Monday, June 30, 2014

Play at the Park!

For a third summer, join the Children’s Museum at neighborhood parks across Providence to build forts, make musical instruments, and discover other open-ended fun with loose parts.  The activities build on the Museum’s efforts to support unstructured, child-directed play throughout the community and are part of our participation in Playful Providence – a citywide celebration of play.

We're bringing activities to Burnside Park (downtown Providence, in Kennedy Plaza) Tuesday, July 1 from 3:00 - 6:00 PM.

Then join us to play at the park and enjoy evening concerts on these dates:

Tuesday, July 22 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Fargnoli Park | Jastram and Smith Streets
Music by Keith Munslow

Thursday, July 24 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Dexter Training Ground | Dexter and Parade Streets
Music by The American Band

Wednesday, July 30 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Harriet and Sayles Park | Harriet and Sayles Streets
Music by Extraordinary Rendition Band

Wednesday, August 6 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM 
Harriet and Sayles Park | Harriet and Sayles Streets
Performance by hip-hop dance group Project 401

Thursday, August 7 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Bucklin Park | Bucklin and Daboll Streets
Performance by Rhode Island Black Storytellers

Wednesday, August 13 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Brown Street Park | Brown and Creighton Streets
Music by Ravi Shavi

Museum activities are supported by the Providence Neighborhood Performing Arts Initiative, a partnership among Mayor Angel Taveras, the City of Providence, Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, the Department of Public Parks and the Partnership for Providence Parks.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New in Play Power!

We're committed to providing experiences that promote different types of play and to keeping fresh by frequently changing elements of our exhibits.  Discover the newest addition to Play Power – an imaginative building activity that invites visitors to use colorful abstract shapes to invent whimsical sculptures, and stimulates innovative play and development of spatial skills. Check it out on your next visit!

Updates to Play Power activities are underwritten by Dominion Foundation.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Introducing PlayCorps

This summer, Providence Children’s Museum is partnering with the Partnership for Providence Parks and the City of Providence’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Healthy Communities Office to launch PlayCorps, a pilot program to activate Providence parks with play, art and creative exploration, in conjunction with the summer meals program.

The summer meals program ensures children receive free, nutritious meals when school is out. However, kids who need summer meals haven’t always taken advantage of the program because there’s little else to do at some of the parks and meal sites. Thus emerged the big idea: what if we enliven these public spaces with playful activities so that kids want to spend time there throughout the summer? They’ll get the needed meals as well as opportunities for creative play and exploration!

From June 30 to August 14, teams of play facilitators will be stationed in five Providence parks to coordinate play-based activities on weekdays from 11 AM to 2 PM:

  • Bucklin Park (West End) 
  • Father Lennon/Camden Street Park (Smith Hill) 
  • General Street Park (Wanskuck) 
  • Harriet and Sayles Park (South Side) 
  • Zuccolo/Pastore Park (Federal Hill)

In addition to collaborating on the design of the PlayCorps program, the Museum’s primary role is providing play-based training and advisory support. Over the last week, Museum director Janice O’Donnell trained participants on playwork techniques – supporting children’s play without directing it, types of play, observing kids and understanding their play cues, how to support risk taking in play, and more.

The team participated in a very successful Pop-Up Play Day at Roger Williams Park last weekend, and on Monday they’ll be dispatched to their parks to begin to connect with the community and kick off a summer of play. We’re delighted to have worked with thoughtful and committed partners to shape this pilot program and look forward to seeing what happens this summer. As Janice says, “The big goal is that kids come and use the parks without us – that play can go on if we create playful spaces that really work. That, to me, would be success beyond measure.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Learning About Learning: Supporting Kids’ Learning Through Play

The Museum is partnering with Brown University's Causality and Mind Lab on a three-year National Science Foundation-funded project (award #1223777) to study how children develop scientific thinking skills and understand their own learning processes.  Museum researcher Suzy Letourneau is investigating how to make kids’ learning through play visible and shared this project update.

We’ve observed many metacognitive skills in children’s play at the Museum. We also found that when families stayed longer in one exhibit, children showed a greater variety of these “thinking behaviors” in their play. This showed us that when children want to do the same activity for what seems like forever, they may be practicing something very important. As adults, we might be able to support children’s learning by encouraging them to reflect on what they’re thinking and doing.

For young children, reflecting might be as simple as being proud of something they’ve accomplished and sharing this with others. Children of all ages use their understanding of the world to anticipate what’s coming next, and they show surprise when unexpected things happen. Emotional reactions to successes, failures and discoveries can be great opportunities to think together about what just happened and what children are thinking about it. Older children might be able to describe what they did and why, or might be able to come up with another solution or change their plans after seeing what happened.

We also found that when children stated a plan or idea before starting to play (for example, deciding what they want to build, or choosing what character to pretend to be), they were more likely to reflect on their play later in their visit.  For young children, making a plan might be as simple as choosing some materials to use, or watching and trying to copy someone else. Older children might imagine what they want to create, build, or do in advance and then come up with their own strategy or collaborate with others to accomplish it.

We asked Museum play guides how they encourage children to plan or reflect on what they’re doing. Here are some of their suggestions:
  • Let children watch you play and either copy you or do something different.
  • Place something new and interesting nearby, and wait to see if children notice it. It might spark a new idea or inspire a different strategy.
  • Let children put their own words to what they’re planning by asking, “What are you doing?” and “Can I help?”
  • If children experience a setback, encourage them to try again. If they get stuck, ask, “What else could you try?”
  • Show enthusiasm when children are proud and want to share what they’ve done. Use this moment to ask, “How did you do that?”
  • Help children document their work so they can reflect on it later. Leave something behind (like on the show-off shelf in ThinkSpace), or take a picture of each step of the process along with the finished product.

Also see these past project updates: