Tuesday was April Fools’ Day. While this whimsical “holiday” can be celebrated anywhere, a children’s museum is perfectly suited for foolish fun!
First, Educators Crystal and Meredith decided to fashion a Giant Yellow Mustache for our friend the Giant Blue Crab!These three jokers, “mustache you a question”!
Our horse friend C.J. from the Dover Mounted Patrol even joined in on the fun!Even police horses join in on April Fools’ tomfoolery!
Our exhibits even got in on the act!
And that’s when we unveiled our
V̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶S̶i̶l̶l̶y̶ Extremely Serious Scavenger Hunt!
The Granite State is very proud of these wild animals that are native to our state! Our visitors – big & small – had quite a lot of fun hunting down all the wild subjects!
We were also kind enough to share some AMAZING TRUE FACTS with our visitors about the First Day of April!Shhhh! Kanagaroo is learning how to stay calm in Mindball!Ah, yes – a royal rhino inside Pattern Palace.Dodo Bird takes this high perch in our Mexican Cafe.Snow Leopards and Submarines are a perfect mix.Abraham Lincoln was hoping to relax inside this cozy tree.Chameleon learned all about Air Mail in our Post Office.Just your normal everyday hammerhead shark checking out the Dino Detective exhibit.Toucans love the vehicle construction in Thinkering Lab.Armadillo was curious about the River Model.Ring Tailed Lemur was curious about the children who used to work in the mills.
Dragon was hanging out at the top of our Cocheco River Map!
A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of NH
Guest blog by Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Coordinator
I love my job as curator of Gallery 6 and shamelessly confess that every show is my “favorite” show. But I felt compelled to write about the MOSAIC exhibit because this show touched a very special chord which, I believe, will have repercussions in my life and hopefully in the lives of some of the unbelievable people I have met.
It is well known that children in our world, now more than ever, are living in a diverse society, even in places where there was once a fairly homogeneous population. We truly live in a cultural mosaic right here in New Hampshire. This fact was driven home to me as I reached out to members of our multicultural community to participate in an exhibit called MOSAIC: Exploring our Multicultural Neighborhood.
The diversity I found has been astonishing and the outpouring of generosity, warmth and enthusiasm of people has been incredible! I feel I have made wonderful new connections … and, most importantly, friends!
Families from The Azores, Belarus, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco and Rwanda have shared photographs, stories, traditions, art, music and customs that interest children everywhere. The list of nationalities here in New Hampshire could go on … it was hard to limit it to the wall space that we have.
The exhibit shows how people of these cultures live, eat, dress, learn, play and engage with each other. The most heartening aspect of the project was the reinforcement that people are all amazingly similar, despite regional or cultural differences.
Immigrants arriving in the United States tend to share at least two experiences: they look forward – trying to become American – and they look back, trying to maintain some traditions from their homeland. Each individual brings his/her own unique personal, meaningful cultural background and their own way of dealing with the unending demands of life. We all need to cultivate an attitude of respect, acceptance and inclusion in order to break down the barrier of our “shyness” or reticence in approaching individuals that seem different.
I wanted to avoid a tourist approach of presenting culture through celebrations and food only. Instead, I wanted to share personal stories, achievements and comparisons in familiar and recognizable aspects of children’s lives – showing how people of diverse cultures live, eat, dress, learn, play and engage with each other. What does a school, a playground, a park or museum look like in another country? How is it the same? How is it different?
Throughout the project I kept in mind the words of Kenyan storyteller Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story that becomes the only story.”
This rings true. I began interviewing people with a preconceived idea about each country, perhaps formed by the media, whether National Geographic magazine or headlines in the news. Over and over again, my preconceived notions were wrong. The stories that were shared were far richer and diverse than I could have imagined.
For me, this project has underlined the truth that stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories can empower, humanize and help foster feelings of community, celebrating different cultures and their contributions in order to position each other as friends rather than strangers.
I hope that visitors to the Children’s Museum of NH will take the time to explore Gallery 6 to learn and appreciate the cultures presented there. I hope they will share their own stories with family and friends, make new friends and make a small difference in how we appreciate each other as we all face the challenges everyday living.
I also want to mention the fascinating artwork by Portland, Maine artist Jeannie Dunnigan. It is titled BAJ and features just the eyes of a child created using recycled print material. This seemed to encapsulate the idea that we all make up a part of the whole and reminds us that the eyes of our children are on us.
It is my hope the artwork of the MOSAIC project promotes deeper understanding of ourselves, our culture and our place in the world by exploring what brings people together rather than what keeps us apart.
The MOSAIC exhibit is on display at the Children’s Museum of NH through May 27, 2013.
It’s time to meet another member of the Experience Guide Staff at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire!
