Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cardboard Challenge!

For the third year, the Museum is participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge , an annual worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role of communities in fostering imaginative play, inspired by the incredible story and film Caine's Arcade .

Beginning this weekend – Saturday and Sunday, October 3 & 4 – and continuing Tuesday, October 6 through Monday, October 12, kids and families will design and build original creations using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations. Collaborate to invent and construct games, gadgets, robots, rocket ships and much more!

In honor of Cardboard Challenge, we're reposting a favorite story of creative cardboard construction from a past year's event – sort of like our very own Caine's Arcarde!
A mom, dad and their seven kids all busied themselves with their own projects, individually or in teams. Parents and 11-year-old Alvin got to work building a drive-up coffee shop – a tall structure that required dad’s help to attach the roof and stabilize the building. They added a box to serve as the drive-through window and then mom illustrated the storefront. Alvin labored over food preparation, creating delicious donuts and M&M cookies from colorful foam shapes, which he served with coffee in small cardboard cylinders. And “Alvin's Coffee Shop” was born!

After offering free samples to rave reviews, Alvin created a menu to post by the window, took his station, and provided stellar service in a structure that mom was amazed to realized they'd spent over an hour and a half building. Watching this wonderful moment unfold, I was impressed by how Alvin’s parents followed his lead and worked seamlessly together to realize his creative vision.

Megan Fischer, Interim Executive Director

Friday, September 11, 2015

Little Rhody

New at the Museum: peek into the atrium walkway window boxes to take a tiny tour of Little Rhody.   Follow a quahog on a playful journey to some of the greatest hits and highlights of the Ocean State – sampling frozen lemonade, strolling through WaterFire, taking a spin on a Looff Carousel, and more!

The imaginative excursion was created by AmeriCorps members Mary Burke and Ali Sandler with support from other members of the their team and exhibits department staff Robin Meisner and Jessica Neuwirth.

Mary spoke about the concept and process:
“We wanted to do something that would appeal to visitors and be fun for both kids and grown-ups and the idea of Rhode Island emerged.

The hardest part was figuring out what scenes they would be. We generated a list of ideas, then divided them up, drew sketches and gathered materials that would make good miniatures – though we didn’t always know what they were looking for!

Once we began assembling the scenes, it became clear what was needed and how to use materials – the process prompted me to look at materials in new ways and wonder, what could it be?

I’m curious to know which boxes will be visitor favorites. I hope they say, “Remember when we went there?” or “We should go there!” – that the boxes are a real conversation starter.”

Little Rhody will be on view through the fall so make a point to do some sightseeing on your next visit!

Mary's favorite scenes include the Rustic Drive-In, Del's Lemonade truck and Point Judith Lighthouse.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Power of Problem Solving

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

As summer winds down and parents think about preparing for the school year, it’s easy to get caught up.

At the Children’s Museum, we’ve been thinking about problem solving a lot lately. We’ve looked at
the obvious connections between the playful learning experiences we try to foster and some of the formal educational standards. Problem solving is a foundational skill that appears in the RI Early Learning Development Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards and is something that we have a lot of fun with.


How do you know when your child is exercising problem-solving skills? There are times that seem obvious – she completes a complicated puzzle or negotiates taking turns with a friend. But sometimes it can be easy to miss moments where a child is building his problem-solving toolkit.

Here are some of the things we look for and celebrate:
  • Asking questions can indicate thinking process. Questions and wondering signify curiosity and interest. A “What happens if…?” shows planning for investigation.
  • When a child uses descriptive language she is using observation skills and trying to connect meaning between vocabulary and her observations. This is true of a toddler discovering that a ball is “round” and “big” or a 9-year-old describing the same ball as “a sphere” and “the size of my hand.”
  • Seeking peer support is evidence of a child trying to figure something out; she is looking for assistance and negotiating a social relationship.
  • Stick-to-itiveness. It takes persistence to find solutions through trial and error. Each time he tries he is gaining new information about what works and what doesn’t.
And these are some ways we like to spur children’s problem solving:
  • Ask open-ended questions – you know, those questions that don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer and that need to be answered with descriptive language.
  • Offer just enough support – give a hint or stabilize a wobbly piece.
  • Invite children to problem solve with you. Ask them for their ideas and solutions when puzzling something out.
  • Problem solve out loud. How are children going to know how much problem solving we do on a minute-by-minute basis unless we clue them in? They need to hear us reason things out and think things through.
Problem-solving opportunities occur throughout the day – when getting ready for school, making a meal, playing… Seize the opportunity in those small moments to notice and encourage your child’s innate ability to use logical thinking to reason things out.