Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Talking Back: School's Out!

Recently, on the Talk Back board in Play Power, we asked visitors "How do your kids play before or after school?"  Here's what some of them – and their children! – had to say:

(We especially love this one!)

How do your kids like to play when they're not in school?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shape Shifting

Last week brought some updates to our Shape Space environment that will help us test ideas for a new exhibit on geometry and spatial thinking to open late next year.

Look for these changes next time you visit the Museum:
  • A new geoboard activity table featuring three different boards – each with a unique distribution of pegs – and a variety of sizes of colorful rubber bands. School-age kids stretch the rubber bands around the pegs to create shapes, patterns and designs.
  • A new magnet wall and vibrant magnetic shapes. Use the four different shapes to make tessellating patterns and more.
  • And an expanded block building area.
Here are some images of the process and results:

RISD intern Kirsten cut out stacks of magnetic shapes.
Exhibit Designer Chris and Exhibit Technician Hillel installed the magnet wall
and then tested it out by making some amazing designs!
The geoboards in place.

Up next, watch for new labels with a geometry/spatial thinking focus that give parents and caregivers prompts and questions to encourage them to notice, appreciate and enhance their kids' play – similar to labels in Play Power and Water Ways – as well as more books, including some about the power of block building.

Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Telling the Story of Play

This article by Early Childhood Programs Coordinator Mary Scott Hackman was also posted on Kidoinfo.

At Providence Children’s Museum, we know that the child at play is often the child at work. And for some time now, we have been documenting children’s play, trying to capture that “aha” moment when, after interacting with materials and experimenting in different ways, he or she suddenly understands something new. In this process, which belongs entirely to the child, he or she is learning.


We call capturing these learning moments “documentation.” At the Museum, we have videotaped children as they learn, described their process on the Museum's blog, and displayed work children have left behind. And now, in Discovery Studio, we are noting the stories of these moments on a documentation board, depicted in photos and words. In these displays, we share how a child’s learning is self-directed, focused, intentional.


One day a Museum educator noticed a 2-year-old girl playing with stones in Discovery Studio. There were several books on the shelf right at her height. Slowly, she turned the pages of one of the books, holding a stone in her hand. Watching the child, it was clear to the educator that she was looking for her stone. She was, in fact, doing research. The educator photographed the child and spoke with her about her process; the pictures and words went up on the documentation board. For a long time, the child returned to the Museum to see her photo and to revisit the story we had documented.


Because we are inspired by these moments, we want to share them with our visitors, both children and adults. We think they will be inspired, too! Further, we believe that when we notice what children are doing as they play, they feel validated and become more competent as learners.

A few years ago, when I directed a childcare center, we documented children’s process in a similar way. It soon became apparent that our premise was correct: if a child feels his work is important, he will be eager to present it to you. One morning as I entered one of the classrooms, a child took my hand and led me across the room, saying “Mary, don’t you want to see what I’m working on at the easel?” And of course, I did.

We want to show the world, one story at a time, that play is as vital to the health of our children as food and sunlight. We invite you to join us in building a society of confident learners. Be a witness to your children, notice and appreciate their play. Know that they have a process and that doing something over and over again to gain understanding is the stuff of play – the serious work of childhood.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fan Mail

Every so often, the Museum gets letters, drawings and thank you notes from children who have visited – we love this kind of mail!

Just today we received some great artwork from a group of 14 preschoolers who visited recently from the Jewish Community Center. The children shared their favorite Museum play spaces and their interpretations are wonderful. Here's a selection – click to enlarge:


Thanks for sharing, JCC!