Sarah is at CMNH the majority of the week and can usually be found hip deep in arts and crafts supplies in the Muse Studio. You may have even heard Sarah’s voice while you were shopping for a pair of jeans. Yes, you read that right! Sarah has a lot to say so let’s jump right in and find out more!
Zach: Sarah, how long have you worked at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire?
Sarah: I’ve been at the museum since October – so about 11 months!
Z: Why CMNH?
S: I’ve always loved working with kids and when I saw that CMNH was hiring I thought it would be a great opportunity to do different activities and exploration with families each day. I loved that each day would be a new and different experience! The other part of that daily surprise is the fact that I get to teach each day. Interactive teaching with the visitors is the highlight of my job.
Z: What originally brought you to New Hampshire?
S: I came to Dover because I was accepted in to the Masters of Fine Arts program at UNH in Durham. My focus is Creative Writing – specifically Poetry.
Z: Where did you complete your undergrad studies?
S: I attended Columbia University in New York City. My focus in undergrad was Creative Writing but I also spent much of my time at Columbia attending and participating in musical performances. I’ve been studying voice since I was six-years old so I definitely enjoyed working with classical music and opera at Columbia.
Z: Wow! You may likely be our only Experience Guide with an opera background! Tell me, what – if any – experience did you have working with families before your time here at CMNH?
S: For many, many years, I taught at a musical theater summer camp in my hometown of Allentown, New Jersey.This Way to Allentown!
Z: That sounds like a lot of fun!
S: Yes! “Musical Theater Magical Camp” was a very enjoyable place to work!
Z: Wow! With a name like that it sounds even more fun!
S: It really was a lot of fun. Each session ran for 3 weeks and was open to children from 5-12 years old. We would spend Week One getting to know each other, learning about theater, playing games and becoming comfortable with being on stage. We would cast a full musical in Week Two and then teach them choreography, design and make the costumes, and create the set. Then, after rehearsing throughout Week Three, we would put on a performance on the last day for the entire camp and all of the returning families.Curtains up on the, “Pirates: The Musical” set, circa 2009
Z: Did any of the children ever experience stage fright?
S: Oh, yes! We would often get parents who would sign their children up for our camp in an attempt to kind of bring them out of their shell. These are the children that would be quite shy at the start of camp; often they would be the younger campers. Which made it such a wonderful process that at the end of three weeks we’d be able to see these kids that had entered the process unsure of themselves and their abilities come out on stage and blow us away with their confidence!
Z: I’m currently working on a production myself this summer outside of CMNH and I’m having some trouble with a few of the actors hitting their spots and remembering their lines. Can I recruit you to come and fill them full of your trademark confidence??
S: Well, I’m pretty busy at the museum this summer but we’ll see what I can do!
Z: Sarah, switching gears a bit, I’d like to know if you or your family visited museums when you were growing up?
S: We did. We went to a ton of museums as a family. My father is a software developer and he has worked on a number of projects and exhibits for museums. He and his brothers did most of hardware and software for the Sony Wonder Museum in New York when it first opened.
Z: “New York” meaning New York City?
S: Yes! Right on Madison Avenue! I was able to explore the museum before they officially opened to the public while my father worked on different projects and exhibits.
Z: How old were you?
S: About 6 or 7.
Z: I’m jealous.
S: [Laughs.] You should be! My dad has worked with a number of museums since then and I actually got to do some voice-over work on one of his projects.
Z: I’m somehow even more jealous now. What was the voice work?
S: It was an exhibit for the Children’s Museum of Houston that was also getting installed at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. It was a Magic School Bus weather-based exhibit. I provided the voices for two of the children in the Magic School Bus.All Aboard the Magic School Bus!
S: He also worked for the Levi’s flagship store in Union Square in San Francisco – so for a long time, I was the voice of many of their in-store kiosks.
Z: Did you actually get to travel to San Francisco?Sarah’s voice will help you buy your next pair of jeans!
S: I did! The whole family spent the summer in San Francisco.
Z: And how old were you then?
S: I was 12 years old and it was wonderful to be there for the whole summer. We really got to know the city.
Z: I have to ask – did you visit any museums?
S: We did. We went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It . . . well . . .
S: It was actually . . . an interesting experience.
Z: I’m going to need you to tell me more than that!
S: Yes. Well. They had a number of installations that were very advanced and were . . . well, perhaps a little over my 12-year old head.
Z: I see. Well, Sarah, please tell us: What is your favorite museum in the world?
S: That’s a really tough question to answer. I very much love the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I visited it constantly while at Columbia. But . . . I’d have to say that the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ will always hold a special place in my heart. When my father was working on the Magic School Bus exhibit, my friend and I were allowed to be at the museum before and after hours and we were given free access to all of the IMAX shows. Most importantly, we were allowed to wear V.I.P. necklaces. [Laughs.]
