by Jane Bard, CMNH President
What’s new at the Museum? is the most commonly asked question when myself and my Museum colleagues are out and about in the community.
Before looking ahead, 2017 saw growth and change to best serve the 93,000 plus individuals we served last year. New experiences for our visitors included a new Thinkering Lab exhibit in January, to a major refresh of the iconic Build It-Fly It exhibit in the Fall, three new Gallery 6 exhibitions throughout the year, and the opening of the new Dover Adventure Playground outside our doors in June.
To deepen our impact, we created new curriculum-based programs for schools, our first-ever Grown-Up Play Dates and the We All Belong program for immigrant families. One of our most ambitious projects took place behind the scenes, an investment in a point-of-sales and database system that is helping us become more effective and efficient.
So what is in store for 2018? We will be celebrating our 35th anniversary and 10th year since becoming the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and expanding in Dover by continuing to offer the same great programming and exhibits you’ve come to expect from us, while continuing to refresh these experiences and listening to the needs of our audience. Our One World exhibits will be getting a new life, introducing visitors to new cultures representing local immigrant populations through arts, culture and food. New signs within our exhibits will highlight the ways children are learning as they explore. Favorite programs and events will continue, while plans are underway for a special anniversary events in the summer and fall, so stay tuned!
By Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director
When I hear people talk about summers with their kids it always sounds so idyllic to me: long days spent lounging on the beach; trips to local attractions; camping with family and friends. If I were to take people’s Facebook feeds at face value, pun intended, I’d think there was something seriously wrong with my summer parenting skills.
I’m a working parent, and so is my husband. My daughter has been in a year-round daycare, so she hasn’t experienced “summer break” yet. We’ve gotten used to squeezing summer fun into the afternoons and weekends. But that’s all going to change soon with the start of kindergarten in her local school this Fall. I’m about to become one of the parents that will have to plan way in advance on how to schedule work around camps, squander vacation days to spend a few precious long weekends on a lake somewhere, and probably start to butter up the grandparents for when plans inevitably fall through.
I’m not really complaining. I know how lucky we are. I’m a little jealous of my daughter getting to experience summer break, where the days seemed like endless adventures. I wish I could spend every minute with her out in the sun, gardening, swimming and blowing bubbles. But we all do the best we can. And my best is being there with her in the moments we have together, and making sure she’s surrounded by love and engaging her brain and her creative muscles when I’m not there.
New Hampshire is teeming with opportunities for kids to grow and learn in the summer. All the great cultural institutions like the Currier Museum of Art, the Seacoast Science Center, the SEE Science Center, Audubon centers and yes, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire have fantastic camps, programs, events and workshops for kids of all ages. And many bend over backwards to help parents make their children’s summers memorable and affordable. These non-profits are here to be a resource to you, and I hope you use them this summer and many summers to come. I know I will.
Parents interested in the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s summer camps can choose from 3-day Mini Camps for ages 4-6 (which are all full as of today) or 5-day Discovery Camps for ages 7-11.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is offering a wide range of summer camps. One of the newer camps, Eco-Explorers, will be taught by the museum’s newest educator, Colie Haahr.
Eco-Explorers is a 5-day camp scheduled for Monday, August 14 through Friday, August 18, 9:15am-1pm, for children ages 7-11. The camp will give kids an opportunity to learn about the wonders of the natural world. “Kids will be introduced to animal communication and adaptations, as well as local plants, animals, and ecosystems through nature exploration, games, and art projects,” shared Haahr, CMNH’s STEAM & School-Aged Programs Coordinator.
Colie has joined the museum recently and is excited to spend her first summer at CMNH. She joins the education team after teaching for Nature’s Classroom, an outdoor education company with different sites all over New England, and traveling the world while leading YMCA leadership trips. She has her BA in English and Secondary Education from Alfred University and recently completed her Masters degree in Recreation Management and Policy at UNH. Through her teaching experiences she has gained a genuine love and respect for the environment.
