Friday, January 19, 2018

Through the Looking Glass: One students perspective from childhood to Museum staff

A young mother holds a child in one arm while pushing a stroller through the exhibits in ThinkSpace, flocked by at least three other children under the age of twelve. Looking at her energetic, excited children and the tired smile on her face, I wonder about the first times I visited Providence Children’s Museum. As the seventh of nine children, did I resemble the five-year-old about to knock over the block tower built by an older sibling? Or was I the shy three-year-old, hesitantly asking to be let into Littlewoods while clinging to my Mom’s hand?

Every time I volunteer at the Museum, memories flood back of my experiences when I visited as a child. Many of the beloved exhibits that I remember from my childhood remain at the Museum, but each with a new twist, whether in the form of the addition of ice in Water Ways or the Fort Adams exhibit in the Coming to Rhode Island time tunnel. But for me, part of the twist is the difference with which I see the exhibits: instead of looking at the exhibits through the eyes of a child to whom everything is new, exciting, and unfamiliar, I see Providence Children’s Museum as someone behind-the-scenes.

I am learning that there is not only magic in the Museum for the children, but the volunteers and staff as well. By observing and creating a safe environment for learning, I get to create some of the magic. I have the opportunity to twist the knobs in Water Ways and watch as a child gasps and calls to their parent as the water reforms with each twist. I can observe and engage with children as they discover learning on their own or follow the example set by others. As a Play Guide, I also keep the learning environment safe and inviting, as I squeegee the puddled floor in Water Ways or set up blocks in a welcoming, but tidy manner in ThinkSpace.

Looking back at both my childhood experiences at the Museum, as well as the young mother and her energetic children visiting now, I recognize one of the unique qualities of Providence Children’s Museum: it does not matter if the children visiting are exuberant five-year-olds, or quiet, reserved three-year-olds, the Museum has something for every child. And volunteering has taught me that all the fun children have while visiting Providence Children’s Museum is made possible by the hard work of the volunteers and staff. Because of their effort and research, the Museum is a welcoming, vibrant place. I have also learned that the exploration and experimentation of learning does not have to end after childhood. There are so many varieties of different learning styles I am learning to recognize, and I discover something new in the exhibits with every volunteer shift.
 Written by Play Guide and current student of the University of Rhode Island, Abigail Clarkin.

 Abigail guides Antonio Cohelo's ship, the Nellie May, in the Coming to Rhode Island Time Tunnel.
 Abigail plays in the IWay exhibit, opened in November of 2006.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Children's Theater Plays to Debut

Providence Children’s Museum holds its premiere weekend of two children’s theater pieces, “Lost & Found” and “That’s My Ball”, written by community contracted Playwrights and debuting on Friday, November 17, 2017 during our “MetLife Family Friday- Free at Five” from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM. “That’s My Ball” premieres at 6:00 PM and “Lost & Found” at 7:00 PM. The Museum is open free to the public from 5:00 – 8:00 PM.
The new children’s theater pieces will continue to be performed on an alternating schedule on both Saturday, November 18 and Sunday, November 19, 2017 with four performances each day at 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 1:30 PM. These newly commissioned performances serve as an extension of the important messages incorporated in the Museum’s exhibit, Coming to Rhode Island, which explores history, culture, and the importance of fostering respect for the diversity of individuals who make up our world. These exciting theater pieces have been made possible with support from Hasbro’s Children’s Fund and Nancy Smith Worthen in memory of Margaret L. Worthen.
Currently, the Museum alternates between two plays: "After the Beanstalk" and "No Time to Waste". "After the Beanstalk" was created by the 2012 - 2013 MuseumCorps team shortly after the Museum's exhibit, ThinkSpace, had opened. The play was created to emulate spatial thinking strategies for children and it was our first theater piece created by Museum staff. MuseumCorps member, Francesca Montanile, detailed the play in a previous blog post:
"The 20-minute performance tells the story of Jack, who is kidnapped and taken to Cloud Town after breaking the Giant's crown. His sister Jill enlists the audience to help rescue him. In Cloud Town, they tackle a series of spatial thinking challenges to escape. In the end, they must meet the Giant face to face!... The play is a joy to perform because the energy kids create is infectious. Their tendencies to speak aloud, get the 'wiggles', and experience the story in real time might be a challenge in a conventional theater setting but become assets as they transform into our play's heroes."

