The Museum Blog

Category: Enriching Experiences

Watch Them Grow!

Anyone Can Grow Food Program at the Children’s Museum of NH

Kids grow like weeds, but you won’t find any weeds growing in the garden at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover! You will find lots of young, enthusiastic kid gardeners though, beginning this Saturday, April 16 at 10:15am. Guests of all ages will be working together to plant seeds, watch them grow, and then harvest their hard work all spring and summer.

The “Anyone Can Grow Food” program is led by University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Leslie Stevens, owner of Sidewalk Farms, and Xanthi Gray, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s Education Coordinator. Working along with guests of the Museum, they turn nine raised garden beds into a thriving vegetable and herb garden.

The program begins with seed starting on Saturday, April 16 at 10:15am. Participants will learn how to start seeds indoors to get a jump-start on the growing season. Mini seed-starting greenhouses will be built where kids can grow their own Sugar Snap pea seedlings. Kids will learn about how and when to start their seeds indoors and when it’s safe to plant their seedlings outside. Everyone who participates will go home with a pack of seeds to try in their own gardens. And of course, Max the bunny will be on hand for friendly pats.

Summer planting starts a little early at CMNH with two “Anyone Can Grow Food” programs on Saturday, June 4. At 10:15am guests will gather to help plant the vegetable and herb garden and learn how to take care of their own plants. Pet Henrietta the chicken and then go home with a pack of seeds, or stick around for another program at 11:45am when visitors will learn how to create a potato tower! Did you know that if you have 6 hours of sunlight and just a 2-foot circle you can plant potatoes that will grow all summer!

To round out the season, come back for the harvest on Saturday, September 24 at 10:15am. Pick a pumpkin, pull up a carrot and dig a potato out of the gardens as staff gets ready to put them to bed for the winter. Kids will learn about composting bins and why worms are so important to keeping gardens healthy. Families will go home with a pumpkin and produce from the garden.

The Anyone Can Grow Food programs are free with Museum admission, but pre-registration is requested to help ensure enough supplies are available for each family. Please call 603-742-2002 to register for these or any programs at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.

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Reflecting on my Summer Internship at CMNH

It's time to start thinking about summer internships. Read on to hear what this former intern had to say about her internship at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire.

By: Amanda Girard

I remember visiting the Children’s Museum in Portsmouth when I was younger. I remember playing in the Yellow Submarine and the fishing boat and creating works of art in what is now known as the Muse Studio. I had a lot of really great memories there.

That younger version of myself could’ve never imagined that one day I would return here as an intern and spend a summer here. Yet, here I am on both the last day of my internship and my 20th birthday!

I have really enjoyed my time at CMNH and I have successfully completed so many projects that I am proud of. I am going to college for a degree in Professional Writing with a minor in Marketing and I really have combined the two in this internship with the Marketing department.

I had a few projects that spanned the length of my entire internship (From Mid-May to the beginning of August). I wrote biographies for all of the over 50 Makers who will be part of the 2015Dover Mini Maker Faire. I had never even heard of Maker Faire until I started to work here and I think it’s just an amazing idea that will only grow as time goes on. As I was writing the biographies, I would always get excited and wound up wishing that I could be around when it happens, as I will be studying abroad in Dublin at the time. Nevertheless, I am proud that I could be a part of getting people excited for Maker Faire this year!

I also worked for a majority of the summer interviewing office staff, museum educators, and volunteers for “Meet the Staff” blog posts for this blog. I enjoyed this project a lot because I got to meet many of the wonderful staff at the Children’s Museum. Everyone here is so kind and friendly and just a lot of fun! I got to experience what it is like to work in an office setting and I saw first-hand how a group of people with many different talents can come together for a common goal: in this case, to provide an amazing experience for children and their families.

Speaking of children and their families, I got to read what they thought of CMNH firsthand with another one of my ongoing projects. One of the first things that I did in the mornings when I arrived for work was check to see if there were any new visitor surveys. I gathered almost 40 surveys over the course of the summer and compiled them. Some outcomes of this were a tally of visitor’s favorite exhibits (with the Yellow Submarine at the top of the list!) and two blog posts about what the Museum offers to older kids and how our exhibits help toddlers learn through repetition.

Other things that I accomplished during my time here include writing tweets and Facebook posts (some things that I had never really tried before!), covering events like Group Visits and the Teddy Bear Clinic and Picnic, crafting emails, tracking visitor zip codes and writing press releases for Museum events and classes.

So what have I learned from doing all of this? Well, I’ve learned another way that I can use my writing in the future and I’ve learned the basics of marketing and social media outreach. I’ve learned about the amount of research that goes into marketing a company and a brand and I’ve learned that I actually really love doing that research! I have also learned what it’s like to work in an office and how to coordinate and work together to accomplish a goal.

But the biggest thing I think I’ve learned, that I already sort of knew, was that I really like working with children and seeing their reactions of joy and excitement when they see the finished product of something we have all worked so hard to create for them. I think that that is an interest that I would really like to pursue further and I’m not sure where that will lead me. But interning at CMNH this summer solidified that the interest is there and who knows where that will lead me in the future!

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity and experience that I have had at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire this summer and for every amazing person that I have gotten the chance to meet in the process!

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Un MOSAICO de Culturas

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Becky Fields, "Somali Cousins, Manchester, 2013"

Un MOSAICO de Culturas para ser Exploradas en el Museo del Niño de New Hampshire

Galería 6, el espacio reservado para el arte en el Museo del Niño de New Hampshire, tendrá la apertura de una nueva exhibición el 5 de marzo, y presentará el arte de diversas culturas. MOSAICO: Explorando nuestra comunidad Multicultural, simultáneamente llevará a cabo una celebración especial de la exploración cultural, el sábado 12 de marzo, en donde los asistentes podrán degustar la cocina del Norte de África, disfrutar el baile y la música tradicional de Bután, probar sus destrezas con el pincel en la pintura China y formar parte de un proyecto de arte comunitario.

El arte visto en MOSAICO incluirá fotografías de inmigrantes y refugiados que viven en New Hampshire tomadas del libro Raíces Diferentes, Sueños en Común de Becky Field, el cual salió en el otoño del 2015. El fotógrafo David Hiley, quien viajó a Haití con un grupo del litoral, profesionales médicos voluntarios de NH en coordinación con la Fundación Sanitara de Haití, presentarán las series ‘selfies’ de niños y padres Haitianos. “Me llamo la atención lo que vi entre la desgarradora pobreza y la vitalidad y dignidad de esos niños”, “comentó David”. “Permitiendo capturar la curiosidad y alegría en común que todos los niños tenían por todas partes”. Asimismo serán expuestas fotografías de niños de China, tomadas por el pediatra jubilado Skip Small y se vislumbrará la vida de un niño de Japón capturado por Sayaka y Seth Blewitt. También estarán en muestra muñecas de alrededor del mundo seleccionadas de la colección del Museo.

La celebración especial de MOSAICO, promete ser tan diversa como las culturas presentadas en el arte mismo. El evento se llevará a cabo de 11am-2pm el sábado 12 de marzo en el Museo del Niño de New Hampshire en Dover. Los asistentes que vengan en sus trajes típicos (disfraces de superhéroes y princesas no aplican) pagarán la mitad en su admisión individual. De 10:45 am-a mediodía el chef Patrice Gerard capacitado en Europa, hará una demostración de la cocina del Norte de África y los invitados podrán degustar su tajine vegetariana con cuscús. Becky Field estará accesible para hablar de su proyecto fotográfico y su trabajo de documentación cultural, étnico y la diversidad religiosa en NH. A las 11:30am y 1pm bailarines de Bután harán una demostración de su baile y de su música tradicional en el Estudio Muse. David Hiley caminará alrededor del Museo tomando “selfies” a los invitados que vengan vestidos con sus trajes típicos. Runjuan Huang hará una demostración de la pintura China con pincel y los asistentes podrán también intentar hacerlo o ayudar a crear el proyecto comunitario, el cual, una vez completado será colocado en el exterior de Museo del Niño. La apertura de la celebración de los eventos son gratuitos con su admisión regular del museo.

La exhibición MOSAICO estará a la vista hasta el martes, 13 de mayo y es patrocinada por Optima Bank and Trust, el Consejo Estatal de Artes de New Hampshire y la Fundación Fuller. Además de la exposición de arte y la celebración especial, cada dos semanas los educadores del Museo harán manualidades y actividades culturales de diferentes países en el estudio Muse. Los países, en orden de aparición, incluirán Tanzania, Perú, Haití, Islandia, Japón , Pakistán y Canadá. A Finales de mayo, proyectos y situaciones acerca de los 7 países estarán juntos en exhibición en el Estudio Muse.

