Thursday, May 21, 2009

Next "Where Do the Children Play?" Screening

The Children's Museum is gearing up for the next in our series of screenings of the provocative documentary Where Do the Children Play?, to be followed once again by an audience conversation about what we as a community can do to safeguard time and space for children’s play.
The film will be shown
Thursday, June 4
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Audubon's Environmental Education Center
1401 Hope Street (Rte 114)
Bristol, RI 02809

Panelists Janice O’Donnell, executive director of Providence Children’s Museum; Kristen Swanberg, Audubon’s senior director of education; and Scott Wolf, executive director of Grow Smart Rhode Island, will kick off the discussion.Our most recent screening was at the Highlander Charter School at the beginning of this month and fostered another lively conversation among the audience of 70 parents, educator and other community members, much like our first event in February.

The audience talked at length about the importance of advocating for free play and outdoor play during the school day and in out-of-school-time activities and shared tips about how to give kids more opportunities to play outdoors – including joining a group like RI Families in Nature. It was energizing and inspiring to be in a room full of people who are passionate about play, who are thinking and talking about the same things as we are at the Museum.

And so we’re ready to do it again! Please join us on June 4 – and join this critical community conversation.

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

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thank you, MuseumCorps team!

This week is National AmeriCorps Week and we’re counting the reasons we’re thankful to have our 2008-2009 MuseumCorps team:

1. They’re committed to play and learning.
This year, 10 members made a year-long commitment to serve the Museum and the Providence community. They are dedicated to the MuseumCorps mission of instilling a lifetime love of learning in children, especially those whose exposure to rich educational experiences is limited.

When you visit, you’ll no doubt see at least one of them playing and engaging families in exhibits and programs. They know all the best tricks for exploring and experimenting throughout the Museum!
2. They extend the Museum’s mission to the community.
The team serves the Providence community by working with all 1,300 Providence Head Start/Good Start children, 300 kids from 14 inner-city community centers in after-school Learning Clubs, and 200 children in the after-school programs at Pawtucket Child Opportunity Zone.

MuseumCorps members also plan and lead workshops for teaching staff at all Providence Head Start centers and trainings about running science exploration activities for after-school program staff.
3. They’re a diverse and creative bunch.
This year’s team came to us with a variety of skills and experiences. They’ve done everything from working at an archaeological site and a gallery to teaching art classes, researching child language development, and serving with Habitat for Humanity.

Each member designs and develops activities to lead with children at their service sites and with families that visit the Museum. They’ve planned everything from a day-long celebration of Dr. Seuss to activities about hermit crabs and their habitats.
4. They enrich the Museum.
Team members take on special projects like creating public programs, conducting research, and beautifying the exhibits. This year, the entire MuseumCorps team worked together to create the Illustration Inspiration exhibit and got dressed up and into character to lead activities at 9 evening events for Cub Scouts, Brownies and Girl Scouts. Together, they helped 553 Scouts earn patches and belt loops.

They also help recruit, train, and recognize the amazing volunteers who keep the Museum’s doors open by staffing the exhibits, gift shop, and admissions desk.

5. We couldn’t live without them!

Over the course of 11 months, team members will serve over 17,900 hours. We are so grateful for their hard work, energy, enthusiasm, creativity and great ideas!

Interested in joining our AmeriCorps team? Contact Carole Ann Penney at (401) 273-5437 ext. 134 or

Monday, May 11, 2009

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Get ready to do some super sleuthing! We have some mysterious new hunts at the admissions desk – try them on Mondays in May and June during Museum Challenges or ask for them anytime you're at the Museum.

In addition to the FETCH! hunts in the ramp and the history hunts in the Story Center, families can go on hidden picture expeditions, figure out math and counting challenges, and find things in threes. They're a great way to dig deeper – especially for repeat visitors and older kids – and see the exhibits in a new way.

Want to put your detective skills to work? Here's one of the new photo hunts. If you know what these images are, leave us a comment!

Feedback from Philadelphia

Some of our staff recently went to the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) annual conference in Philadelphia for several days of good conversations and new ideas. Here are some of our highlights and impressions:

Carly, Exhibit/Program Developer:
• Paul Orselli's funny and interesting slideshow of seating at museums around the country. We loved how he asked museums to give up "the notion that you can foster parent-child interaction by not giving the parent anywhere to sit down."

