The Museum Blog

Category: Learning

"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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​Manchester School Learns about Nocturnal Animals

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By Amanda Girard, Marketing Intern

Recently, the second grade classes of Smyth Road Elementary School in Manchester visited the Children’s Museum for a focused group visit. They had an amazing and fun time.

“I thought it would be a fun thing for their age,” said Mrs. Weilbrenner, their teacher.

The students definitely thought so. Many of them had visited the Museum before. One girl told me she had been here “like, 40 times!” But for other students, this was their first time experiencing the Children’s Museum. They marveled at the new exhibit outside of the building, Ascent or Descent, laughed as they tried on silly costumes in front of the green screen and launched objects into flight with “Build It, Fly It.”

When asked what their favorite exhibits were, the students gave many different answers. “Yellow Submarine!” one girl said. “The Mail Room!” another answered. “The Cave upstairs!” “The Music Wall!”

One thing’s for sure, no one was bored on this field trip.

But focused group visits to the CMNH are not just about exploring the exhibits, though there is plenty of time for that. Part of the group’s time is dedicated to an educational workshop led by Museum educators. The group can pick from fourteen different topics ahead of time to learn about, everything from mask-making to recycling to deep-sea creatures.

Smyth Road Elementary School decided to learn about nocturnal animals from educators Meredith Lamothe and Sarah Terry. The lesson took place in the Deep Sea Classroom, where all sorts of painted sea creatures can be spotted on the walls.

Activities in the lesson included listening to animal sounds and matching them with pictures of nocturnal creatures, learning about animals sense of hearing by concentrating on the sounds around them, and dissecting owl pellets.

The students were especially excited about the owl pellets. Exclaimations of “I got a skull!” and “It’s a hip!” were heard around the room during the activity. They were also given a chart so they could identify the animal bones they had found.


“The kids are always excited because it’s something new and special to them,” Museum educator Meredith Lamothe explained. “Being in school, they are used to having the same teacher and learning setting every day. It’s nice to be able to offer a new and enriching experience that gets students excited about learning.”

In the end, Smyth Road Elementary School left the Museum after a day of learning and a lot of fun!

If you are interested in the Museum’s focused group visits and would like to learn more, please visit this page. To book a visit, please contact Caitlynne Soule at caitlynne@childrens-museum.org or call 603-742-2002.

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Maker Faire FAQs

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"What exactly is a 'Maker Faire'?"

We hear that question a lot when we are out and about, talking up our Dover Mini Maker Faire, coming up on Saturday, August 29. It's a deceptively hard question to answer! I usually say things like "It's a place where people who make things, engineer things, craft things, etc. can come together and show off their creativity."

"...So, there aren't any rides?"

Well, no. There aren't any rides. But we think it's just as fun. So to clear up some of the confusion about what visitors to a Maker Faire can expect, here's a handy list of frequently asked questions and our answers.

Q. What exactly is a Maker Faire?
A. Maker Faire is family-friendly festival of innovation, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new. Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and share what they have learned.

Q. How did Maker Faire get started?
A. The Maker movement sparked at the first Maker Faire back in 2006 in the Bay Area. Since then, sponsorship of Maker Faire events from corporations has helped propelled this grassroots movement eastward like wildfire. The original Maker Faire event was held in San Mateo, CA and in 2012 celebrated its seventh annual show with some 800 makers and 110,000 people in attendance. World Maker Faire New York, the other flagship event, has grown in three years to 500+ makers and 55,000 attendees. Detroit, Kansas City, Newcastle (UK), and Tokyo are the home of “featured” Maker Faires (200+ makers).

Q. Why is it called Dover MINI Maker Faire?
A. Across the United States and the world, community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires are now being produced. Dover Mini Maker Faire is independently organized and operated under license from Maker Media, Inc., and is the FIRST Mini Maker Faire in the state of New Hampshire.

Q. Are there rides?
A. No. There aren't any rides like you would see at a regular town fair. BUT, there are a ton of hands on activities and opportunities to explore new things. In addition to all the great Maker tables and demos, we'll be offering an opportunity to help us build a giant Jenga and there will be a grand finale involving coke and mentos "explosions!"

Q. So what exactly will I see at the Faire?
A. You will see lots of tables and booths outside in Henry Law Park with people displaying and demonstrating their creative talents. If you want to learn more about the individual vendors, we've compiled a great list of them over on our makerfairedover.com blog!

Q. How many people can I expect to see there?
A. The first year (2013) we had more than 1,200 people attend (300 of which were kids)!

Q. What does it cost?
A. If you buy tickets online before August 29, tickets cost $10 for anyone over 5 years of age. Kids ages 5 and younger get in for free. You can buy tickets at the door for $12.

Q. Is that all the money I'll spend while at the Faire?
A. If you are just looking around at all the great inventors and trying your hand at the different activities, then yes, that's all you'll spend. There are, however a few vendors who are selling their wares, and of course food will cost you extra. We will also have t-shirts for sale for a reasonable price. But your admission will get you into all areas of the Faire, including the Children's Museum.

Q. I'm a CMNH member. Do I get into the Faire for free?
A. Look for an email from us in early August with a Member discount code.

Q. Will there be food?
A. Yes! We have quite a few vendors who will be selling food.

Q. Can I bring my dog?
A. Yes, you may bring your dog to all outside locations (i.e. Henry Law Park), however with the exception of service animals, dogs are not permitted in the Museum or in One Washington Street Mill. However, for the safety and well being of our four-legged friends, we recommend you leave your pets at home. There will be loud noises, many moveable parts, and large crowds, all of which do not create a safe environment for pets.

Q. Where exactly is the Faire?
A. The Faire takes place in and around the Children's Museum, Henry Law Park, and One Washington Street Mill, which is directly behind the Museum.

Q. Is there parking?
A. Yes! Weekend parking is free throughout the city of Dover, but we suggest:

  • Henry Law Avenue in front of the museum
  • the River Street lot- Drive past the museum along Washington Street, veer onto Waters Street, then cross the bridge to River Street.
  • The Orchard Street lot near the Post Office (accessed via Central Avenue or Chestnut Street)
  • The Amtrak lot on Chestnut & Third Streets
  • The Third Street lot next to Holy Rosary Credit Union
  • The Portland Street lot
  • The Library lot on Locust Street (across from the Police Station)

Q. What about handicap parking?
A. There are a few handicap parking spots on Washington Street right next to the museum, as well as in the TD Bank lot across the street.

If you find yourself saying "I have a question and I don't see the answer here," then feel free to email us at questions@childrens-museum.org and we'll do our best to clear things up for you. We hope you can make it to Maker Faire this year!

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"Again!"

by Amanda Girard, Marketing Intern

We often hear that children, toddlers in particular, learn best through repetition. An article from Parents MagazineParents Magazine highlights that “while adults crave variety, a toddler needs repeated confirmation that things stay the same.” This may very well explain why your child delights in watching the same movie over and over again or asks for the same story every night at bedtime. And have you ever noticed how repetitive songs like “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and “B-I-N-G-O” are hits with young children? The early love of repetition explains it all.

So what may seem to us as boring or predictable is not only helping toddlers learn, it’s a lot of fun for them too. Knowing what’s going to happen next in the story or song is comforting.

So what does any of this have to do with the Children’s Museum? Many of our exhibits encourage this sort of repetitive learning. Pattern Palace gives kids an opportunity to discover different patterns and predict what colors and shapes come next. Our Pinscreen exhibit allows visitors to see imprints of their hands, faces, etc. over and over again.

Another important element of repetitive learning and the ways younger children learn is the need for variation. The same article from Parents Magazine uses the example that kids may start by simply banging a wooden block on a table and observing the sound it makes. Then, they may hit it harder and see what that does. They could also pick up a plastic hammer and hit the block that way to hear the difference. Though it may seem repetitive to us, to a child it is a new and exciting discovery.

CMNH supports this need for variation with our exhibits as well. The activities in our Muse Studio change every week to fit a new theme chosen by our museum educators. Build It, Fly It also promotes this kind of learning, where visitors can see how the way that they construct and launch different foam creations affects how their inventions fly. Kids get to tinker with their building methods to see what works best.

The Museum as a whole supports both repetitive and variation learning with its programs and exhibits. In general, kids and families can expect the museum to look similar to their last visit, with most of the same exhibits to interact with, providing a sense of comfort and memory for kids. But we work very hard to create an environment where they feel encouraged to explore and experiment in new ways.

So whether your child is in need of the comfort of repetition or the new world of variation, the Children’s Museum has something to offer everyone!

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Pi Day 2015

Yesterday, March 14th, in addition to being Albert Einstein’s 136th birthday, was Pi Day. March 14th = 3.14 = Pi Day. Since Physicist Larry Shaw put together the first official Pi Day celebration in San Francisco back in 1988, the deliciously mathematical holiday has only grown exponentially in popularity.

Last year, we focused more on the delicious side of Pi Day festivities. This year? We got down to pi business. Because many of our visitors are still in elementary school, trying to explain pi exclusively with terms like “irrational number”, “mathematical constant” or “Madhava-Leibniz series” isn’t exactly the most fruitful plan of attack.

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So how can you make the math fun? Multiplication? No problem. Geometrical shapes? Sure. But the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter? That’s a bit bigger of a fraction to follow!

Enter Museum Educator Sarah Terry. I asked Sarah, who returned to CMNH at the end of 2014 after first joining our team in October of 2011, how she approached a subject that seems, on the surface, to be rather dry and difficult to build a day of fun around.

“I’ve always thought math was a lot of fun,” Sarah said. “There’s something so satisfying about working with problems and equations that can be solved. In the humanities, you don’t come across too many situations where there is a definitive right answer. It tends to be based on opinion. Well-reasoned and supported opinions, but still debatable. The rationality of mathematics always seemed comforting in comparison.”

But can Rational = Interesting? Can Rational = Fun? Sarah was confident it could be both.

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“When you come across something like pi, which is an infinite number with no apparent pattern or repetition, it’s pretty mind-blowing,” admits Sarah. “How can something as crazy and enormous of a number that’s been calculated out thus far to over 12 trillion digits also be considered a mathematical constant? Every circle that has been or ever will be created will find that its circumference divided by its diameter will be pi. It’s unwieldy and baffling and I looked forward to coming up with activities that could show our visitors that things as awesome as pi actually make math – yes, math – pretty cool!”

Using CMNH’s Colorful Classroom space as her home base, Sarah taught visitors young and old about pi. Some had never heard of it. Some had learned about it in school but had forgotten the specifics. Some were wearing Pi Day shirts. Using a variety of colorful craft activities coupled with the promise that if you located her over the course of Pi Day and recited a fact about Pi, Sarah would paint the pi symbol on your cheek, visitors left yesterday with a newfound appreciation – and hopefully, enthusiasm – for the wild, wacky, infinite constant that is pi!

We hope you and your family had a Happy Pi Day and look forward to you spending Pi Day 2016 with us here at CMNH!

IMG_3429Circles, circles, everywhere!

“Pi lets us show off the oddball side of math and lets us stretch our imaginations,” Sarah said.

IMG953428What’s a Pi Chain? Good question! Here’s the answer: 0-9 are each represented by a color. Following the order of numbers in pi, can you make an accurate chain that is correctly represented by the 10 colors? Can you make a longer Pi Day Pi Chain than your friends and family?

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IMG_3432Even the streamers never rested from the continual recitation of pi!

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Dynamic Duos

PCThe award-winning duo Peg + Cat visited the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire yesterday. Curious Peg & her hilarious best friend Cat get into math-related hi-jinx each day on their PBS program. While they are ably assisted in their adventures by characters such as Ramone, The Pirates, Richard the Space Alien, and even George Washington & Cleopatra, Peg & Cat and their delightful wordplay and songs are the reason families keep tuning in.

With the news that Saturday Morning Cartoons are now officially a thing of the past, let’s take this opportunity to look at some famous dynamic duos from the world of children’s television shows.

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Chip ‘N’ Dale made their debut in 1943 in a series of animated shorts that pitted them against either Pluto the Dog or Donald Duck. While often taking background roles in many Disney shorts and specials, a new audience met Chip ‘N’ Dale in 1989 when they anchored their own cartoon with “Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers” as part of the Disney Afternoon block of programming.

beanie-and-cecilBeany & Cecil began as a Puppet Show in 1949 created by famed Warner Brothers animator Bob Clampett. Beany had the ability to fly using his patented beanycopter while the childlike Cecil the Sea Serpent often stayed in water and was so large that his tail was rarely seen as it would continue “off screen”. It relaunched as an animated show in 1959 and then was relaunched again in 1988 as the “The New Adventures of Beany & Cecil” cartoon.

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Rocky & Bullwinkle were the stars of their own variety show that ran from 1959-1964. Created by Jay Ward, the show was responsible for introducing not only the legendary title characters, but Dudley Do-Right, Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, Mr. Peadbody & Sherman. Many of the characters were given life by voiceover legends June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Scott and Daws Butler. The show was popular with children as well as adults due to its clever wordplay and intelligent writing.

Bert_and_ErnieBert and Ernie debuted on Sesame Street in the summer of 1969. They were the first of Jim Henson’s creations to appear on the show – a part of it from the very first episode, pre-dating Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird. Best friends Bert and Ernie are meant to represent the curiosity and behaviors of 6-7 year olds. Ernie, famed for his dedication to his rubber ducky, loves pulling tricks on the pigeon-loving Bert, the most popular (and absurd) of which is pulling off Bert’s nose for comic effect.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 16.09.43Scooby Doo & Shaggy premiered in the Saturday morning cartoon, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” in the fall of 1969. The two perpetually frightened – and hungry – best friends have starred in a large variety of tv shows, comic books and movies since their debut. Each generation seems to rediscover Scoob, Shag, Velma, Daphne and Fred solving supernatural capers in their Mystery Machine.

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Danger Mouse & Penfold first premiered in the United Kingdom in 1981, but saw their popularity reach even greater heights when US markets (most notably Nickelodeon) imported “Danger Mouse” – a cheeky take on James Bond – in 1984. Danger Mouse occupied the role of the heroic British spy while Ernest Penfold is his consistently nervous hamster sidekick prone to yell out, “Crumbs, D.M.!” or, ‘Oh, carrots!” before falling to pieces in the face of danger.

TickThe Tick & Arthur are two lovable – if not often highly ridiculous superheroes – who live in The City. Originally created by Ben Edlund in 1986 for New England Comics, The Tick & Arthur were exposed to a much larger audience when their 1994 Saturday morning cartoon debuted on Fox. Fox was the home of the next incarnation of The Tick as well when a live-action version debuted in 2001. The Tick embodies several of the most popular mainstream superheroes in his origin, powers and behaviors (a healthy mix of Superman, Batman & Spider-Man) though his catchphrase (“Spoooooooooon!”) is wholly his own. The much more responsible and down-to-Earth Arthur is often getting him out of jams – some caused by supervillains, some caused by The Tick.

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Wallace & Grommit, the brainchild of Nick Park from Aardman Animations, made their debut in 1989 in the Oscar-nomniated short film, “A Grand Day Out”. Their next two shorts – “The Wrong Trousers” & “A Close Shave” – and their first full-length feature, “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” all won Academy Awards. Though Wallace is an inventor – specializing in Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions – most would agree that the silent Grommit is the smarter of the two, getting Wallace out of trouble or helping his inventions go more smoothly when he’s not busy knitting, playing chess or drinking tea. Though their adventures and occupations change with each outing, one thing that never changes is Wallace & Grommit being the best of friends.

DoraDora & Boots have been inseparable since their introduction in 2000 with the premiere of “Dora the Explorer”. Boots, who’s always sporting his trademark red boots, assists Dora during her adventures as they solve riddles and and figure out puzzles while often focusing on a strong bilingual component. Dora & Boots’ adventures proved so popular that they not only spun off their own books, video games and stage shows, but a brand new show as well: 2005’s “Go, Diego, Go!” which focused on animal rescue and environmental concerns with Dora’s cousin Diego.