“Some of my favorite topics will be incorporated into this Eco-Explorers Camp, and I’m really excited to share my knowledge and experience with the kids,” shared Colie.
Eco-Explorers is just one of 8 camps being offered at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire this summer. Topics and more information can be found on the museum’s website at www.childrens-museum.org/things-to-do/camps-classes. To register for Eco-Explorers or any other camp, please call 603-742-2002. Registration for camps closes one week before they begin.
Vicky Haft was a longtime volunteer of the Children's Museum of New Hampshire. She recently passed away in 2016 and we miss her dearly. Museum staff took some time to reflect on Vicky's legacy as a dedicated volunteer and a wonderful person. The museum was lucky to have her as part of its history.
Jane Bard, CMNH President
"I remember Vicky calling me 'honey,' in fact, I think Vicky called many people she encountered 'honey.' Young, old, male, female, she had a way of making you feel like you are precious, that you are family. The Museum can be a hectic and energetic place, and I always remember Vicky being a calm presence, someone who no matter what was happening around her, she was able to focus on whatever child needed her help in our project area in Portsmouth. She was a friend to all and was part grandmother/part mentor to the young staff and volunteers."
Xanthi Gray, Education Director
"There are many fond memories of Vicky as she was an important part of the museum's volunteer program for so many years (in Portsmouth & in Dover). Vicky had a way of greeting all visitors with a warm & sparkling smile, making them feel important and welcome. She enjoyed chatting with children & adults alike and getting to know their stories. She was open & warm which made everyone feel comfortable in her presence, visitors and staff!
I always remember that Vicky loved projects. Whether it meant cutting out 50 paper bear masks for Teddy Bear Clinic or making sewing repairs on a soft sculpture fish head, she was eager to help and enjoyed the work as she conversed with visitors. Having never driven, once the museum moved to Dover, it was no longer possible for Vicky to walk to the museum from her home. She was still eager to volunteer, so staff members took turns giving Vicky rides to and from the museum each week so she could continue her volunteer work. On many occasions, I had the opportunity to drive her. I so enjoyed getting to hear the stories of her family members, who she loved dearly and lit up when she spoke of them. And, in typical Vicky fashion, she never forgot to ask about my family and seemed to also enjoy hearing about them.
Each year Vicky would leave us for a winter break in Florida. She would always return with a treat for the staff. But truly the best treat for us was having the opportunity to be in Vicky's presence and enjoy her friendship. She touched so many of us and we will never forget her!"
Paula Rais, VP of Development & Community Engagement
"I met Vicky when the museum was still in Portsmouth. She was a fellow New Yorker, though she lived in the city and I was from Long Island. We talked a lot about New York, art, families, and pets. Vicky and her husband Bob had King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, and my parents also had that breed of dog and grew up in NY, so that really bonded us! Vicky was soft spoken, called everyone 'Honey,' but she also had sass and a NY toughness. Despite being a very petite woman, you wouldn’t want to mess with her!"
Doug Tilton, Director of Visitor Services
"Vicky Haft was my friend. I want to be clear about that because everything I say will be biased. She was one of the closest and dearest friends I’ve ever had, and that’s because it was pretty much impossible to be Vicky’s friend and not see and feel about her that way. We worked together all of our Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for nine years and then for at least four hours a week off and on for another couple of years after we moved from Portsmouth. Seeing Vicky walk through the front door was quite literally the highlight of our workweek, no exaggeration. It is no overstatement to say she transformed the project area each day with her presence. Anyone who worked with Vicky will tell you she had that special ability to meet the child (or their moms, dads, grandparents or caregivers) on his or her level and then gently guide them through their experience. I’ve never met anyone who used her 'people skills' so effectively. Vicky was an exemplary volunteer and teacher of children and she gave of herself unconditionally all the time. I don’t think the Children’s Museum has ever had any better emissary, myself included. I use Vicky as a guide star to help us keep the Museum as the kind, welcoming and nurturing a place as it was when she was with us.
