Thursday, October 31, 2013

PlayWatch: Magnet Drawing

Spotted at one of our newest exhibit components – the magnetic drawing table in Play Power...

An 8-year-old girl settled in to one of the activity stations and began using the pieces of colorful metal chain to create a grid of perpendicular lines, one vertical and two horizontal.

She formed a circle around their intersection and, as she began adding other details, it became clear that she was creating a figure, carefully adjusting the lines to ensure symmetry.  Explaining that she’d learned the technique in art class, she circled green strands to create an eye on either side of her vertical line.

After completing all of the facial features, she moved her horizontal guides downward, outlined a torso, and added appendages in varying hues.  Her final step was to fill in the torso, deliberately spiraling strands in alternating colors until her masterpiece was complete.

She worked slowly but with tremendous focus and determination, and it was fascinating to see her make a connection to something she’d learned to do with paper and pencil and apply it to a different medium.  Her parents watched from across the room and checked in with her periodically but mostly gave this strategic artist the time and space she needed to carry out her plan and vision.

Megan Fischer, Communications & Marketing Director

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cardboard Challenge, part 2

A young boy (about 6 years old) entered the space and decided that, like many other participants, he was going to build a house – however his plans quickly evolved into constructing a spacecraft. He gave me detailed instructions on how he'd like his door and window cut; there was a definite sense of ownership over the project.
He drew out plans for his steering wheel and column and asked me to cut an impossibly thick tube. When I told him we'd have to use something else he scoured the room and decided that our basket for chalk would be the perfect thing to stand in for the column. He was persistent yet flexible, and it was really interesting to watch him peruse all of the materials available and decide, in the end, that what he really needed was something that we hadn't originally intended as a building supply! Upon completion, the spaceship was fully equipped with a safety sign (that indicated only the pilot should enter), wings and steering wheel. He was ready to fly!
Sarah, AmeriCorps Museum Educator

I observed adults who spent a long time helping and facilitating their children's play. I was happy to see that these grown-ups stepped back when it was time to show off their creations, to let the children explain what they have done and the reason/engineering behind it. For example, an aunt worked with her young niece and nephew to build an elaborate castle. When I asked them about details, the woman did not say a word and let the girl explain that she built the castle for "rainbow fairies, and these fairies were chased by bad guys." The castle included a drawbridge, a dangerous octopus and towers with cannons. When I asked how the cannons work, the boy demonstrated. He placed a ball in a large tube and stuck a smaller tube inside, which caused the ball to shoot out.
Olga, Early Childhood Learning Programs Developer

A girl, about 7 years old, found a sheet of cardboard with pre-cut circles (obviously some packaging leftover).  She inserted a cardboard cone in each of the circular holes and decorated them with ribbon and markers.  She asked if she could take it home as the cones were houses for fairies. She said that she had "a lot of fairies at home" and had made them a village.
Janice, Executive Director

A mom, dad and their 7 kids all busied themselves with their own projects, individually or in teams.  Parents and 11-year-old Alvin got to work building a drive-up coffee shop – a tall structure that required dad’s help to attach the roof and stabilize the building. They added a box to serve as the drive through window, and mom got to work illustrating the storefront.

Alvin himself labored over the food preparation, creating delicious donuts and M & M cookies from colorful foam shapes, which he served with coffee in small cardboard cylinders. And “Alvin's Coffee Shop” was born!

After offering free samples to rave reviews, Alvin created a menu to post by the window. When everything was ready, he took his station and provided stellar service in a structure that mom was amazed to find that they'd spent over an hour and a half building. Upon watching this wonderful moment unfold, I was struck that Alvin’s Coffee Shop might just be our own version of Caine’s Arcade!
Megan, Communications Director

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cardboard Challenge, part 1

Last weekend, we invited kids and families to design and construct original creations using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations.  The event was part of Global Cardboard Challenge, the second annual worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role of communities in fostering imaginative play, inspired by the video Caine's Arcade. They created castles, bridges, spaceships and much more!

We saw a lot of intriguing inventions, focused building and some wonderful collaboration.

An 8-year-old boy spent almost 45 minutes building a cannon from a large cylinder – first figuring out how to support it, then adding components like a battery and fuse. He got help from Museum staff and his caregiver when he needed it, with tape and a box cutter, but mostly worked independently and was incredibly focused.

A family of four worked diligently on three different houses! An older brother and sister worked together to create an elaborate structure that included a chimney, a porch with a bed and some pretty fancy hand-drawn wallpaper, while mom built her own red-roofed home.

Meanwhile, across the room, their young cousin claimed a large abandoned house and made it his own by adding a basket of balls to the interior and used lots of tape to form traffic barriers to secure the exterior.

A team of four kids repurposed another house, adding charming details over a period of many hours. When complete, it included tied back velvet curtains, a window box with flowers, a stained glass window, vines crawling over an outside grate, French doors, a comfy bed, a shelf stocked with toys, books and vases, and a security alarm.

A girl, about 8, created an incredible playground diorama, including a basketball hoop, seesaw, slide and trashcan. "I'm going to make the swings at home," she said proudly.

A determined boy spent quite some time constructing the "Providence bridge," thoughtfully finding just the right parts before carefully adding them on.

One of many fabulous castles that emerged throughout the weekend.

We saw lot of great grown-up play – adults playing on their own, supporting their kids’ play without taking over, being helpers and taking directions from their children, and more.

Parents built an impressive sailboat together while their 4-year-old daughter busied herself playing elsewhere.

A dad with two small children stayed for nearly the entire activity on Saturday. First they created the wall of a house, which they colored with chalk and dad embellished with colorful foam shapes. Then they each made their own smaller creations, including train tracks and a house. They had so much fun they came back on Sunday, too!

A mom and dad and their 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, who create a lot of "inventions" at home, split into parent/child teams. The daughter created a cradle for her pet bunny, using loose parts to construct a dangling mobile, while mom decorated the headboard.

A family – mom, grandmom and two boys – created an interesting "factory on a ship that makes electricity."

And that's not nearly all – more stories of creative cardboard constructions will follow!