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Alzheimer's Cafe Symposium

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Symposium on popular Alzheimer’s Café
Children’s Museum of NH collaborates to share lessons learned

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has hosted a free monthly Alzheimer’s Café program for the past four years for families who have a loved one with dementia. With generous support from AARP, the Museum was able to conduct a research project to determine the benefits of attending the Café. The findings will be shared at a free symposium at the Wentworth-Douglass Hospital Conference Center (789 Central Ave) in Dover, NH on Monday, November 16 from 1- 4pm.


A report highlighting the results of the study, done in collaboration with Keene State College’s nursing program, will be available to anyone attending the symposium. “We conducted interviews, observed, and surveyed our Alzheimer Café participants,” says Paula Rais, Vice President of Development and Community Engagement. “All of the data was compiled and revealed the benefits of the Café from the perspective of those who attend. We also learned what improvements we can make to help us plan for the future. It’s been an invaluable process and we’re excited to share the results with the community.”

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire launched the first Alzheimer’s Café in the Eastern United States in October 2011. It has since attracted widespread attention from families affected by dementia as well as healthcare professionals. In 2012, the Museum’s Alzheimer’s Café program received the Leaders In Innovation award from the New England Museum Association. Held the third Thursday of each month from 2-4pm, people living with Alzheimer’s disease are welcomed, along with their family members and caregivers, to gather in a supportive, non-clinical setting to relax, enjoy refreshments and socialize.

The public and press are welcome to attend the symposium and are asked to RSVP to Paula Rais at paula@childrens-museum.org or by calling 603-742-2002.

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Alzheimer's Cafe: A Look Forward

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CMNH recently celebrated the four-year anniversary of our monthly Alzheimer's Cafe. This lovely program flies a bit under the radar - and may not seem a typical program for a children's museum, but it holds an important place of honor in our mission to be a family resource.

The Café is designed for families caring for a loved one at home with dementia or Alzheimer's. It's a place to spend a couple of hours out together where the focus is not on the disease. We wanted to provide a lively, safe place for people to gather in the company of others who are on a similar journey. It's a place where you can make new friends and leave your troubles at the door: more afternoon tea than therapy session.

After four years, we decided to conduct a study of the benefits of coming to the Café from the prospective of the families who attend. Care partners and people with dementia agreed to fill out surveys, be interviewed and observed at the Café. The head of Nursing at Keene State College and a recent graduate from UNH nursing school helped design the study and collect data. On Monday, November 16 we will sharing our findings at a symposium at Wentworth- Douglass Hospital Conference Center. All are welcome to attend this free event from 1-4pm to hear what we learned.

So if you see McGee, a friendly Golden Retriever, walking around on the 3rd Thursday of the month, or hear the sounds of laughing, singing or instrumental music coming from the Museum's Deep Sea classroom, pop in and visit the Alzheimer's Cafe!

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Family Literacy Month Kick-Off

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By Meredith Lamothe

We’re always excited about literacy here at The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. Sure, we were thrilled that we were going to celebrate Family Literacy Month this November, but really—we focus on literacy all the time!

We recently hosted a well-attended Jumpstart To Read event; we host Books Alive! events several times a year where costumed characters bring favorite stories to life, and we have weekly Baby Storytimes as part of First Friends Playgroup, where we can teach early literacy skills to the caretakers of our youngest visitors. So a whole month dedicated to literacy? It was a no brainer!

What does family literacy month mean at CMNH?

It means that we’ll have literacy tips posted around that you can peruse as you play. We’ll have multiple activities throughout the week that highlight literacy—and how easy it is to promote and explore at home. We’ve also made up some great handouts, have several guest speakers planned, and will have weekly crafts and games in our Muse Studio—all related to literacy!

We also have our museum. Our museum is a literacy gold mine! Literacy goes so far beyond reading books. Yes, that’s an important part—but literacy, specifically family literacy, is so easy to incorporate into your daily life—or your museum visit!

When you’re playing with your kids in the submarine—make it a story. Does that story have a beginning, middle and end? DING DING DING! LITERACY ALERT! Choose a favorite color when you walk in the museum and then as you play, find that color in each of the exhibits! DING DING DING! Visit the Muse Studio and have your child explain to you the steps they’re taking in making a craft or playing with the magnet table! DING DING DING!

Any conversation, any question, any exploration can easily be made into a rewarding literacy experience. If you have questions, we’re happy to help.

We’re always excited about literacy!

About the Author: Lead Educator Meredith Lamothe has always been a book nerd, library lover and fan of acting out and telling silly stories. She has a blast hosting the Museum’s weekly First Friends Playgroup and has her Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science with a focus in Children’s Programming from Simmons College.