When the museum was located in Portsmouth, volunteers earned a gift membership for every fifty hours they served. We had only a couple of volunteers who earned them at the rate Vicky did and some of them would turn their gift back to us to donate them to families in need through our funded membership program. Vicky always took hers and enjoyed finding and identifying those families she thought could benefit from the Museum. She was a native New Yorker and didn’t drive so she walked everywhere. Because of that Vicky met people all the time. She took a genuine interest in everyone and took the time to learn their stories so she had no trouble finding people to give her earned memberships to, or even to just invite to check out the Museum for an initial visit. I was frequently being introduced to some young mom or dad with a toddler Vicky had introduced to the Museum.
She had an amazing memory for detail and always remembered the names of the visitors, not to mention details of their lives and she always added an invaluable personal touch to the Museum. Vicky took a great interest in the Museum staff's children’s birthdays and would always remember us at birthday or holiday time. One time I came home to find a beautifully wrapped package at my back door with a note. It was more than a month from my birthday but she was going to be away and wanted to make sure I got my birthday gift on time, a thoughtfully chosen book on a subject I had once mentioned in passing.
There were a few issues that kept Vicky from continuing to volunteer with us on a regular basis once we left Portsmouth. In Portsmouth, she lived only a few thousand feet from the Children’s Museum. But, like I mentioned, she didn't drive, so it was a bit complicated to get her here to Dover. But she did help out here when she could. Vicky was one of only two people to twice receive our annual Florence Coughlin Outstanding Volunteer Service Award. If we hadn’t created the award in Florence’s name there is no question we would have named it for Vicky because she was so deserving of the honor. She was intelligent, sensitive, deeply committed and without a doubt one of the kindest and gentlest persons I’ve ever known. She was also a very positive and forward thinking person with a great sense of humor. Nothing I write can do Vicky’s memory justice, but her person and her actions and what they meant to us does live on."
by Rebecca Scheinberg, CMNH Intern
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from.” – Billy Joel
Music has an incredible power to imprint memories into our brains that can last a lifetime. Music has the ability to transform a mood, to lift a spirit, to bring people together. My morning routine includes music and coffee. These are the essentials. I am not a morning person so music serves as a necessity, equal to my morning coffee, for waking up. While I was getting ready for my internship [at the Children’s Museum] one morning, I was listening to the Harry Belafonte station on Pandora. The songs were upbeat and may have inspired an impromptu dance party in my kitchen while making coffee. Then the song, ‘When I’m 64’ by the Beatles, started. I love the playfulness of this song and I remember listening to it with my dad when I was a kid. My father is a big music and Beatles fan. It prompted a vivid memory of listening to the song from the tabletop jukebox in the mid-90s with my family at a New York diner. My parents would give me three quarters and let me choose the songs, at least one of which would be a song by the Beatles.
This memory sparked an idea. I wanted to learn more about what songs parents shared with their children. I spoke with a few people including Neva and Taylore (the two incredible humans who run the Communications/Marketing department at the CMNH) and my dear, wonderful friend Marsha. They shared some musical memories with me.
Taylore Kelly, Communications Specialist and Development Assistant
I Ran by the Flock of Seagulls
My son Yoso was delayed in speaking. He would hum and so I would play him music a lot and he started singing in the car in particular. I think it may have been the acoustics and the stereo itself. So he could sing before he could talk. The first song he picked up was the song “I Ran” by flock of seagulls. He sang that song after the second time of playing it for him, and danced in his car seat. It was the first song I had ever recorded on my boombox in the 80’s. So it’s very nostalgic to us both.
Marsha, CMNH Patron and Mom
“I make sure that I sing both kids a handful of lullabies before it's lights out. I love this part of the day, when they are quiet and succumbing to sleepiness, and it's pretty much the only time of day when they are still. Like most people, I love sleeping children - they almost seem to glow with innocence and goodness. I also have nice memories of my mom singing me German lullabies before I would go to bed, which was pretty much the only time I let her speak German, her native language, so I think she loved that time of day. At any rate, we had all sorts of songs in our repertoire in the beginning, but because James (my husband) and I tag team with the bedtime responsibilities, and because both kids are stalwart in their little routines, the songs we routinely ended up singing needed to be songs that both of us knew. James doesn't know many songs. One of the few songs he does know is Silent Night. It was never a song that I was particularly interested in, as it has fairly obvious connotations and I'm a cynical atheist, but we sing it each and every night throughout the year, and I have come to deeply appreciate its message of peace, a gentle world, a good night's sleep that is wished upon innocent children, and I often confess that I get a bit choked up as I sing it. It's exactly what I wish for my children: peace, both through sleep and through a good and kind world. It's beautiful, and it makes me so grateful that I have these little hellraisers to look after and try to help them pave a safe path through their travels.”
Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director
“My daughter, Lila has never really tolerated my singing. When she was about 2 or 3, we’d be driving in the car and a great song would come on the radio and I’d start belting out the lyrics, only to have her scream at me “Mama! STOP!” Even when I’d play her toddler music, she refused to let me sing along to the ABC’s, insisting that she should be the only one singing and dancing around.
Now that she is five, she’s a bit more tolerant. We’ve had some successful dance parties in the kitchen to Taylore Swift’s “Shake It Off.” After seeing the animated movie “Sing” however, we’ve taken it to a whole new level of enthusiasm. Now, when we are making cookies, or eating lunch in the kitchen, the request for music is very specific. “BAMBOLEO, please!”
Neither of us know most of the lyrics, but we dance around waiting for the chorus to kick in. Then, at the top of our lungs, shout it out: “BAMBOLEO! BAMBOLEA!” Thank you Gipsy Kings for getting my daughter to finally let me get my dance on!”
Thank you all for sharing a beautiful glimpse into your stories. I hope that you find time in your day to enjoy the music and get your dance on!
Lee Landford and her husband Frank have been volunteers here at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire since we moved to Dover in 2008. Lee recently passed away in early 2017 and we miss her dearly. Frank continues to be a dedicated volunteer and dear friend. Museum staff took some time to reflect on happy memories with Lee and Frank.
Jane Bard, CMNH President
"Whenever I needed a pick-me-up on Tuesdays, I always knew who to seek out. Lee. No matter what she was doing, working with families with art projects in the Muse Studio, checking on the exhibits on the Museum floor, prepping endless materials for Wee Ones Wednesdays, school group visits, or any number of special events, she was always smiling, always had a positive word to say. A story about the latest outing with her grandchildren whom she adored, a playful jab at her beloved husband (and co-Museum volunteer) Frank, a funny observation about what she witnessed on the Museum floor – Lee was always someone you could count on to spread joy."
Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Curator
"Lee was the most generous and kind soul, a lovely woman. Whenever I was installing an exhibition, she took the time to REALLY look at the artwork and appreciate the efforts of the artists and the theme of the exhibition. We also chatted about her family and her heritage…both of which she was very proud.
She was always interested in other people and seemed to cheerfully enjoy helping in the MUSE studio. Without a doubt, Lee was one of the sincerely nicest people I met at CMNH…and that’s in a setting of consummately nice and generous people.
I will REALLY miss her."
Xanthi Gray, Education Director
"Lee was a familiar face every Tuesday in the Muse studio of the museum. As a staff, we would look forward to catching up with Lee, & her husband Frank, who still volunteers for us. I always knew that the studio space in the museum, with all of its activities, would run smoothly when Lee was in charge. I have a preschool program that runs on Wednesdays and Lee was the person I would go to when I need materials prepped for class the next day. After years of helping out, I actually didn't even have to ask her...Lee just knew what I needed and made it happen. She always had a smile on her face, especially when she spoke of her grandchildren (who sometimes would join her and who became a part of our museum family as well) and was always eager to help. We relied on her and Frank during several events, including PizzaFest, Books Alive, the Teddy Bear Clinic and many others. The last event that Lee assisted with was the Jingle Bell Express. She & Frank were Santa & Mrs. Claus. One of our visitors even said that they were the best they had ever seen! Tuesdays have been tough at the museum these days as we feel a true friend is missing from our 'Museum Family,' but we will always remember that smiling face when we think of her!"
