Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seen and Heard in the Garden

What’s up in Underland? (Or “Underworld,” as we’ve heard it called many times now!) Here’s what Museum staff and volunteers have seen and heard:
  • I observed two boys about 8 years old preparing "acorn soup" for each other in the Underland kitchen. Once the soup was ready, they carefully selected their wooden bowls, sat across from each other at the stump table, and enthusiastically ladled out the soup - exclaiming how good it was going to taste, and what they'd cook up next.
    – Jennifer, Director of Development
  • “Lets eat,” said the rabbit to the cicada, while the salamander jammed on the marimba. A child said, “Sit down. I’ll make the food.” She busied herself with pine cones and acorns stirred in hollowed out wooden bowls with carved sticks. The rabbit hopped up. “I’m getting some real food,” he said, dashing outside. He returned with some leaves and mulch bark.
    – Janice, Executive Director
  • An 8-year-old girl: “You know how in the movies when they have music to show emotions? That’s what I was doing on the xylophone in there, but it was hard to sound like I was feeling.”
  • A 4 or 5 year old made a bridle from a jump rope for the bunny as she rode on its back.
  • A mom said to a small child, “Look, are those dinosaur ribs?”
    The child responded, “Dinosaurs love ribs, they eat them all the time.”
And heard from kids in The Climber:
  • “I’ve never been so happy!”
  • “I tried to go up two times but I was too scared. But then I went back again and I made it all the way to the top!”
  • “That was AWESOME!”
  • “I’m like a caterpillar on a giant leaf!”
  • From one of the platforms: “This is my island! You can come here too.”
  • “Wow, I can see the whole city from here!”
  • Heard coming from the top: “I can see my house!” “No you can't!” “I can! Look - it's over there!”
  • “We can spy on people!”
  • To those on the ground: “You look so tiny!”
  • A 10-year-old boy asked his mom, “Do you have your phone? Time me from up to down!” She cheered him on the whole way. One minute 5 seconds – not bad!
  • “Want to see me go higher?”
  • “At this exact point in time, I'm at the tippity-toppest part!”
  • “This is my third time going up! The second time is harder, the third time you get better.”
Shared by Merideth, Outreach Program Developer:
  • Children climb like monkey trapeze artists – the grace and assurance of their bodies navigating the space combined with the playful, quick movements of monkeys. They don’t seem to be bothered at all by the laws of gravity!
  • Kids hold onto one platform to swing down to the one below, using their momentum to slide and wriggle through another platform or two.
  • When a space fills up with kids, they help push one another along, flipping their feet over or pointing out which way to go next, negotiating their space and movement.
  • There is not one way to go up or down – I’ve seen feet first, head first, side first, even splits!
  • After making it up and down once, they do it again and talk about having to go another way because they had already tried this one. One child asked, “How many ways could we get up this thing?”

Monday, June 21, 2010

Extending the Museum’s Reach

This post was contributed by Outreach Program Developer Merideth Sullivan.

One year ago, 12 eager strangers walked through the Museum’s doors. Although each individual brought a range of diverse experiences and backgrounds as they relocated from around the nation, one thing they had in common was they all responded to the call to serve – these 12 members would form an AmeriCorps team funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Serve Rhode Island.

At Providence Children’s Museum, our dreams reach beyond our walls and this particular one-year program was an answer to those dreams. These AmeriCorps members were placed at three partner sites: Boys and Girls Club of Providence, Cranston’s Community Learning Center and YMCA of Greater Providence. We recognized that these partner organizations serve audiences significantly impacted by the economic recession and, with the addition of this new team, the Museum was ready to help.

During the school year, each team supported its site’s elementary-age after-school programs four days a week, providing tutoring help and delivering Museum Learning Clubs full of hands-on, minds on literacy activities. With the help and guidance of the Museum’s play experts, AmeriCorps members developed rich educational experiences for children. They created activities that allowed children to make their own discoveries at their own pace, with ample time for exploration.

In Air Play, kids investigated the power of air as they built flyers to test in a wind tube.

They used large dowels and rubber bands to create three-dimensional shapes.

Kids designed and built their own Paper Bridges and tested their strength.

After reaching 720 after-school children with nearly 20,000 hours of service, it was time to say goodbye. Last Wednesday evening, Museum staff, friends and family gathered to celebrate the year of service performed by these incredible AmeriCorps members.

Merideth and her team at graduation.

Thank you Yetunde, Kevin, Eric, Ian, Meagan, Kellyn, Jamie, Katie, Erin, Shannon and Andrew for sharing your time, talents and playful spirits with Providence Children’s Museum and the children of Rhode Island. You will be deeply missed!

A collage to commemorate the team and their service year.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Climber and Underland are NOW OPEN!

Children swarm up 18 feet to the top of The Climber and flow back down again, like water spreading in all directions. Like water, only noisy! “Awesome!” “Extreme FUN!” “I can see the whole entire city from up here.” “We can spy on people.” “I want to stay up here forever!” They climb past and around and over each other like puppies, point out ways to get up or down, boost each other up to the next platform, call out “Coming through!”

In Underland kids scuttle through the tunnels, chasing and hiding from each other, then pop out from unexpected places. Screams of surprise and delight! Meanwhile, a child in a bunny costume stirs acorn “soup,” which he serves to his friend the cicada. A marimba-playing salamander provides the dinner music.

The exciting new play spaces in The Children’s Garden are open at last! It’s been years of planning, designing, fundraising, building and anticipating. But no matter how much planning and anticipating we do, there is nothing like the thrill of actually seeing children using – and loving – the environments we create. It’s the best, most satisfying feeling ever.

We are so grateful to the hundreds of donors to the Museum’s Play Works Campaign for Kids who made it possible to create these amazing new play spaces. Thanks to your generosity, the campaign surpassed its $1.5 million goal by more than $250,000. That’s pretty satisfying, too!

On behalf of all of those climbing, pretending, running, noisy, happy children - THANK YOU!

Janice O’Donnell
Executive Director

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Finishing Touches...

Whoa, we are SO close to ready for kids to come play in The Climber and Underland when we open our new garden play spaces on Friday!

Here’s a look at the last week’s action:

Chris (exhibit designer) moved the musical sculpture he and his crew handcrafted from wood and other natural materials into Underland. It’s really beautiful!
They also installed this cool worm ceiling – giant, backlit rubber worms! –
which Carly (exhibit developer) and Janice (executive director) admired.
Carly installed cases of skulls, rocks and other objects found underground
and Chris and crew member Zach nestled our clay critters into their burrows.
The critters are the creations of local sculptor Marly Rogers – my favorite is the adorable star-nosed mole!After some serious cave cleaning, we set up the hand-carved Underland furniture and natural materials in the underground kitchen.
And outside the “cave,” the mastodon was installed in the sand pit,
where Hillel gave it a bath and a beautiful paint job!
Masons built a stone wall around the mastodon and then the pit was filled with sand, ready for kids to come with tools and do some excavating. (Staff had to play, of course!) Stay tuned for more about the creation of the mastodon.
Staff and AmeriCorps members tended to the rest of The Children’s Garden to get it ready for visitors. James (building manager) power washed all surfaces
while Mary (early childhood program developer) added some new native plants.
Oh, right, The Climber is complete! Staff scrambled through for a preview
And then we had kids here to test it and Underland and they had an absolute blast!
Check out the action here:

Wondering “how in the heck did they DO that?” Find out in this time-lapse video that details the installation of The Climber - see the whole thing built and crawling with kids in less than 2 minutes!

So we’re almost ready for you - come play with us on Friday!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Underland Under the Admissions Desk

This post was contributed by AmeriCorps member Kevin Broydrick.

As the Museum buzzes with excitement about the upcoming opening of Underland and The Climber, our two newest exhibits, the Admissions Desk display case also got an overhaul this week when a new display designed by AmeriCorps outreach members Andrew Winecke and Shannon Stad was installed. The display is themed around the subterranean setting of Underland.

“We wanted people to get excited about Underland as soon as they walked through the door,” Andrew said. “This display case is the first thing people see as they come in and it was a good opportunity to extend the theme of the new exhibit into the Museum itself.”

The display features a simulated underground landscape, complete with the critters that inhabit it. From ants to centipedes, it showcases some of the crawlers that make the subterranean setting of our newest exhibit their home.

“We’re really psyched about Underland,” added Shannon. “We’ve watched it all come together over the last few months and it looks so great.”

The case will be on display for the next several months and Underland and The Climber open to the public next Friday, June 11!