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Peg & Cat from Peg + Cat have only been entertaining families since 2013, but they’ve made such a favorable impression that the show won three Emmy Awards for its first season! Created by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson, based on the book “The Chicken Problem”, the math-focused adventures of Peg & Cat bring them in contact with an incredibly large array of characters and showcases some of the best songwriting ever created in the history of children’s programming. Peg & Cat are deeply loyal, deeply hilarious and deeply curious. These qualities make the show an absolute joy for children and parents alike. Thank you again to New Hampshire Public Television and PBS Kids for making it possible for Peg + Cat to be a part of CMNH’s big day!

Were you familiar with most of these dynamic duos? Do your children know any of them? Who did we forget? Let us know your favorite duo in the comments!

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Eager to Learn, Eager to Create – A Look at CMNH Art Camp

Museum Educator Beth recently lead a three day Art Camp at CMNH for children ages 5 to 9 years old. The goal of the camp was to educate the campers about some of history’s greatest artists while allowing them the opportunity to create in the various styles of the artists they were learning about.

A sculpture takes form!A sculpture takes form!

Beth, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History with a Minor in Fine Arts from Plymouth State University, planned Art Camp over the last few months in the rare times she wasn’t interacting with families in the museum or launching new art projects for visitors to work on in the museum’s Muse Studio.

Narrowing the Focus

“Initially, I had a lot of ideas for lessons and projects, but I needed to take a step back and make sure the lessons were something all the campers – some of whom were almost five years apart – could conceptualize.”

“Can you make sure to get a picture of this flower that I drew?”

But how does one decide which artists to cover when you only have three days?

“One of my hopes was that I could shed some light on some amazing artists that they wouldn’t necessarily be learning about in school yet,” says Beth.

“Of course,” she continues. “I also wanted to get them excited about learning about art as well as the whole process of creating art.”

“But narrowing down the list of artists we’d cover proved to be quite difficult,” admits Beth. “My list could have been much longer, but again, remembering the age of the children and what they’d likely respond to the strongest helped a great deal. All the artists that were chosen were well known, influential people who were revolutionaries in the art world at their respective times. Part of winnowing the list consisted of focusing on specific art movements that the children could comprehend and be inspired by. Yes, some of it was bound to be over their heads, but I was confident that the core concepts and ideas would not be lost on them. Ultimately, I felt that Impressionism and Cubism were movements that they would be able to understand. And, of course, I knew Pop Art would be something they could have a lot of fun with.”

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Had camp been longer, Beth has a pretty clear idea what other artists would have made the cut.

“I feel like I could have taught that camp everyday,” she admits. “It took me back to my college days, learning about a different artist each day. Jackson Pollock would have been great to teach the kids – with myriad directions we could have gone in. Jenny Holzer, who is still alive, focuses on text as art. She’s brilliant. Mark Rothko, a tortured man and a controversial artist, focused on color and emotion which the campers easily could have tapped into. Wassily Kandinsky, whose paintings have a clear childlike quality, would have been a lot of fun. Marcel Duchamp’s style of ready-made art could have been great and the I have to think the kids really would have been wowed with some of Salvador Dali’s pieces.”

Jackson Pollack,Jackson Pollack, “Image Number 8″ (1949)Jenny Holzer,Jenny Holzer, “Survival” (1985)Mark Rothko,Mark Rothko, “Blue and Grey” (1962)Wassily Kandinsky,Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition VIII” (1923)Marcel Duchamp,Marcel Duchamp, “With Hidden Noise” (1916)Salvador Dali,Salvador Dali, “The Persistence of Memory” (1931)

The Final Five

Ultimately, Beth’s final list of artists for Art Camp were Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The campers had some familiarity with the eclectic group.

DegasDegasMonetMonetVan GoghVan GoghPicassoPicassoWarholWarhol

“I believe all of the kids had heard of Picasso,” Beth says. “His name was definitely known by them. They had a harder time identifying his works. Conversely, they all seemed to recognize Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, but did not know the name of the artist. The names Monet, Degas and Warhol were a little foreign to them. A handful of the kids said they had seen some of their respective pieces when I showed them examples, but did not know the artist responsible.”

Despite her enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of the subject matter, Beth was still worried at the start of camp. Would the campers’ have a difficult time focusing on learning about and creating art when they’re based inside a children’s museum?

