Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Writing on the Walls

We have had such a wonderful time watching children and families enjoy Play Power for the past few days. The cries of "Wow! This is awesome!" and "Mom - look at this!" and the peals of laughter are such music to our ears after being so many weeks without children. Staff have already spent hours watching kids doing some amazing playing, seeing how they're using the various components, thinking about what comes next.

Play Power has a few labels that ask open-ended questions like "What else can you try?" and "What could this be?," which are a prototype until we've had time to evaluate their best placement. We tend not to have a lot of labels in the Museum. There's just so much else going on around here that people don't necessarily get a chance to read what's on the walls! Well, that was not so today.
As executive director Janice O'Donnell shared in an email exchange to the X-team just moments ago:
"A few minutes ago two kids were discovering Air Play. Mom watched what they were doing, glanced at the label, and asked the kids, What do you think will happen?"

To which Graphic Designer Valerie responde
And just now I went out to the exhibit to place the last little label on the beautiful organ and I met Keith, who is 8 years old. He sometimes plays the organ at his church so he wanted to name each note that he played as he walked around the organ. It was a satisfying moment!"

We are so loving watching and talking and thinking about this exhibit!

And we had a nice surprise this afternoon when former Experience Coordinator Laura Hodo, who left the Museum in March to move home to Arkansas, returned for a visit. She loved exploring Play Power and seeing all of the changes to the Museum and told me that she's a big fan of this blog and has been checking it daily. So this is in honor of Laura, our #1 fan!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Play Power is...

At long last, after 8 weeks of extensive renovations – removing windows, deinstalling and reinstalling exhibits, painting, sanding, recarpeting, and building Play Power – the Museum finally reopened at 9 AM. And our first visitors arrived a few minutes later and immediately ran into Play Power, where they stayed for the next 4 hours! (With a short snack break, of course.) Build-a-maze was a big hit, as was Air Play and the Musical Pipes. OK, they seem to like it all so far!

Museum staff gathered around and eagerly watched children enjoying the new exhibit. They'll continue to watch, especially Carly and Chris, the exhibit's developer and designer, and other members of the exhibit team (the X-team). Through close observation over the next few weeks and more, they'll see how kids are using the exhibit components, determine what's working, and evaluate what adjustments need to be made – and I'll share updates about their discoveries and the interesting conversations we're all having.

The exhibit may be ready for visitors, but the Play Power process continues!

Finishing Touches – Day 56

Monday brought a flurry of activity and attention to remaining details. As Molly created new ramps and tracks for the build a-maze activity, Carole Ann reinstalled the case beneath the admissions desk and Water Ways got a good scrubbing. The final pieces of colorful plexiglass were added to the play dome, the musical pipes were tuned, new lights were added to the kaleidoscope, and graphic designer Valerie Haggerty-Silva and her helpers installed the rest of the Play Power graphics.

And before the doors opened this morning, staff tested everything in Play Power to make sure it's working smoothly – and tons of fun! Here are some photos of Museum staff at play as they prepared for the first visitors to arrive.

As Janice climbed into the play dome, Chris checked the sounds of the musical pipes.

Admissions desk clerk Nick investigated the air tubes before his shift while Carly got the activity tables ready for visitors

and Arielle and several AmeriCorps members tested their maze-building skills.
Believe me, we CAN'T WAIT to see the kids again!

Monday, October 27, 2008

One More Day! – Days 53-55

The crew worked very hard for another weekend. Chris brought some of the final components from his shop in West Kingston – the curved metal wall for Build-a-maze and the table for the parent resource nook. The Play Dome is nearly ready – here's a shot of the dome peeking over the metal wall.

The light wall was put in place and Chris installed the remainder of the giant tubing for the Air Play grid.

Dave Marchetti finished installing the beautiful new fish tanks and they are stunning! Here's a close up of one of the Museum's newest residents:
The kaleidoscope got a fresh new look and Valerie spent hours putting up labels in Play Power. The colors are gorgeous!

AND we were excited about a Providence Journal article about our new exhibit plus video on their website of a behind-the-scenes look at Play Power and an interview with Chris and Janice!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Perfect Storm – Day 52

On Thursday, a number of people, including Carly and Hillel, spent quite a while sanding and polishing brightly colored acrylic rods for the Play Power light wall. It's a pretty intensive process, as Carly demonstrates, but the finished product is well worth the effort.

Then staff had an opportunity to try the rods out on the light wall and make colorful patterns. And on the light activity table, too, when Janice's grandchildren stopped by for a quick testing session. We were all mesmerized by the bright lights!

In other news, James (the building manager) spent some time high in the air to paint some areas on the outside of the building – one of many, many maintenance projects he's completed while we've been closed to get us fixed up and looking good.

And speaking of flying high... Karen Lambe made another triumphant return to the Museum, this time to bathe the bugs from the stairwell, which Margaret helped remove and rehang.

Dave Marchetti also returned yesterday to begin installing our beautiful new fish tanks. And that was all one day! Yes, there's a lot going on here, and it's a good thing Janice is keeping us organized. Here's how:
This chart has come to be known as "the perfect storm," which is fitting because we're starting to feel a bit like we're been hit by a hurricane!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Airborne! – Days 49 & 50

As the Play Dome progressed yesterday, Carly got out the foam blocks and noodles that will be part of the space and staff got a chance to build and play.

Today, the Air Play area expanded as Chris and Virginia began installing the tubing. Then, of course, they had to take a break so they could test and experiment.

Virginia and Carly had a blast sending colorful balls and scarves through the tubes – kids (of all ages!) are going to LOVE this.

Then Virginia painted the wall behind the air tubes a vibrant green. This new exhibit is positively packed with color!
And Water Ways no longer looks like a construction zone. The Museum's newest Experience Coordinators, Lindsay and Merideth, worked hard to give the exhibit a good scrubbing today – floor, tanks, pipes, boats, everything! – and now it practically sparkles. All of the props were left out to dry and they look so ready for the kids to come play with them. Aren't we all!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Work-Filled Weekend – Day 48

The crew worked tirelessly on Play Power all weekend. On Sunday, Chris and Zach began weaving the Play Dome's metal fa├žade,

the Air Play grid grew, thanks to Greg and Matt,

and Carly, the Play Power exhibit developer, tested out one of the new activity tables. More components arrived with Chris this morning, and the mirrors were reinstalled.

This week is going to be action-packed!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Play Power Progresses! – Days 46 & 47

Chris started bringing Play Power exhibit components from his shop in West Kingston to the Museum this week and, now that the recarpeting is done, the exhibit installation is really getting going. Here's an image of the Play Power model, created by Chris and Valerie, to give everyone a sense of what's what and (roughly) how it'll look when it's all done:

The parts that arrived this week included the units that will hold foam blocks inside the play dome and also pieces of the musical pipes, which Chris and crew began to assemble on Friday. On Saturday, they started installing the grid for the tubing in the Air Play area – shown here, with Janice behind bars! – and also worked on the frame that'll hold the play dome in place.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Museum... Karen Lambe and Diana Jackson got Estrella dressed again, in her festive fall attire. PaintMaster Margaret (shown below with Erin) continued her amazing work by repainting more walls, exhibit components in Bone Zone, the area around the fish tanks in Water Ways... by the time this is all over, she'll have completed an unprecedented 350 hours of painting-related work – WOW!

And I took a break from taking pictures to do some sanding and painting of Shape Space tables today – I was missing out on all the fun!