• Learning how museums make themselves more welcoming to families with physical disabilities. A presenter shared a quote from one of their volunteers who has a disability: "Don't assume what people with disabilities can and can't do."

• Attended a session about the Culture of Playwork in the U.K. joined by Joan Almon of Alliance for Childhood and Penny Wilson, a playworker in London's adventure playgrounds. I liked the "rules" at an adventure playground: "have as much fun as possible without anyone getting hurt." From thousands of conversations with people about their memories of play, there were similarities around the world – almost always outdoors, often with a little danger, games about survival. "Trying to define play is like trying to define love. You can't do it. It's too big for that."

• Several presenters at the conference spoke about how we are moving from the age of information to the age of knowledge, in which *integrating* information and innovation will be an essential skill. By playing, we learn how to think flexibly, tinker, and use information in new and different ways.

• Roxanne Spillett, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, spoke about the impact of the Boys and Girls Club Movement on children's lives and how the organization has grown and adapted through the years. It was meaningful to learn more about the bigger picture of Boys and Girls Clubs since the Museum has worked with the staff and children of Boys and Girls Clubs of Providence for 11 years through our AmeriCorps program.

Heidi, Director of Families Together
• Partnership was an often-heard buzzword, whether for children with special needs or funders and museums.
• I presented about partnerships between social service agencies (state, federal, local) and children's museums with a group representing four children's museums in the US and England!
• Met a registered play therapist currently working in a "museum without walls." She and I talked about working with families of war veterans and the role children's museums could play in their adjustment to civilian life as well as specific play therapy techniques for child welfare involved families.
• Felt proud to be amongst museum educators/administrators/marketing & pr managers who are creative, determined, passionate, fun!

Cathy, Director of Education:
I had the opportunity to attend AAM (American Association of Museums conference) as well following ACM. I loved hearing my colleagues from outside the children's museum world talk about sensory experiences for children (and their adults). They described kids sniffing the stench of the stockyard in Chicago, hearing the rumble of an incoming tornado, and acting out an expedition down an uncharted river. These kinds of exhibits and programs enliven the senses and inspire curiosity and imagination. I wanted to visit all their museums!

And my own highlights:
• Seeing colleagues from across the country and talking about how they’re responding to changes in traditional media and the expansion of social media.
• Realizing that we’re able to do so much with a budget that’s relatively small for a museum of our size and audience - and how broad our reach is in our community
• Hearing directors of 3 children’s museums (Denver, Chicago, Boston) discuss their leadership styles and innovative new staff projects
• An evening event at the newly relocated and beautifully renovated Please Touch Museum
• Several other Philadelphia museum adventures!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Volunteer Week a Huge Success!

Last week, Providence Children’s Museum and other organizations around the country celebrated National Volunteer Week. The Museum works with approximately 200 volunteers and work-study students over the course of a year and about 60 at any given time. Volunteers play with families in our exhibits, assist visitors at the gift shop and admissions desk, help with mailings and special events, and so much more. We simply couldn’t open the Museum each day without them!
As part of the celebration we had a specific theme or event each day:
Monday – wear polka dots and/or stripes
Tuesday – Game Night recognition event
Wednesday – Crazy Hat Day
Thursday – ice cream for everyone!
Friday – dress in Museum colors (green & purple)Twenty-nine staff and volunteers attended Game Night and volunteers who gave over 100 hours of service to the Museum in 2008 received “Volunteer Excellence” awards. Everyone who worked at the Museum for at least 3 months got recognition beads to wear on their nametags to symbolize the commitment they’ve made to our mission of inspiring play. We also had a potluck dinner and people enjoyed playing plenty of games, of course!

Overall, our week was a huge success and we hope our volunteers and work-study students know how much we appreciate everything they do for us and for our visitors. THANK YOU!

Shared by Kelly Fenton, Visitor Services & Volunteer Manager

Monday, May 4, 2009

More to read about PLAY

Go Out and Play!, an article by Museum director Janice O'Donnell about the importance of outdoor play, was posted last week on Kidoinfo.

On Friday, a New York Times parenting blog featured this post about the role of parents in children's play.

And not too long ago in US News & World Report: 10 Reasons Play Can Make You Healthy, Happy, and More Productive.

Image credit: Valerie Haggerty-Silva