Z: I always knew you were a V.I.P.! Sarah, what is your favorite exhibit at CMNH and why?
S: My favorite exhibit is probably the Muse Studio. I love the way we’ve been able to mix artistic creativity with scientific exploration. You’ll see families and staff drawing, painting and collaging conjoined with learning how a prism works and how a lima bean plant grows. It’s definitely the part of the museum that, as a child, you would have had difficulty getting me to leave.
Z: Even as an adult we have a hard time getting you out of the Muse Studio!
S: This is true. [Laughs.]
Essential Information about Experience Guide Sarah
Favorite Color: Green (Most shades of green, but not Turquoise!)
Favorite Animal: Dachshund
Favorite Movie: Contact
Favorite Type of Music: Classical / Favorite Artist: Elvis Costello
Guest Blog by Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Coordinator at the Children’s Museum of NH
When the New Hampshire Association for the Blind approached me with the idea of an exhibit in the Museum’s Gallery 6 focusing on artwork enjoyed by persons with low vision or who are non-sighted, my first response was one of confusion!
How could this be done?
It took a shift from a traditional way of thinking to a broader definition of art. First, I had to embrace the concept that art belongs to everyone, not just the sighted and that there are many ways a person can have an aesthetic experience.
Art conveys ideas, emotion and beauty. We have to have art to live the full human experience. Art teaches us that not all problems have a single, correct answer. Art broadens our perceptions.
Operating on these ideas, the initial idea was to develop an exhibit that visitors could TOUCH.
The next step was to contact a pool of creative thinkers. A call for art was issued to the talented members of the New Hampshire Art Association and other artists in the community. The response was intriguing!
From soft felted textiles, gleaming stainless steel wall sculptures and textural abstract paintings to three-dimensional collages, whimsical sculpture and assemblage, the walls of Gallery 6 offers visitors a myriad of tactile and imaginative pieces that give form to the unseen worlds of ideas and dreams.
Even as the exhibit was being installed, I watched children slow down not only to LOOK but also to TOUCH the work. I made a delightful discovery: this is an important way of engaging children and enhancing their enjoyment.
Gallery 6 has a way of wanting to burst beyond the walls and expand throughout the Museum. Because we want to offer visitors an opportunity to create their own tactile works and to explore for themselves the world beyond vision, there are specially designed activities in the Museum’s Muse Studio.
A section of the exhibit honors a truly inspirational pioneer, Helen Keller, who changed the public’s perception of people with disabilities. Born in 1880, she became known around the world as a symbol of the strength of the human spirit, yet she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of intelligence, ambition, and great accomplishment, who devoted her life to helping others.
Her life story illustrates this truth: physical limitations may be restricting, but a person’s true value comes from the depth of her mind.
Finally we asked ourselves: How would technological advances available today change Helen Keller’s enjoyment of art? We sought out Marty Quinn – a most creative and innovative fellow to add MUSIC to the aesthetic experience…. and in the process he enhanced the kinesthetic experience as well!
Marty’s MoveMusic technology is featured during Art Beyond Vision as part of the popular Build It. Fly It. exhibit. Visitors are able to hear the paths of falling objects as music. Using visual to image sonification technology developed as part of NASA grants, visual surveillance software tracks the moving objects as they are selecting pixels on a computer screen.
Sound intriguing? Come to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire between now and Memorial Day and experience the world of Art Beyond Vision for yourself!
The idea for the first Kid’s Café came about in 1995 at the Children’s Museum in Portsmouth in a tiny alcove under the stairs. What began as a simple table-top kit with food items to sort utilizing the food pyramid quickly turned into a full-blown exhibit highlighting other cultures from around the world.
I remember, as a floor staff member, watching the children play with the food and having them request more items to role-play with. We quickly added plates, napkins and utensils and watched a whole new exhibit come to life.
With the increasing popularity of the mini Café and a desire to bring more cultural activities to our space, the Café soon moved to the 3rd floor of the Portsmouth museum and became a more substantial exhibit called the Kid’s World Café. There we offered food from Japan, Canada, Germany, Turkey and Mexico.
When the Museum relocated to Dover, as an exhibit team, we knew that we wanted to bring the idea of the Kid’s World Café with us. With increasing emphasis on global societies and understanding and appreciating world cultures, our exhibit team created an area called One World that encompassed several exhibits, including the Kid’s World Café. One World includes interactive components that offer educational opportunities for families to learn about masks, clothing, footwear and food from seven cultures of the world. In the summer of 2008, we opened the new museum and the Kid’s World Café introduced visitors to the Greek culture.
In September of 2011, wanting to bring updated changes to this popular exhibit, the Kid’s World Cafe changed cultures from Greece to Mexico!