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Lincoln Financial Foundation Grant Supports NH Teachers

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The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has been awarded an $8,000 grant from the Lincoln Financial Foundation to support three educational opportunities for New Hampshire’s struggling schools and underserved students. This grant will allow the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire to offer free school trips to the Museum (Museum InReach or MIR), more Focused Group Visits (FGV) as well as Traveling Focused Group Visits (TFGV) all of which were designed to respond to educators’ requests for more in-depth curriculum-based experiences.

“We recognize that schools and educators are struggling to access curriculum-based experiences for their students,” explained Paula Rais, Vice President of Development and Community Engagement at the Children’s Museum of NH. “We’ve developed these programs to not only help bring the students here to the Museum where they can experience our unique educational exhibits and programs, but also to help bring our knowledge into their classrooms.”

FGV and TFGV are flexible and portable learning experiences for pre-K through 5th grade students that explore art, science, history, ecology and world cultures, all of which align with state and national educational standards. These programs are based in STEAM education, an expansion of STEM learning concepts that integrate the arts into technology, math, engineering and science.

One hundred 1st grade students from McDonough School in Manchester, NH visited the Children’s Museum of NH recently as part of the Museum InReach program. “Thank you for letting us go on a field trip for free,” said Zachary. “My favorite part was the mind ball, kitchen and submarine.” The response from teachers has been equally positive. “As teachers, we really appreciate when students are involved and engaged,” said one teacher after her students participated in a Focused Group Visit. “The Physics of Flight program ties in beautifully with our curriculum.”

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"Of Beauty and Beasts" Illustrator Interviews

The illustrators from the summer 2015 Gallery 6 exhibition "Of Beauties and Beasts" answered some of our questions about their style of illustrating, from where they get their inspiration and more! The exhibit is on view in the Children's Museum of New Hampshire through Sunday, September 6.

Rebecca Emberley

Q. Your beasts from Ten Little Beasties are such great combinations of fangs and fur. Did the process of collage allow for some fun experimenting when creating these creatures?

A. Collage is a very forgiving art form and allows for lots of experimentation in any genre, but beasts are particularly fun! There are no limits to fangs, scales and horns!

Karel Hayes

Q. In what way have your own favorite childhood books influenced you art today?

A. One of my favorite books from my childhood was a 1932 edition of Robert Lewis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. I found it in a second hand bookstore when I was about ten years old. Second hand bookstores were favorite places for my family to visit. I was first attracted to the book by the wonderful watercolors by Juanita C. Bennett. She was not as well-known as Jessie Wilcox Smith, but I think her work rivaled that well-know artist.

Robert Squier

Q. Your illustrations are done in “digital media” but the results look very traditional. What inspired your style of illustration?

A. I'd like to think my illustration style is still evolving! My earliest influences were Marvel comics and MAD magazine. When I started working professionally, I worked as a freelance commercial illustrator; that required me to be a chameleon, adapting my style to many different clients' needs.

When I made the transition to illustrating for children, I concentrated on traditional media like watercolor, acrylics and color pencil. I started working digitally out of necessity. Many of the projects I was working on required speed and flexibility – a digital illustration is easier to edit than an acrylic painting. My earliest digital work looked "computery," but over time I've learned to work in a manner that looks more traditional. I prefer a more traditional look because it allows me to bring in the texture, layers of color, and lively line that I developed during years of working in traditional media. But doing the work digitally allows me to work more quickly and allows for easier editing.

For most pieces, my process includes both digital and traditional techniques. For example, I might do a pencil sketch, scan it, tweak it on the computer, print it out, add shading and texture to the printout using an ink wash, scan it again, and then add color and additional texture on the computer.

Emily Drouin

Q. Your art features some truly terrifying “Beasts.” Where do you get inspiration for these monsters?

A: Ever since I was a child, I've had a passion for illustration and storytelling, and love drawing monsters and robots! I am inspired by those countless trips to the library as a child, such books by Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, Lewis Carroll, comics such as Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, Disney Adventures, and from Jim Henson movies and shows like Star Trek, Invader Zim, Futurama, Dr Who, Farscape and Stargate.

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David McPhail

Q. Your two styles of illustrating, pen and ink and acrylics, are very different from each other. Do you find that one lends itself better to portraying “beauty” or “beasts”?

