Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Memories of Play (part 1)

Museum staff shared some of their best childhood play memories including these, of favorite games invented in summer.

I remember my next-door neighbor had this great, big, flat driveway and the neighborhood kids would all play "Chalk City."  We each got to draw one house and one store that we "owned" and then would go around buying chalk pets, art, jewelry and clothes.  I owned the chalk ice cream store and would sell ice cream in all different colors.  By the end we were all covered in chalk – and so was our neighbor’s driveway!
– Julie, Volunteer & AmeriCorps Coordinator

As a kid, I spent the summers at a family home in Matunuck.  Whenever we had a big storm, we'd go out to the garage and play "Show."  My cousin Jack would climb the ladder to the attic and hold a spotlight on the rest of us as we dressed up in life preservers, flippers and goggles and danced around and sang. We kept planning the show, which we never actually got to put on because the sun would come out and we'd go to the beach!
– Mary, Early Childhood Programs Coordinator

We lived next to a hayfield and by the middle of summer, the hay was taller than the youngest kids.  We invented a game of hay hide and seek.  "It" would cover her eyes and count and everyone else would scatter out into the hayfield, all running as fast as they could, and belly flop down in the hay.  There was an absolutely magic moment when you were It.  You'd open your eyes and look out across the field and see only waving hay stalks.  All the other kids had simply vanished.
– Janice, Executive Director

I remember playing "Rock Shop" with my two older sisters at our summer beach in Jamestown.  We would take beach rocks and shells of various sizes, shapes, colors and determine prices based on how rare or special we thought each one was.  We would write the prices on them with chalk and arrange them on the boardwalk as the 'storefront.'  Then we took turns as the shop owner and the customer, pretending to be on vacation and shopping for just the right souvenir!  It's a game that has components of creative play, sorting, math and just plain old-fashioned summer fun.  It’s a great memory I have with my sisters and one I am happy to share with my own daughter.
– Cynthia, Experience Coordinator

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Philbert’s Travels

We recently welcomed a new display to our atrium walkway, created by AmeriCorps Museum Educators Sarah Bonawitz and Rebecca Gormley, who humorously shared their process and inspiration.

We designed and installed Philbert’s Travels: Around the World in 17 Scenes, the latest ramp box exhibit. Inspired by the Museum’s beautiful collections of glass penguins, antique tin toys, miniature architecture, and Victorian dollhouse furniture, we wanted to combine some of these pieces with our own handmade components. Using the wide variety of materials the Museum’s basement had to offer and the guidance of several Museum staff, we created a quirky story about a penguin named Philbert who travels the world. As we also love to travel, we felt it best that the real story – Philbert’s story – come from none other than Philbert himself.
“Everyone thinks that a penguin’s life is all fun and games. Sure, there’s the sledding on your stomach and playing a game of “Go Fish” around the fire, but sometimes you just want to get away from the everyday. That’s why I, Philbert the Penguin, decided to take the trip of a lifetime.
First I made a list of all the places I wanted to go. As it turns out, there were a fair few. I knew I wanted to lounge under the feathery branches of palm trees at the beach, to ride along cottony clouds in a multi-colored balloon, and perhaps above all, to float among the ribbon-like rings of Saturn and shiny satellites of the Final Frontier. Almost as important as the where, of course, was how I would get from place to place. During the average day, your average penguin does an average amount of waddling and sliding, but I had to keep reminding myself that this was to be the trip of a lifetime! From boarding mountain-bound trains to sailing the seven seas, a penguin needs to be ready for anything. “No more waddling for me,” I thought, “No siree – I am finally going to fly!”
And fly I did! From scaling mountains to touring the City of Love to making new friends, I have memories I’ll never forget. Sure, not everything went exactly as planned on my trip – there was the day I spent hours waiting for my bus to the beach. There was the agonizing time I lost my way in the desert. And I’m only just recovering from the time I stumbled upon an erupting volcano. But hey, that’s why they call it an adventure!”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Try It at Home! - Summer Fun

The Museum's play specialists compiled a list of some of our favorite activities to keep kids busy and having fun throughout the summer.