As an exhibit developer and museum educator I am often perplexed and surprised by what makes an exhibit so enticing to our young visitors. After creating exhibits for over 20 years, I have learned that using familiar components and every day objects, in this case items found in a kitchen or restaurant, offers children the opportunity to role play in a setting where they know what is expected of them. Children are often more open to learning about a new topics when they can draw upon prior knowledge and familiar topics to do so.
With the change of a new culture this year, brought new additions to the space. An interactive “Innovation Station” sharing board which offers visitors an opportunity to share recipes and traditions from their cultures with other museum visitors. The sharing board has recipes to take and enjoy making at home, and also invites families to leave their own favorite traditions for others to try.
So far, we have had visitors leave several family favorite recipes including “The Best Guacamole” and “Quiche in a Cup” that we will begin adding to our website for visitors to download and make at home.
The Kid’s World Café exhibit encourages children to use their imagination while interacting with other children and adults in that space. Learning and sharing information together is a winning combination and one we encourage throughout the museum. It is our hope that by experiencing and learning about other cultures, children will have a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures around the world.
You can’t go past the Kid’s World Cafe without hearing “Would you like extra cheese with your taco?” or even hearing specific words from the Mexican menu like “Guacamole” “Agua” or “Burritos”. The museum’s exhibit team plans on changing cultures in the Café every few years so be on the look out to experience a new culture in the coming years. Until then … Bienvenidos a Cafeteria de Ninos!
Care to share?
If you’d like to download our young friend Kimberly’s recipe for Tostadas (she’s the girl shown here making tortillas with her abuela from Mexico), click here. And if you have a Mexican recipe that your family enjoys, please feel free to share it here in the Comments section! We are always looking for new recipes to share with our members and friends.
Change. One word that means so much. Seasons change. Our children’s needs and interests change as they grow. As your family changes the experiences you seek to do together change as well. Here at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, changes are underway – changes designed to keep pace with the needs of the curious children and engaged adults who walk through our doors.
For us, change can take many forms and has many dimensions:
To Deepen Impact
Many of our exhibits can be used in different ways with some changes to supplies. For instance, have you ever wondered what it would be like to make and launch folded paper constructions in Build It Fly It? Simply using folded paper or recycled materials rather than foam shapes opens up new ways to think about the exhibit, its uses and possible outcomes. What flying contraptions have you always wanted to try in that space?
To Support Repeat Visitation
You might be one of the many families who visit the museum 4 – 9 times each year. Change offers new options for you to explore during a visit so the Museum remains challenging, engaging and fresh. New materials, exhibit props, staff-facilitated programs and take-home activities are designed to allow you to make new connections between what you already know – and new ideas.
So, for example, did you know you can build and decorate your own soapbox kit cars in to race in the Thinkering Lab? Buy two from the museum shop, borrow our kit of wood files and decorations, or take them home to make, then bring them back and race head-to-head. We purposely designed this space so that the make-your-own cars we have in the exhibit are just a launching pad for your imagination and the opportunities are endless. In the future, look for other car-building materials, like Legos or recycled materials.
To Stay Relevant and Meaningful
Flexible change, such as exhibit kits that we can share with interested visitors, allows you to customize your visit. Did you know you can ask our Experience Guide staff to bring out a beaver pelt and teeth, or owl pellet dissection activity? Take down more materials in the Studio, or give you a kit of materials to design and construct a different flyer to test in Build It Fly It? We want to be responsive and give you the ability to personalize your visit. After all, we don’t know what your interests are unless you share them with us!
To Support a Broad and Diverse Audience
From crawling infants, to inquisitive 4th graders, from new parents to grandparents, from the casual museum-goer to the Museum member who visits us every week, change helps us reach every visitor in a new way. The Studio’s monthly theme and changing weekly activities are designed to support a variety of learning styles and a broader age range. Our goal for this space is for the youngest visitors and those with the most skill and longest attention spans to both find something interesting to do, and be successful. We are challenging ourselves to come up with projects that meet all our goals and which you find fun.
To Build Relationships
When we choose the theme of an exhibit, we think about how it will allow us to connect and collaborate with, local audiences. From the Trout in the Classroom project to recipe-sharing in the World Café we look for local relevance, a NH focus, a good visitor experience, and opportunities to build relationships. Another way we do this is by incorporating visitor-made work in the Museum, and including your faces and voices within the Museum. This allows the Museum to truly reflect you – our users – and it keeps the experience fresh for all. We think your work, images, and words are beautiful and inspiring and we are glad for the chance to celebrate the creativity in action here everyday.
What do you think? As you visit the museum over the next year, keep a look out for ongoing change at many levels. Do you see different elements and props in our exhibits? Did everyone in the family find something to do the month in the Studio? Did our Experience Guide staff share something new with you or invite you to try a special activity? Do you see comments, artwork and perspectives of our community?
We truly want to know what works and what still needs work. What do you want us to try next?