Friday, February 27, 2015

Let It Snow!

Peer into the whimsical winter wonderland of Let It Snow!, the newest display featuring the Museum’s collection of historic Betty Huestis marionettes.  Creator Sam Polon, school-age learning programs developer, shared her process and inspiration behind her playful puppet display:

"I was inspired by nature and the natural world that surrounds us all.  Remembering the joy and delight of outdoor sports and children playing, I wanted to bring the outside in.  I started my selection with the boy and girl puppets and the idea of two people being lost in their own fantastical world.
I love knitting and crocheting so I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to add textile arts to this display.  Each snowflake was hand-crocheted and the trees, snow, ice and background were all made out of recycled materials.  Even the small banks of snow were created from painted bundles of bird litter. 
This display allows you to step out of your everyday life and enter a world of fantasy and pretend.  I wanted to show people that the outdoors is a great space to play and you don't even need any tools or modern technology to do it.  Just have fun!"

Let it Snow! is on display for the next several months, so join in this wintery adventure upon your next visit.  No hats or mittens required!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Shadow Puppets on Display

The “geometry gallery” in ThinkSpace features changing displays of natural and man-made objects that provide strong visual representations of spatial thinking, highlighting shapes in everyday life and the designed environment.  Discover the newest installation: intricate and colorful Chinese and Indonesian shadow puppets on loan from the collection of Hillary Salmons – executive director of PASA and friend of the Museum – whose family collected the puppets on their travels in the 1980s. The display will be on view through June.

Shadow puppetry, an old tradition in Asia and other parts of the world, is a form of storytelling performed with flat jointed puppet figures made from leather or paper used in conjunction with music and singing.  Puppeteers use rods to move the puppets between a light source and a translucent screen, creating the illusion that the figures are walking, dancing, laughing and more.  The use of color and the way they are cut can reflect different personalities and characters.

“Shadow puppetry is a great example of spatial thinking as it involves changing, manipulating and transforming shapes in space – changing perspective, orientation, scale and more,” said Exhibits Director Robin Meisner.

Inspired by the puppets?  Use the silhouettes and wooden geometric solids in the ThinkSpace shadow box to create a scene and tell your own shadow story!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Scouts as Stewards

This article, by Museum Learning Programs Developer Samantha Polon, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

Scouting is often a springboard for youth to learn how to be stewards of their communities. Learning about teamwork, problem solving and even meeting workers from fireman to teachers to find out about their professions are all common and enriching activities Scouts participate in. But what about teaching youth to be stewards of the environment? Expressions like “going green” and “eco-friendly” are commonplace these days, everywhere from the grocery store to schools, but what do these ideas really mean? What actions can we take and what visions can we share about our future that will help to preserve and protect the natural resources we see threatened around us?

As a Girl Scout growing up, I was presented with the opportunity to spend time in the out-of-doors, hiking, camping and swimming all over New England.  My mother, a lawyer, loved the chance to take a group of suburban girls on overnights where we got away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. While we were on those trips, we did so much more than roast marshmallows, sing songs and learn to identify different varieties of birds. Those times in the forest taught us to look for and appreciate the nature all around us. They offered us a place of respite and a moment to reflect. After those trips, we sought the same feelings of peace and joy in local parks and hunted for leaves in our neighborhood playgrounds.

Providence Children’s Museum’s Eco Explorers adventures present Scouts with the opportunity to learn about conservation by working through hands-on problem solving activities that explore finite natural resources – like water and wildlife – that can be found in the deep wilderness and in the city. Scouts investigate simple circuits and the energy expenditure of LED and traditional bulbs, which can help them support their schools and families in making energy conscious decisions. They learn how to look for signs of animals and recognize shelters so they can preserve these creatures’ habitats. Most importantly, Scouts learn to value the natural world that is all around them – and is a critical part of their communities and everyday lives.

During the first Eco Explorers event in December, I watched as Scouts built simple water wheels from plates and cups. One boy exclaimed, “I never knew that water could make energy!” It’s realizations like these, which arise through fun, hands-on learning, that will help kids become the next generation of stewards our planet needs.

Eco Explorers Scout Adventures
Cub Scouts | February 27
Brownies/Junior Girl Scouts | March 13, March 27, April 10 and May 1

Scouts learn about conservation, recycling and the wonder of the natural world through creative interactive science experiments and art activities. Explore energy and create circuits, construct a water wheel, create an animal habitat story and more! Events include engaging educator-led activities, a Scout skill badge or Science Belt Loop, an Eco Explorers fun patch, a snack, and a pass for a future Museum visit.

Space is limited; register NOW to join the fun!  Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Metal Miniatures!

Come discover Metal Miniatures!, a charming collection of intricate miniatures located in the atrium walkway window boxes and handcrafted by talented metal artist Abraham Megerdichian (1923-1983).