Monet,Monet, “The Japanese Bridge” (1899)Water Lilies in the style of MonetWater Lilies in the style of MonetColorful Bridge inspired by MonetColorful Bridge inspired by MonetWatercolor water lilies in the style of MonetWatercolor water lilies in the style of Monet

“I knew Art Camp would be a challenge because most children in that age range can be antsy and eager to play on a normal day, let alone when there’s a loud, bustling museum outside of the classroom walls – especially if they don’t already have a desire to sit and create on their own,” Beth shares. “My worries were that they wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as I was. I worried that it would start to feel like ‘work’ – which I know technically it is – but I didn’t want it to come across like it was a chore. I wanted the kids to see how passionately I felt about the art and about teaching it to them.  I was so relieved that my fears were unfounded and I was lucky to have such a great group of kids, several of which were wise beyond their years!”

Van Gogh,Van Gogh, “Three Sunflowers” (1888)3-D Flowers in clay pots, inspired by Van Gogh3-D Flowers in clay pots, inspired by Van GoghFurther painting and decoration of the Van Gogh-esque flower piecesFurther painting and decoration of the Van Gogh-esque flower pieces

Finishing Touches

By the end of the camp, each camper had compiled a full portfolio of artwork to share with their family and friends. Beth was pleased by the generally enthusiastic approach the campers had to learning about so many different artists and styles.

Degas,Degas, “Fin D’Arabesque” (1877)Pop-Up Ballerina inspired by DegasPop-Up Ballerina inspired by Degas

“I was delightfully surprised by the enthusiasm for the subject matter,” Beth says. “They all seemed eager to learn, eager to create, and open to doing something different.”

Warhol,Warhol, “No Title” (1967)The campers black and whiteThe campers black and white “Warhol-ized” portraits before they painted them, flanking two of Warhol’s most famous works

See a short video of the campers paintings of their own handprints in the style of Andy Warhol.

“When parents have an interest in getting their children into the arts it makes me so happy. With so much funding for the arts being cut in schools these days, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of providing an environment for your children to express themselves; a place to get messy and let them be who they are. That’s the magic of art.”

Picasso,Picasso, “Woman in Hat and Fur Collar” (1937)The Picasso inspired,The Picasso inspired, “A Woman’s Face”Another Picasso inspired portraitAnother Picasso inspired portrait

“When parents have an interest in getting their children into the arts it makes me so happy. With so much funding for the arts being cut in schools these days, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of providing an environment for your children to express themselves; a place to get messy and let them be who they are. That’s the magic of art.”

Despite three full days of Art Camp, it’s something that happened near the end of the program that will stay with Beth the longest.

“On the last day of camp, during our ‘free draw’ time, one of the campers approached me and asked me if I could write down all of the artists we learned about because she wanted to do further research about them and their art when camp was finished. She made my heart melt and I was so proud of the clear connection she had made to the art. It’s an experience like that that makes it all worth it.”

CMNH Art Camp - February 2014CMNH Art Camp – February 2014

Be sure to check out the video below for some brief words from a few of our campers about their Art Camp experience!

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Pi Pies Pie Chart

Happy Pi Day everyone!

Pi Day is celebrated each March 14th. Get it? 3.14? I don’t want to get too bogged down in the origins of Pi Day or how the mathematical constant known as pi works, because I want to get to the part we’re all waiting for: PIE!

Because pi without the “e” is far less delicious than the kind with the “e”, many people celebrate Pi Day by baking pies! Sadly, we didn’t have a chance to bake and eat all of our favorite pies here at CMNH, so we did the next best thing: Conduct a Pi Day Pie Survey! We surveyed our staff, volunteers, and two school groups – one from Sanford, ME and one from Kennebunk, ME – and asked them a pretty simple question.

“What’s your absolute favorite pie?”

{Click on the chart to see a bigger version!}{Click on the chart to see a bigger version!}

Here are the very scientific (and questionably nutritious) results! How did your favorite pie fare?

A few pies only garnered one vote. They were: Peach, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Pear & Gouda(!), Chicken Pot, Raspberry, Blackberry, Peanut Butter, & Butterscotch Pudding.

We hope you’re all having a delicious Pi Day!

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