  • Basic Bubble Solution  Mix one cup of Dawn® dishwashing liquid with a gallon of water.  Let it sit open to the air overnight for stronger bubbles.
  • Bubble Wands  Gather ordinary household items and recycled materials with hoop shapes and built-in holes, like slotted spoons and plastic six-pack rings, and use them to blow and launch bubbles. 
  • More about bubble play
  • Sidewalk Spray Art  Ask a friend to lie down on the sidewalk or driveway.  Using a spray bottle, squirt the ground around your friend’s body with water until it is completely outlined, then check out the shape that’s left behind!  Try spraying other designs and patterns.
  • Water Painting  Paint with water on a large rock or the sidewalk.  Use natural materials as brushes.
  • Float a Boat  Build boats out of tree bark, sticks and leaves and race them down a stream or across a puddle or pool.
  • Mud Pies  Use kitchen tools like muffin tins, condiment containers and a garlic press to mold mucky “treats” and decorate them with found natural materials. 
  • Mud Painting  Use brushes, grasses or your fingers to make a marvelous mud-painted mural on the sidewalk or driveway. 
  • More about mud play
  • Obstacle Course  Set up a crazy course in your yard using jump ropes, hoops, balls, chairs and more and have a relay race.  Take turns designing new courses.
  • Neighborhood Safari  Talk a walk through a park or around your neighborhood.  Take paper and crayons and do rubbings of tree bark, buildings and other surfaces.  Collect leaves and twigs for a nature collage or other art project.
  • Bug Out!  Capture insects, worms, spiders and other cool creatures and use a magnifying glass to compare their parts.  Find a field guide at the library and learn how to identify insects.  Be sure to release the critters when you’re done with your observation!
  • Rock On  Stack rocks of different shapes and sizes to create artful stone sculptures. 
  • Shadow Art  With a friend, take turns forming funny positions and different shapes with your bodies.  Trace each other's shadows with a stick in the sand and decorate them with shells, pebbles and other beach materials.  (Also try this in dirt, or with chalk on pavement.)
What favorite activities would you add to the list?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Play at the Park!

Providence Children’s Museum is facilitating a series of “pop-up play” activities at Providence public parks in July and August, taking big blue Imagination Playground blocks plus other loose parts and open-ended fun to neighborhoods across the city. This is a pilot program, in partnership with the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation, to bring unstructured Museum-quality play experiences to public spaces while raising awareness of the importance of play for children’s growth and development.

PLAY AT THE PARK with Providence Children's Museum

Saturday, July 7 • 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Algonquin House (Broad Street) – Farmers' Market

Thursday, July 19 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Dexter Training Ground (Parade Street) – Farmers’ Market and performance by Boo City (rock, country and soul music)

Wednesday, July 25 • 10:00 AM - Noon
Cabral Park (Wickenden Street in Fox Point)

Wednesday, August 8 • 1:00 - 3:00 PM
Richardson Park (Richardson Street and Prairie Avenue)

Thursday, August 9 • 5:30 - 7:30 PM
Roger Williams Park (Broad Street entrance) – Performance by ECAS Theater (Spanish-language/bilingual music, dance and theater)

Tuesday, August 14 • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Burnside Park (in Kennedy Plaza)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Supporting Summer Learning

The Museum serves low-income preschool and elementary school-aged children year-round through MuseumCorps, our AmeriCorps program. This school year, MuseumCorps members provided stimulating hands-on learning experiences to 1,300 children in Head Start and out-of-school time programs in disadvantaged communities in Providence and Pawtucket. New this summer, we are expanding summer enrichment programming, designed to combat summer learning loss in math and reading skills, to serve another 200 children.

Children living in poverty often lack enriching opportunities that children from affluent families have – quality preschool, after-school and summer programs, exposure to cultural organizations like museums, travel, even shared reading in their homes – leading to a shocking achievement gap.

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation reports that children in all socioeconomic groups learn at the same rate – at least when it comes to basic skills – during the school year. Nearly all of the differences in achievement between poor and middle class children are rooted in the inequities they experience beyond school, namely in early childhood learning and out-of-school time opportunities. These inequities are especially pronounced during the summer months. Studies show that all children lose an average of 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math skills over the summer. But while middle class children continue to learn or hold steady in reading and language skills, lower-income children lose ground, resulting in an average gap of three months in reading skills.

Clearly low-income children are most in need of academic support and enrichment, and Museum Learning Clubs serve a critical need. We’ve added 4 new MuseumCorps members to our existing team of 12 and together they will serve 15 groups of kids at Boys & Girls Club in the Fox Point and South Side neighborhoods of Providence, Capital City Community Centers (Smith Hill Summer Program), Highlander Charter School, Louie's Place at South Providence Neighborhood Ministries, Nickerson House Community Center, Pawtucket Child Opportunity Zone and Silver Lake Community Center over the summer.

Under the guidance of our MuseumCorps members, these kids will design paper airplanes and gliders to discover the properties of air, track the sun's movement through a sun spotter telescope, investigate the wonder of nature by handling worms and dissecting owl pellets, explore problem-solving and design challenges as they conduct “egg drop” experiments, and try plenty of other fun and engaging hands-on activities that will curb their summer learning loss.

Learn more about the importance of summer learning in Rhode Island from RI After School Plus Alliance (RIASPA).