2012 - 2013 MuseumCorps members Francesca Montanile (left) and Jack Read (right) perform their ThinkSpace-inspired children's theater piece "After the Beanstalk".

The Museum's first children's theater play, "No Time to Waste" was created by a community theater group, City Stage Company. It was introduced to Museum guests in 2002 to accompany a recycling-themed exhibit that used to exist where Iway is currently located. Since then, it has been performed regularly by Museum staff, MuseumCorps members, and several local actors, including Bill Oakes, whom was originally involved in its inception. Due to the important messages of recycling and reusing that are so prevalent in "No Time to Waste", the Museum continues its performance even though the exhibit responsible for its inspiration is no longer here.

2016 - 2017 MuseumCorps members James McWilliams (left) and Jordan Lome (right) perform the Museum's oldest play "No Time to Waste".

In August 2017, Providence Children’s Museum presented the opportunity to playwrights in the community to develop one children’s theater piece focused on empathy and respect for others. Upon review, two theater scripts stood out amidst the many submissions due to their powerful messages and ability to speak to preschool or school-age audiences. 
  • The Children’s Museum’s very own Kate Lester was selected and her playful and thoughtful theater piece, “That’s My Ball”, explores concepts of sharing and inclusivity appropriate for children 3 to 5 years of age. Kate Lester is currently a Providence Children’s Museum Experience Coordinator as well as a professional actor, director and playwright. She is also a member of Talk Works, an anti-bullying ensemble that tours RI for school performances. 
  • Paul Taylor, the Traveling Science Show and Community Outreach Manager at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA has developed “Lost & Found”, a play that dialogues concepts of self-discovery and empathic intelligence relatable to children of 5 to 7 years of age. Paul Taylor has written and performed in shows for museums and zoos, bringing the work and concepts of scientists to life.
Top: Bank of America volunteers pose next to the backdrop they helped craft for the Museum's newest children's theater plays. Bottom: Contracted Playwright's, Paul Taylor (left) and Kate Lester (right) discuss content with 2017 - 2018 MuseumCorps member Mariel Mastrostefano.
For questions and more information on programming and performances visit, call (401) 273-5437 ext. 234 or contact

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Volunteer Week, April 9-14, 2017

On any given day at the Providence Children’s Museum, you will find many volunteers contributing to its mission in many different ways. They welcome visitors at the Admissions Desk, they assist the Development department with fundraising, they create materials for Education programs, and of course, they support kids’ play. In many cases, visitors’ fond memories of the Museum are due to interactions with these volunteers.  

PCM celebrated its many volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 9-14, 2017. Museum staff treated our volunteers to sweet and savory snacks in the kitchen and seven volunteers won gift cards in our daily prize drawings. Volunteers were invited to dress up in themed costumes each day for Spirit Week, and some went all out: Nelly Gonzalez rocked our world with her 80’s attire on Decade Day! 

At the Annual Meeting on April 12, the Museum honored Allyson Chrupcala, Kerri Cronin, Dave Graff, Julio Lopez, Mayra Mendoza, and Michelle Rivera with Volunteer Excellence Awards. These outstanding volunteers have consistently gone above and beyond in their service to our visitors. They exemplify the dedication displayed by all of our volunteers, who have collectively served 11,484 hours in 2016 and 3,561 so far in 2017! 

All of this time and effort freely given by our volunteers is a major reason why we are the most visited museum in Providence and the second most visited museum in Rhode Island. The next time you visit, thank a volunteer! In the words of our Annual Meeting special guest Tim Gunn, volunteers “make it work!”  

(And by “it,” we mean the Providence Children’s Museum!)

Ariana Dickie greets our guests with a warm smile. 

Allyson Chrupcala, Julio Lopez, and Mayra Mendoza receive their awards.  

Allyson and Mayra pose with special guest Tim Gunn of Project Runway! 

Development Intern Mackenzie Griffin talks with a guest. 

Our volunteers are versatile! Play Guides Lila Mitchell and Megan Haugh man the bar during the Annual Meeting. 