By Neva Cole, Communications Director at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire
We all know that kids have boundless energy. Keeping up with them can be exhausting and sometimes, impossible. My daughter hasn’t stopped wiggling since I gave birth to her. We here at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire are constantly surrounded by that energy. We’ve been open for over 32 years and in that time, millions of kids have come running, hopping, jumping, skipping, or bouncing through our doors. And when it’s time to go home, despite all the excitement they’ve experienced inside, the parents are still the ones trying to keep up with their exhilarated kids.
All that movement and chaos was one of the hardest things for me to get used to as a parent. My daughter, five years of age, still sometimes just falls over while standing, because she never stops wiggling. I’ll see her out of the corner of my eye, just falling over, and then of course, bouncing back up again. But now, having worked here at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire for almost 2 years, I can see, that I am not alone. And parents, let me tell you, kids are the new renewable energy source. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Instead of telling her to be careful with that paintbrush as she windmills around the living room, I’ll make sure the paint is washable.
Instead of yelling at her to sit still while she watches a movie, I will let her flail around like an octopus.
Instead of getting irritated because she’s incapable of sitting on her bum while eating a meal for any length of time, I will let her graze as she roams throughout the kitchen.
Because I know that the day will come when she won’t have this energy. It escapes us all at some age, perhaps recycling back down to fuel the next generation. And when my grown-up self is exhausted from trying to keep up, I will lean on places that embrace the energy, like the Children’s Museum, like our local playgrounds, and if I can borrow them for a day, another child!
When I was growing up I loved going to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. To this day I can still remember playing in the submarine, brushing the giant teeth, and of course hanging out with "Witchypoo," the giant witch puppet, outside the museum during October. When looking for places to do my 10-week internship this summer I wanted to make sure I chose a place that I wanted to be and somewhere I could contribute. Early on in the search I was having a tough time finding places that interested me. When I stumbled upon the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire I immediately had a good feeling about it. I thought back to all the times I went to the Portsmouth location as a kid and how much fun it was to play in all the exhibits, and thought it would be really cool to help make that experience possible for other kids.
I was lucky to be a part of some really cool projects this summer. One of my first big assignments was to go around to various food vendors who were going to be at our Dover Mini Maker Faire and write blog posts about each organization and the food they would be serving. Through this process I got to meet a lot of really cool hard-working people that have built amazing local businesses. I also got the chance to sample some great food and share my thoughts with the public through the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s blog. Writing the food blog was something I didn’t expect to do at all this summer, but something I am so glad I got to do.
I also had the opportunity to try out some new guerilla marketing techniques for the museum using Rain Works spray which allows you to spray messages on the ground that only appear when it rains. This was a lot of fun because I had the freedom to really do whatever I wanted with it and create a blueprint for future Rain Works campaigns.
The best part about this whole summer though was the atmosphere of the Museum. The entire staff from the people working up in the office to the people on the floor everyday were so nice and just made it a really comfortable place to be. This whole summer really was a great experience for me, and I definitely improved my writing through the blog posts and other assignments I did.
It's funny how life comes full circle sometimes. Who would have thought when I was a sugar-crazed 10 year old running around having the time of my life in the museum that I would have found my way back to the new location in Dover, 13 years later to help the marketing team promote the museum brand. I certainly couldn’t have predicted it, but I’m so glad it happened, its brought back some awesome memories and made me more confident in my abilities as I journey into the real world. I cannot thank everyone at the museum enough for helping me through these last two months and just being awesome people to be around everyday.
Thank you CMNH! I will miss you!