From an elegant violin to an impressive set of trains, the delightful creations fashioned from solid blocks of metal are a testament to their maker's skill and humor.

The Megerdichian family is proud to share Abraham’s wonderful miniatures in museums around New England and loaned the collection for this display. “The miniatures made by my father are a tribute to the skill of a trained machinist combined with an artist’s eye and a generous man’s heart,” said his son, Robert Megerdichian.

Born in Franklin, MA to Armenian immigrants, Abraham lived and worked as a machinist for most of his life in Cambridge, MA. He often used his 20-minute lunch breaks to craft precious keepsakes as gifts for family and friends, including replicas of things that were special to kids – like his son Robert’s wagon. As his skills flourished, his creations became more complex, imaginative and humorous. Each of Abraham’s pieces is a unique and inspiring example of creativity and inventiveness.

Metal Miniatures! will be on display through April 27, so check them out on your next visit!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lost and Found?

We have the most wonderfully playful staff. For example, see how one of our Experience Coordinators, Mandy, recently responded to a typical inquiry that came to our reception desk.
The inquiry:
I think we left my daughter's lovey at the museum yesterday. It is a very well loved stuffed dog puppet and it is very important to our family. Do you know if it's been found? It was probably left in the coat check around 3:15. Thanks!
The reply, with photo:
Your lovey is here with us, and is doing very well... in fact s/he's been very helpful with some of the morning's office work. We are open today and tomorrow, 9:00 AM-6:00 PM. Feel free to pick it up at the admissions desk anytime!
The reaction:
We are so delighted that DogDog enjoyed his day at the Museum. We assured Edie, DogDog's BFF, that of all the places he would be taken care of, the Museum was the place. Plus he couldn't find a more fun spot! We were sure he'd be frolicking in the water exhibit or bouncing around the Imagination Playground. We are so glad he was of some assistance around the office. At home he just lies around and eats bones. We look forward to seeing him before six tonight!

Thank you for taking such good care of DogDog,
Edie and her family

PS You guys are the best. I've been chuckling about this ever since you sent it and Edie cracked up.  -Edie's relieved mom

Clearly our visitors are pretty playful, too!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Learning from the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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

I started school in the early 70s, a white child in a Boston suburban school that had integrated busing.  I wondered what it would be like to have an hour-long bus ride to school, but I gave no thought to why other students traveled so far each day. A few years later, when a special holiday was created to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and our teachers began to talk with us about the civil rights movement, I began to understand things that I was seeing around me.

I was shocked to learn that white and black children had not been allowed to go to school together or even play together. I was relieved to know that someone as courageous as Dr. King had stood up to the injustice – and I was in awe of the pictures of thousands of people who stood behind him at rallies and marches. They were all brave. It made me scared and proud.

I was relieved to know that I wasn’t growing up in that confusing time when children were barred from attending school. But then I started to notice and question other things that didn’t make sense. How come the children from Boston were bused to our schools, but we weren’t bused into Boston schools? Even though black and white children played together, how come we lived in different neighborhoods and why did we have different toys?

My parents did not always know how to discuss these issues with me. But, they were honest and truthful about their own experiences, even when it felt insufficient to me. Sometimes I asked the questions at very embarrassing moments. They compassionately answered my questions as I posed them, and asked me how I thought things should be. I didn’t just want answers, I wanted to make things right.

Fast forward to 2015. Now Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday and the president of the United States is African American. So much progress has been made; we have moved beyond many of the problems that spurred the civil rights movement. Yet, recent events in Ferguson and New York City have made it painfully clear that discrimination, prejudice and inequality based on race are still present.

Why is Dr. King’s work relevant to the issues of today? How do we talk with children about these difficult issues? It’s important that we do not put Dr. King on a pedestal. He didn’t work alone; many people, black and white, old and young, were involved. These leaders and every day heroes of the civil rights movement can be inspiration to us now – there are things that both adults and children can do to help combat racism. That’s why the Museum is committed to celebrating Dr. King’s legacy each year.  Through performance, displays and an interactive activity about discrimination, parents and children are given a unique opportunity to discuss these hard issues – about history as well as where children see inequality in their own lives.

Every family will have their own starting point to this conversation. In addition to the Museum’s event there are some excellent resources that might be useful for your family:
How to Teach Kids About What's Happening in Ferguson
This article from The Atlantic has extensive resource lists for teachers and parents including a list of recommended children’s books.

Talking About Racism With White Kids
This post on the The New York Times Motherlode blog also includes links to other posts dealing with race, racism and difficult conversations.

Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity
This excellent document developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund provides helpful guidelines for answering hard questions from children and some suggestions of “what you might say when your child says ‘….’”

Join the Museum’s Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, January 19 from 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM.  See history come to life through songs and stories during powerful performances of “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace” at 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 2:30 PM. Also explore a display of photographs, words and books describing Dr. King’s life and work and take part in a provocative anti-discrimination activity. Learn more.