Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Scoop from the Staff

Children's Museum staff contribute a monthly column to Kidoinfo, a local website that's a wonderful resource for creative and fun ideas and events for families. Here are some staff recent articles:

Volunteering – Family FUN! A look at the Museum's family volunteer program by Visitor Services & Volunteer Manager Kelly Fenton

Drawing Attention, Early Childhood Educator Mary Scott Hackman's musings on the value of kids' creative expression

Scouting Around, a peek into the Museum's fun-filled Scout evenings and overnights by Exhibit/Program Developer Carly Loeper

Just Imagine... - thoughts about hopes and dreams for the future by Director of Education Cathy Saunders

Play Power! - Executive Director Janice O'Donnell's article about the importance of kids' unstructured, self-directed play

Watch for future articles - we have a lot to say!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where Do the Children Play?

We had such a great response to our February screening of "Where Do the Children Play?" at the Lincoln School that we've decided to do it again! We're partnering to present two more free public screenings of the fascinating documentary this spring:

Wednesday, May 6
6:30 - 8:30 PM
Highlander Charter School
42 Lexington Street
Providence, RI 02905

Thursday, June 4
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Audubon's Environmental Education Center
1401 Hope Street (Rte 114)
Bristol, RI 02809

Once again, an audience discussion will follow each screening, led by Museum director Janice O’Donnell and other panelists. Please join us! Be a part of the critical conversation about kids' need for time and space for unstructured outdoor play.

For more information, contact Megan Fischer at (401) 273-5437 ext. 126 or fischer@childrenmuseum.org.

The film is presented with assistance from the U.S. Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that works for the restoration of play in children’s lives.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yes We Did!

Children's Museum Board, staff and supporters celebrated a major milestone last night: making the final payment on the Museum's mortgage. And the triumphant moment wouldn't have been complete without a mortgage burning! It was an amazing achievement for us and gratifying to know that we're strong and stable, and to look back at how far the Museum has come in its 32-year history – especially in the 12 years since we moved to Providence.

Audience members had tears in their eyes as Museum director Janice O'Donnell, Board president Carol Peterson, former Board president Betty Capozzi and Mayor David Cicilline spoke about the Museum's journey from Pawtucket to Providence and the efforts of the many people who have helped us succeed and grow.

And then a look to the future – two new exhibits planned to increase the Museum's play capacity in The Children's Garden and the capital projects goal of our Play Works Campaign for Kids within reach. To that end, Carol Peterson announced another major success: we just learned that the Museum was approved for a $150,000 challenge grant from the prestigious Kresge Foundation, which will help us meet our goal!

We have a lot of work ahead of us to make our goal and to continue serving our ever-growing audience – record numbers of visitors for 5 straight months! Times are hard right now, and it's clear that families need cheerful, playful places like the Museum more than ever.

Channel 10 covered last night's event - click here to see our mortgage burn!

Monday, April 20, 2009

PlayWatch: Dominoes!

It was obvious that families had created some amazing snakes and spirals in the "Domino Madness" activity because at the end of the evening there were hundreds of "dominoes" scattered all over the floor of the activity room. A four-year-old and his family were the last people in the room as I started to pick up the dominoes. Dad helped by sweeping the pieces into a pile and the child joined me in putting them in the bins. He dropped a wooden block among the others in the bin, "clack." I dropped three, "clack, clack, clack." He grinned at me, dropped two, "clack, clack." I let fall two fistfuls, "clickety clickety, clack, clack." He dropped a handful, "clickety, clack clack." We had a lot of fun experimenting with the sounds we could make by dropping wooden pieces and sharing our delight just by inspiring, mimicking and smiling at each other (and getting that space cleaned up at the same time). Kids make play so easy.

This story was shared by Museum director Janice O'Donnell after the recent Head Start Family Night.
Have some playful fun with dominoes THIS Thursday
during Domino Madness from 1:00 - 3:00 PM!

Friday, April 10, 2009

10 FUN Things to Do During School Vacation Week

1. Check out special programs and performances all week long:
  • Monday, April 13: Come meet live llamas, lambs and goats and see wool-carding and spinning during Fleecy Friends from 1:00 - 3:00 PM.
  • Thursday, April 16: Children won't want to miss folksinger Maria Sangiolo's interactive concerts at 1:00 and 2:00 PM. They can also join a workshop at 2:30 and create a fairy house from mosses, twigs and other natural materials.
  • Friday, April 17: Learn the secrets of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® circus performers during shows at 1:00 and 2:00 PM.
Get to the Museum early to pick up free tickets to shows on Thursday and Friday.

