin that provides a look at adventure playgrounds and how “a preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery – without making it safer.”

Credit Hanna Rosin
Following the screening, join a conversation about the film, adventure play and the benefits of risk to kids’ physical and emotional development.  Discuss ways to foster healthy risk-taking in kids’ play, and how to provide kids with opportunities for adventure play.

The screening and conversation are part of the Museum’s commitment to advocate for and raise awareness about the critical importance of self-directed play for children’s healthy growth and development.

See the trailer, and click here to learn more about the film:

Friday, March 11, 2016

Art Around the Museum

One of the Museum's core values and defining features is the quality and beauty of its learning environment. With a commitment to art since opening in 1977, the Museum has commissioned or accepted donations of work by artists – many of them local – for our exhibits and public spaces.  These vibrant murals and paintings, intricate sculptures and carvings, and more introduce rich color and texture to every corner of the Museum, inspire creative exploration, and introduce children to art and artists.

Discover these Museum artworks – click below each image to learn more:

Museum Art

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Research News

The Museum is pleased to be part of a new book, “Cognitive Development in Museum Settings: Relating Research and Practice,” edited by Dr. David Sobel, the Museum’s research partner at Brown University, and Dr. Jennifer Jipson of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Each chapter in the book describes a partnership between museum professionals and researchers in cognitive development and the unique research studies taking place within informal learning institutions.

A chapter written by Dr. Sobel and the Museum highlights our National Science Foundation-funded project (award #1223777) to study how children understand their own learning processes and make their thinking visible to others through play at the Museum.

 Learn more about the Museum’s research:

Friday, February 19, 2016

AmeriCorps Alums on Staff

In addition to having a very well-established AmeriCorps program – which just welcomed its 20th team this fall! – Providence Children’s Museum also has an impressive number of AmeriCorps alums on its staff, who shared these stories of their service:

Turenne Bedell, Volunteer & AmeriCorps Coordinator
AmeriCorps Service:
2005-06 Jumpstart; 2009-10 MuseumCorps
 “After a successful term of service with Jumpstart while attending the University of Rhode Island, I looked into joining the PeaceCorps.  Then I realized that there was a great need for service right here and so sought out a second AmeriCorps term in Rhode Island, where I've lived my whole life.  When I was accepted to the Museum’s program, I knew I had an opportunity to dig deeper into service and so served my term as the Volunteer Assistant.  Now, five years later, I'm back home at the Museum, as the Volunteer & AmeriCorps Coordinator – mentoring and supporting the AmeriCorps members whose seats I sat in just years prior!”

Megan Beauregard, Experience Coordinator
AmeriCorps Service:
2011-12 and 2012-13 MuseumCorps
“I started my work at the Museum as a Johnson & Wales work-study student.  After nine months of playing in the Museum's exhibits, I was approached about joining the part-time AmeriCorps team and working with the full-time members at learning centers throughout Providence.  As the summer progressed, I learned how much I loved providing a much-needed service to children and families in need, and my love for the Museum only grew.  That's what inspired me to apply for the full-time team for 2012-13.  As that year was coming to a close, a position for an Experience Coordinator opened up.  I saw this as a sign that my time at the Museum wasn't finished yet, and two years later, I'm still here.”

Megan Fischer, Interim Executive Director/Director of Communications
AmeriCorps Service:
2002-03 City Year
“I moved to Rhode Island from Georgia after college to complete a year of AmeriCorps service.  I ran an after-school program for grades 3 to 5 in Woonsocket, RI, discovered a passion for working with and mentoring kids in need, and was fortunate to have many opportunities to step into a leadership role.  I also discovered the Children's Museum when I organized a special end-of-year field trip and saw how transformative it was for our students – who had many challenges in their lives – to have a chance to play freely and just be kids.  I had an epiphany: I loved museums AND working with children, so why not work at a children's museum?  After finishing AmeriCorps, I got an MA in Museum Studies at Brown University and came to the Children's Museum as an education intern with an interest in museum leadership.  I'm still here nearly 12 years later, have held several different positions in that time, and often reflect on the foundation my AmeriCorps service gave me.”

Front – Mandy Roach, Amanda Howard, Megan Beauregard
Back – Megan Fischer, Turenne Bedell, Robin Meisner
Amanda Howard, Experience Coordinator
AmeriCorps Service:
2009-10 Scholarships for Service; 2013-14 MuseumCorps
“Service has always been a major part of my life.  In college, I had the opportunity to do a part-time year of service with different organizations in and around Providence.  When I was finishing graduate school, I was looking for a job and I saw the posting for Providence Children Museum’s MuseumCorps program.  I really wanted to come back to Providence and I thought that this would be a great opportunity.  For my year of service at the Museum, I got to work with the Head Start centers in Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket.  After my year of service ended, I knew that I wanted to stay at the Museum and took a position as an Experience Coordinator.  In my current role, I get to work closely with our AmeriCorps team and mentor them in our exhibits.”

Mandy Roach, Experience Coordinator
AmeriCorps Service: 2012-13 MuseumCorps, 2013-14 OSEEC
 “Throughout grade school, nines times out of ten, the teacher standing in front of the classroom determined not only how well I would perform in that class but if I would enjoy the subject at all.  Those teachers who listened, cared and seamlessly found a way to keep things interesting are the reason I decided to become an educator myself.  Besides a life-long love for doodling, I received my degree in Art Education to pursue the idea of incorporating the creative arts into all fields and allowing students to become interactively engaged.  That's when I discovered Providence Children's Museum’s AmeriCorps program and, after two years of service, my suspicions were confirmed: the traditional classroom was never the place for me!”

Robin Meisner, Director of Exhibits
AmeriCorps Service:
1998-99 MuseumCorps
“I joined the Museum’s AmeriCorps program after graduating from Brown University with a degree in chemistry and a love of working with young children... and what I thought was going to be a singular year of service turned into a career in museum education.  Following my experience on the Museum’s Head Start team, I joined the staff for four years as the Museum’s science educator and developed exhibits and programs and led one of our AmeriCorps teams.  After attending graduate school in London to focus on informal science education, I returned to the museum world and eventually made my way back to Providence.  Having served on the Museum’s second AmeriCorps team and now seeing the 20th, I am truly impressed by how the program has both shaped our community and the Museum itself.”

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.