A. Nearly ALL of my books were done in pen and ink, and watercolor. A few are PENCIL and watercolor. Every few years, I feel the urge to "paint," to stand at an easel and apply gobs of paint to a canvas or board. Often, this desire to paint, coincides with a book illustration project that lends itself nicely to the medium. Edward and The Pirates, for example or Farm Boy's Year. When this "convergence" happens I get out my box of acrylics and I prepare some boards with a mix of white gesso, and Burnt Umber paint. I don't like to paint on a WHITE surface. It is much too stark for me. I prefer to paint on a mid-range tone, that way I can make SOME things darker and then bring the "lights" forward. When all is ready, I begin.

Unfortunately, a three or four year gap between "painting" projects, leaves me rusty, and unsure so it takes a while to get up to speed. Sometimes, by the time the book is finished, I feel that I'm just beginning to get the hang of it! But deadlines must be met! Of the nearly 200 books that I have illustrated, fewer than ten were done with "paint."

Yong Chen

Q. Most of your illustrations in the exhibit seem to focus on the “beauty” around us such as family, tradition, friends and even the underwater scene with the sinister looking shark is beautiful! Are there unexpected challenges when it comes to creating scenes of beauty?

A. Thank you for seeing my art in such perspective. Actually my goal of making art for children is to build connections of love, respect, curiosity and understanding between different cultures, and in large, between each individual person - us. I admit, I appreciate all the beauty around us, and perhaps that's why I naturally express how I see them in my paintings, but that is not the reason I make art. For example, the book Swimming with Sharks came to me when I didn’t understand much about sharks. After I read the manuscript, I upgraded my understanding of the universe, and how much we rely on the balance and health of the earth. I turned to passion to express my new ideal. Because I was afraid of sharks as I grew up, then I turned to respect the shark as an equal member of our living environment as a beautiful creature. When I worked on the illustrations for this project, I related these mixed feelings as I tried to communicate with my audience. If I just to create scenes of beauty, I may not have problems. But the trick is how to use beauty to educate my audience with messages so that they will accept, and that is not an easy task.

Teri Weidner

Q. For people who have never tried to illustrate a children’s book, it might seem like a simple process. But your work goes through many edits and alterations before being finalized. Do you ever find that the process is tiring or is it all a challenge you’ve come to embrace?

A. I think illustrating a picture book is a sort of marathon. It can be a long, difficult process drawing 32 pages, but the format offers an amazing opportunity to tell a visual story. I start all my books knowing that the first round of sketches will probably change dramatically by the time I start the final color artwork. I really enjoy the process of reworking and refining the imagery. Most of my books go through at least 5 rounds of sketches, some initiated by me, some initiated by the editor and art director. My experience with publishers has varied dramatically from book to book. I've had some publishers that gave me almost no feedback beyond "This looks great!", even when I knew my drawings were still far from adequate. In those cases, I've continued to work on improving the sketches on my own, until I was also happy with the results. My favorite way to work, though, is with editors and art directors who can help me hone the imagery, and who offer up creative and clever ways to improve my sketches and make the book stronger. Occasionally I don't agree with their comments (which can be frustrating) but after a day or two of stewing I can usually begin to see where they're coming from and use their ideas as a spring board to improve the illustrations. Even with criticism I think is way off base can be helpful, because it forces me to define which direction the visual story is going, and defend my choices. If I can't defend them, then the pictures really do need to be reworked! So yes, sometimes the editing process can be tiring, but over the years it's something I've come to embrace. If it leads to a better book, it's worth all the effort!

Sean Bixby

Q. You have such a fun variety of creatures in your illustrations from The Uncrossable Canyon books. I imagine your sketchbook as being filled with drawing experiments. Is the planning/sketching phase the most fun for you or do you prefer working on the final illustration?

A. The planning and sketching phase are really fun to me. For The Uncrossable Canyon series, the author had many fantastic characters written into the story who were fun to design. There were also many other characters that I was able to create myself. There is a lot of brainstorming and experimenting in the process of coming up with characters. For crowd scenes I filled them with some of my favorite animals, including my dog, my favorite monsters and dinosaurs. I even looked at sketchbooks from when I was young and redesigned some of the characters I had created years ago. I have to focus a lot during this phase as I am constantly drawing and revising the characters and also the layout of the final illustration. It’s once I have the drawing down on the final paper that I can start to relax a bit more. When I start to paint, my mind is a little more free and I can listen to music, movies or podcast. So with all this said I would say have no preference as each part of the process is unique and challenging in its own way.

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