Photo Credit to Oeil Phography 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Annual Meeting, April 12, 2017

As part of the 40th year celebration, Providence Children’s Museum invited special guest Tim Gunn to speak about creativity at the Annual Meeting on April 12.
Earlier in the day, Tim Gunn had mentored a group of students from Highlander Academy in Providence in a fashion design exercise using newspaper and other craft materials. The students worked in teams to create outfits inspired by the Museum’s exhibits.
Tim Gunn is best known for his role as mentor on Project Runway and Project Runway Jr. and children might recognize his voice as that of Baileywick on Disney Junior’s Sofia the First. Before that, he served as faculty and Chair of Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design and as Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne.
After presenting awards to Museum volunteers and voting to elect new Board Members, Providence Children’s Museum Executive Director Caroline Payson, who has been a personal friend of Mr. Gunn for 30 years, facilitated a conversation with him in front of an audience of almost 200. They opened the discussion by acknowledging creativity as “a muscle, not a muse,” where you can build your confidence and get better at it, especially at a place like the Museum.
Mr. Gunn described the creative act as “life-saving” in his own childhood.  A self-described book worm, he studied classical piano for twelve years and his love of Legos led him to begin his studies in architecture. He loved that there was no “answer in the back of the book,” instead exploring what was inside and how to draw it out. This led him to appreciate discipline, quality, and work that is conceptually solid, which has been the foundation of his entire career.
Several times in the conversation, Mr. Gunn described how inspired he has been when working with young people. Not only has he been impressed by the quality of the work they have produced, such as during the fencing challenge on Project Runway Jr, but he admires the passion he sees young people exhibit and their “unerring commitment to technique.”  He was unnecessarily worried that young people would be discouraged by an honest critique and by the show’s framework which requires an elimination at the end of each episode. Instead, the participants were eager for useful feedback and exhibited extensive confidence and poise.
During the question-and-answer portion of the conversation, one 18-year-old aspiring fashion designer asked for advice for those just starting out. “You need to find a point of view,” said Mr. Gunn. “Know who you are.” Then, referencing an earlier point about the importance of remaining relevant, he added, “and know what’s going on in the world.” When answering a question from a parent wanting to encourage creativity in children, he suggested providing sincere encouragement. “Ask, ‘what do you want to do? What makes you excited? What makes you want to leap up and train to do something?’"
Mr. Gunn stressed the importance of places like the Children’s Museum that help young people discover these future passions.  Some of the Annual Meeting attendees were specifically interested in fashion design, some were more generally interested in creativity, and some came specifically to celebrate the Museum, but everyone left that evening having been truly inspired.

To watch the video of the entire conversation with Tim Gunn, check the Museum’s Facebook page.

Friday, February 3, 2017

On Display

The “geometry gallery” in our ThinkSpace exhibit features changing displays of natural and handcrafted objects that provide strong visual representations of spatial thinking, which is fundamental to innovation and scientific creativity.

Exhibit Developer Jessica Neuwirth installs the new case.

Discover the newest installation, 3D models and 2D tessellation patterns from the Arthur Loeb Design Science Teaching Collection at the RISD Nature Lab. These materials are used as teaching tools to illustrate some of the principles of pattern, symmetry and structure found in nature and the built environment.

Many thanks to our colleagues at the RISD Nature Lab for loaning these objects, which will be on display through June.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 – A Record Year!

Did you know that in 2016, Providence Children’s Museum:
  • Welcomed a record 168,270 onsite visits, 30% free of charge. 
  • Brought engaging hands-on activities to 1,100 Head Start preschoolers and 250 school-age kids through after-school and summer programs at inner-city community centers, as part of its AmeriCorps program. 
  • Hosted over 1,400 low-income children and their family members at free Museum family nights. 
  • Conducted therapeutic visits for 438 children and parents in 152 court-separated families, as part of the Families Together program. 
  • Provided nearly 400 charitable memberships to low-income families. 
  • Engaged over 1,800 visitors with research by the Museum's academic collaborators in its Mind Lab
  • Welcomed 9,492 members in 2,077 families. 
  • And MUCH more!

All told, 46% of the Museum’s 2016 operating budget supported services for children and families in need.

Thank YOU for making this important work possible!

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Wishing you a wonderfully PLAY-filled and inspiring new year!

Can you identify where in the Museum you can find each of these images?