Sunday, March 31, 2013

Animal Band

We recently welcomed Animal Band, a playful new puppet display created by AmeriCorps Museum Educators Alex Balsen and Francesca Montanile. They described their inspiration and process as they worked with the Museum’s collection of Betty Huestis marionettes.

Francesca: We thought a lot about what would grab a kid’s attention and that influenced the decision to go with the animal puppets. We wanted something that was very bright and playful – those were our main guiding principles.

Alex: Francesca had the idea of it being a band and we thought about music that was relevant in the 1920s and 30s. The first thing we did was draw all of the puppets we wanted to use and thought about how they could fit in a band. Then playing around with words, we made it alliterative by putting the bear on the banjo, the monkey on the mandolin… that’s how we figured out the instruments.
Sketch including bear and monkey plus wolf on washboard and skunk on spoons.
Francesca: Alex made awesome mock-up drawings and from those we picked out what props and scenery we needed to make.

Alex: We got excited about making props and Francesca and [AmeriCorps member] Mandy made beautiful instruments that look like something Betty would have made.

Francesca: We hope everyone enjoys it.  I saw one kid stand in front of it and do a dance, which was probably my favorite moment!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Talking Back: How Many? How Much?

This winter, we hosted a delightful display of intriguing objects in our atrium walkway that challenged visitors to determine How Many? How Much? An accompanying talk-back board prompted them, “Do you wonder how many there are of something? What?”

Here's a selection of the clever, thoughtful, imaginative responses and ponderings they shared:

We were especially charmed by their curiosity and musings about the Museum itself!
Inspired by Nori, our rooftop dragon, we presume!

We bid farewell to the exhibit and welcome its replacement next week.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Leave No Child Inside

The first conversation in our Speaking of Play series – Leave No Child Inside – featured an enthusiastic exchange of ideas and resources for increasing kids’ outdoor playtime.

Some of the issues
Credit: Susan Sancomb
  • Kids today play outside considerably less than their parents did, potentially less than any generation in history.
  • The quantity of kids’ homework is increasing and impacts time for play.
  • Kids have too much structured time, both in and out of school.
  • Some schools and communities lack appropriate spaces for play – or other kids who play outside.
  • Low-income kids’ opportunities for free play and outdoor play are especially limited and they are at a higher risk for play deprivation.
Some of the ideas
  • What if schools devoted time to outdoor education, to learning in outdoor environments?  If, starting in 1st grade, every child at every school could spend at least one week outside?
    (Inspired by The Wheeler School, where each 6th grader spends 8 weeks in an outdoor classroom and demonstrates better focus than in a traditional classroom.)
  • What if schools gave less homework, and found ways to make it more creative and interesting or involve the outdoors?
  • What if parents joined forces and reclaimed kids’ out-of-school time (which makes up 80% of their waking hours), and allowed kids to play outside in their neighborhoods together?
  • What are YOUR ideas of ways to ensure kids get more outdoor playtime?
Outdoor play resources shared
The lively discussion often hit upon the hot-button issue of recess, conveniently the topic of the next conversation in the Speaking of Play series. Join the great recess debate on Tuesday, April 2 from 7:00 - 8:30 PM at the Providence Athenaeum!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Speaking of Play

Providence Children’s Museum and the Providence Athenaeum present a series of panel discussions, moderated by Museum director Janice O'Donnell, about the critical importance of self-directed play for children’s healthy growth and development. Conversations will be held the first Tuesday of March, April and May at the Athenaeum (251 Benefit Street in Providence) and are free and open to the public.

Leave No Child Inside
Tuesday, March 5 | 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Today’s children play outside less than any previous generation, yet free outdoor play connects kids to the natural world and builds imagination, resiliency and confidence.  Join a discussion about what’s keeping them inside and what we can do to get them out!

Panelists: Chris Hitchener, “Our Big Backyard” Program Manager, Roger Williams Park Zoo; Paul Pieri, Middle School Farm Program Director, The Wheeler School; and Jeanine Silversmith, Founder and Director, RI Families in Nature.

What Happened to Recess? 
Tuesday, April 2 | 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Recess is crucial for kids, resulting in better attention span, improved classroom behavior, and important opportunities for free play, creativity and interaction with other children – yet it is increasingly limited or withheld.  Join the great recess debate!

Panelists: Alicia Bell, Elementary art teacher and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School parent; Dr. Lauren Greve, Psychologist and Vartan Gregorian Elementary School parent; and Phyllis Penhallow, URI Lecturer and Chariho Elementary School parent.

Play & Risk: How Safe is Too Safe?
Tuesday, May 7 | 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Acceptable risk is beneficial to kids’ physical and emotional development, so when did it become a 4-letter word?  Taking risks helps children learn about their own capabilities and limits while increasing their comfort with making mistakes and taking on challenges.  Discuss ways to foster healthy risk-taking in kids’ play.

Panelists include: Wendy Nilsson, Director, Partnership for Providence Parks, and Janice O’Donnell, Executive Director, Providence Children’s Museum.

Series is sponsored by online parent resource Kidoinfo. RSVPs are welcome to Lindsay Shaw, or (401) 421-6970 ext. 17. Click here to download a flyer for the series.

Also join the Museum and researchers from Brown University on Tuesday, March 12 from 5:30 - 7:30 PM to hear about a new collaborative project investigating children's scientific thinking and recent research on children's play and learning. Learn more.