Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hang Time!

This story was shared by Erin Kenny, Experience Coordinator:

One of my favorite activities here at the Museum is the FETCH! Lab program based upon the PBS children's series FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman. Ruff challenges kids to use brain power to solve daily challenges; the Museum's FETCH! Lab does the same through activities. Hang Time gives kids the materials to make whirly-gigs/paper helicopters and a drop-zone to try them out.

After several drops from a step stool the kids took it upon themselves to seek out higher ground. The kids found that the "bug stairway" was a great space to drop whirly-gigs. They had more time to watch their creations work and it was a big enough space for them to have races and play other gravity games. It was great to see the kids take an activity an adapt it to their surroundings and expand on its possibilities. Ruff Ruffman would be proud.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inspiration from MLK

Monday was an amazing day, full of inspiring moments and stories. Here are just a few of the many shared by Museum staff:

"I was walking through the Story Center when I saw four girls (ages 4-7) squished on the couch. They were looking through books, trying to decide what to read. They were talking about Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama when I asked if they would like me to read to them. One little girl, about age five, held up a book about President Obama and said “This one, please.” I just thought it was so wonderful to see children so young that were interested in such important figures. Later, the same four girls were gathered around the Story Center talk back board discussing their hopes and dreams. One of these was for black and white children to be able to play together. "

– Molly Russell, AmeriCorps Museum Educator

"I was standing outside the performance as people were leaving, wearing my red “What does discrimination feel like?” tag. A woman stopped on her way out and said to me, “What does discrimination feel like? . . . Do you want to know?” . . . So she told me, “It feels terrible. It feels like you’re sick.” (She put her hands on her stomach.) And after that she said something I don’t exactly recall but it was like, you have to explain to people that discrimination feels bad and it becomes your job to explain to people why they shouldn’t discriminate when you shouldn’t have to bear that burden."

–Miranda Elliott Rader, AmeriCorps Museum Educator

"I was at the Jovo table, and engaged a couple of kids in conversation about the performance they had seen and about MLK. One boy said he was important because he made it so that people could have equal rights. I asked him if MLK Jr. did this on his own, and the boy said no, he did it with the help of lots of people – that lots of people working towards a goal can make great things happen."

–Kate Jones, AmeriCorps Museum Educator

And, in the
Story Center, visitors were asked "What are your hopes and dreams for America? What can you do to help them come true?" Here are some of the responses left by kids of all ages – and adults:

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For more than a decade, the Children’s Museum has presented special programming to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, for the fifth time, the program includes performances of “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace” – a compelling portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement through songs and stories – by actors and storytellers Rochel Coleman and Valerie Tutson. The performance dramatically and memorably shares the efforts of famous folks and ordinary Americans who changed the world.

The action will continue in the Story Center, where families can browse books and see images documenting the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights activists. They'll also have the option to participate in an anti-discrimination activity that will lead them to encounter “red only” and “green only” labels throughout the Museum – on lunchroom tables, bathroom doors, water fountains and more. This is a provocative activity that often leads to cries of "It's not fair!" and encourages thoughtful conversations between parents and kids. Staff will be on hand to talk to families about the experience and welcome them respond to the question, “What are your hopes and dreams for America?”

This year, the day before an historic inauguration, the program will probably prompt adult visitors to reflect on just how much has changed in their own lifetimes, and during their parents’ lives. Executive Director Janice O'Donnell shared the following:

"This year's MLK Day celebration is especially significant. Many of us who remember the Civil Rights movement of the 60s rejoice that America has elected its first President of African descent. While we marvel that race relations in our country have come so far in our lifetimes, we also believe that our children need to understand the struggle that led to this day, and to understand that racism is still something we must confront and work to eradicate. There have been great gains and there is more to be done. And, like the progress made by the civil rights movement, President Obama's election was made possible by the sacrifice and dedication of ordinary Americans, of all races and ethnicities."

Don't miss this powerful, provocative celebration of progress and possibility on Monday, January 19 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Performances of "M.L.K.: Amazing Grace" start at 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 2:30 PM (space is limited).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seeing Stars

On a Monday in mid-December, we gathered a group of children – kids of staff, relatives and friends – for an after-school play session that was filmed by WPRI for the Museum's new PSA. It was a wonderful afternoon – kids, oblivious to the camera, had deep, intense play interactions with one another and also with the staff members who were there facilitating (Experience Coordinator Lindsay Kilgore and AmeriCorps Museum Educators Melissa Kline and Miranda Elliott Rader).

Last week, I went to an editing session to review the footage and determine what made the final cut. What an amazing experience! There were lots of close-ups of kids hard at play and I was mesmerized as their beautiful faces and bright smiles filled the screen.
It was incredible to watch so closely as these children played, to take in the comments I didn't hear at the time and notice the subtle changes in their movements and expressions.

To see Mena's focus as she and Lindsay built a city together.

To witness Ciara's shy smile as she dropped the whirligig she just made.

To watch Finn (who had just learned how to read) carefully sound out each word in a book about bridges, so intent that he tuned out the laughter and yells around him.

To marvel as three-year-old Hannah stuck her entire face in a fountain – exploring Water Ways with all of her senses!

I was also impressed by watching our wonderful staff as they focused on each child, engaged them in thoughtful dialogue, asked open-ended questions, gave challenges and acted pretty darn silly! I was really proud of them, and of the Museum for being an environment that encourages and inspires this level and quality of interaction with children and families.

I'm fortunate to get to watch kids play frequently – through my office window and anytime I walk through our exhibits. But it was such a gift to see them through the focus of the camera's lens, to have the opportunity to really notice how amazing each little moment is.

Note: The Museum's new PSA will be ready to air by the end of the month and I'll add it to the blog so everyone can share my sense of wonder!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Yesterday we invited Museum visitors to make a wish for the coming year and add it to our New Year's tree. Here's what some of them – both kids and grown-ups – had to say:

Best wishes for a joyful, PLAY FULL new year!