2. Now that the weather’s nice, bring a picnic and spend some time in The Children’s Garden. Play with the garden toys and make some NOISE on the Junk Music Station!

3. There are so many things to do in the Story Center, at the end of the time tunnel. It's really fun to explore all the different games – learn to play mankala or a new version of dominoes. Or use the “Create a Game” kit to make one of your own and invite other families to try it out.

4. Check out the ramp box exhibit and see if you can find your favorite children’s book illustrator. Make up a story about the people or objects in the boxes.

5. Make up a song on the pipe organ in Play Power. Find a friend to play some of the notes.

6. Send balls and scarves flying though the air tubes and try to catch them! Change the direction of the air and see what happens.

7. Make something really big on the light wall! For older kids, it can be fun & challenging to figure out how to make a shape like a 5-pointed star. This works great as a family or group project: an older kid or adult can work on the outline, while a younger sibling or friend hunts for the right colors to finish the shape (or makes their own creative additions). And for the littlest kids, figuring out how to fit a peg into the board (or flinging the pegs to the floor) is a great game also!

8. Construct a fountain in Water Ways. Build another fountain and figure out how to connect the two.

9. Create a gigantic three-dimensional object with Jovo tiles and put your finished shape on the show-off shelf.

10. Take a break with one of the great books found throughout the Museum. Cuddle a couch in the Story Center and read one of the wonderful stories from all over the world. Or, in Water Ways, dry off in the wave cave while reading a story about water.
Thanks to the Museum staff who contributed their playful ideas to this list! For more information about what’s happening during vacation week, visit the Museum's website.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Illustration Inspiration, part II - the process!

This story was shared by Graphic Designer Valerie-Haggerty Silva, the “art director” of Illustration Inspiration.

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to help oversee this exciting project. I have always loved children’s books and illustration. In fact, Illustration was my major at RISD many years ago.

We started by getting the ramp box creators together to introduce the project, set guidelines for the dimensions of the boxes and deadline for installation, and also to generate some excitement. We shared our favorite books and talked about possible ideas. It was our time to begin thinking “outside of the box!”

The next step was for everyone to develop a proposal to share. It was fun to listen to each person’s ideas, their reason for choosing a particular illustrator and what medium they thought they’d try working in. It’s always a pleasure to problem-solve and brainstorm together, and peek into a person’s creative process. We talked about the materials that would be best to work with. The atrium is very bright, so we wanted to be sure to use non-fading paper and adhesives that would hold up over time. Then we had about three and a half weeks to complete our constructions.

I chose David Macaulay and had every intention of using my drawing skills to create a box based on his love of architecture and his highly detailed renderings of mechanical parts from “How Things Work.” Instead, I found I was inspired by his love of and interest in process. The show of his work at the RISD Museum this winter revealed how his memories of making things as a child and seeing his parents making things with their hands really influenced him. He was encouraged to play outdoors, spend time in nature, mess around and be creative, and all of that helps develop the ability to notice, to wonder, to ask questions, to build – to take apart…
I had fun gathering and arranging the kinds of things that, to me, seemed a part of his world. I’m used to working two-dimensionally, so it was challenging to think in this more sculptural 3-D way. But once I got going it was addictive and I had a great time tinkering around and rearranging my elements.

Like any project, there are questions that come up and unexpected things to consider. Arielle Ascrizzi (Experience Coordinator) was a tremendous help in thinking about how these individual projects would fit together as one body of work. We thought about placement, order, what boxes needed to be viewed up higher or which needed to be peered into from above. I think we came up with a good arrangement that flows well and works nicely in the overall space.

It’s always important to think about context. Now that the ramp boxes are installed, the quilts are hanging on the nearby walls, and we have placed some books in that space, I think we have created a warm and welcoming environment where visitors can reflect on their favorite illustrators, or perhaps be reminded of a particular scene from a book they read as a child. Who knows, we might inspire one of our visitors to make an Illustration Inspiration of their very own!
Join special programs celebrating art and stories this weekend: Story Cloths on Saturday 4/4 and Illustrators Workshop: Collage Art on Sunday 4/5, both from 1:00 - 4:00 PM.