The Museum Blog

Category: Learning

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.

CnD

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.

rocky-and-bullwinkle

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.

Dangermouse

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.

W_G

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.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 16.31.50

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.”

Deleted Scenes

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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CMNH & Libraries Walk Hand in Hand

Promoting Literacy in Alternative Educational Environments

by Meredith LaMothe

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has been committed to promoting literacy with children for over thirty years. We share numerous goals with libraries that foster a love of reading, including exploring and learning in a fun and safe environment, making our services available to all people through library membership programs, promoting activities that pull in a wide range of audiences and bringing those activities to different locations through our outreach program. The Children’s Museum offers a variety of programs from our Summer Library Outreach program and Books Alive events to our weekly Storytime Sundays and our Library Membership Program that offers museum discounts through libraries. All of these programs aim to promote literacy and strengthen relationships between the museum and our neighboring libraries.

CMNH Educator Meredith leads the Summer 2013 library program about bioluminescence at Wiggin Memorial Library in Stratham, NHCMNH Educator Meredith leads the Summer 2013 library program about bioluminescence at Wiggin Memorial Library in Stratham, NH

We are entering the third year of offering our fantastic annual library outreach program that relates to the ALA summer reading theme. The summer 2014 theme of “Fizz…Boom…Think!” will focus on recycling, saving the earth and learning about the human footprint through hands-on projects, demonstrations and fun! Programs in the past have been “Up All Night in New Hampshire!” and “Dig Into the Deep Sea: Fish Aren’t Afraid of the Dark.”

One of the participants shares his homemade underwater creature with MeredithOne of the participants shares his homemade underwater creature with Meredith

We travel to libraries all over New Hampshire, Maine, and northeast Massachusetts to present an hour long program. We’ve received much positive feedback from host libraries and cannot wait to begin another summer of bringing the museum to you!

You may want to call this a Rainbow Jellyfish but its real name Ctenophore or,You may want to call this a Rainbow Jellyfish but its real name Ctenophore or, “Comb Jelly” for short.

Since 2006, our Books Alive program brings beloved costumed storybook characters to the museum three times each year. Recently we’ve had visits from Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat, Clifford and Emily Elizabeth, The Lorax and Corduroy! These events are very popular.

Books Alive! with CorduroyBooks Alive! with Corduroy
Books Alive! with Meredith & Sister Berenstain BearBooks Alive! with Meredith & Sister Berenstain Bear

Stories about these characters are read, activities that related to the books are available and – of course – children can meet these storybook friends and have their pictures taken with them or just give a quiet high five. These events bring books to life as children step into the story and meet characters that are their friends. We also use this program to promote libraries as a resource and place where families can find the books we read and have on display for each Books Alive.

CMNH Experience Guide Riley meets Clifford the Big Red Dog & Mer . . . er, Emily Elizabeth during a Books Alive! event at CMNHCMNH Experience Guide Riley meets Clifford the Big Red Dog & Mer . . . er, Emily Elizabeth during a Books Alive! event at CMNHBooks Alive! with Curious George & The Man in the Yellow HatBooks Alive! with Curious George & The Man in the Yellow Hat

We also host a weekly program called, “Storytime with Meredith & Stu”. Our storytime is hosted by me – CMNH Educator Meredith Lamothe  – and local musician Stu Dias.

Storytime with Meredith & Stu - every Sunday @ 2PM at CMNH!Storytime with Meredith & Stu – every Sunday @ 2PM at CMNH!

I read several stories on a theme – sometimes incorporating puppets or felt boards and Stu sings a few songs and sometimes joins in reading the stories. He will usually write a song specifically to suit the theme and is recording an album of these songs later this year!

Meredith & Stu prepare for a Royalty themed Sunday StorytimeMeredith & Stu prepare for a Royalty themed Sunday Storytime

Storytime is a great opportunity for families to get together and relax while enjoying books and music. We find Sundays to be a convenient time for families that might not be able to get to a weekday storytime at their local library.

Storytime duo Meredith & Stu will shout from the rooftops about how much they love reading to kids!Storytime duo Meredith & Stu will shout from the rooftops about how much they love reading to kids!

We hope to meet many of you through our outreach program this summer or during your visit to CMNH. If your library doesn’t currently participate in our membership program, we’re always happy to explain the different levels of participation available for those communities that are interested in their libraries working with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.

Stu & Meredith celebrate their Fall themed Storytime in Henry Law Park in front of the museum in Dover, NHStu & Meredith celebrate their Fall themed Storytime in Henry Law Park in front of the museum in Dover, NH

We feel strongly that libraries and children’s museums walk hand in hand in their goals to foster a love of reading and promote literacy with visitors of all ages.

Meredith is a museum educator at CMNH. She is one half of, “Storytime with Meredith & Stu” and an original presenter of our summer library outreach program. She is also a MLIS candidate at Simmons College and reference librarian at Scarborough Public Library. Parts of this piece were originally published in, “Granite State Libraries” Newsletter from the New Hampshire State Library.

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CMNH Brings Mini Maker Faire to New Hampshire!

Dover_MMF_logo_squareThe Maker Faire is coming to New Hampshire! The first annual Dover Mini Maker Faire is scheduled for Saturday, August 24, 2013 in and around the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover. This is the first time a Maker Faire event has been held in the Granite State.

“We are over the moon about bringing Maker Faire to our state,” said Justine Roberts, Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of NH. “This event aligns perfectly with our mission to ignite children’s creative potential by challenging them to think big. What better way to bring our mission to life than with this amazing event that showcases our community’s creativity, engages children’s imaginations and inspires them to be the makers of tomorrow.”

The Dover Mini Maker Faire takes after its enormous parent event, Maker Faire, which hosts 110,000 visitors in San Mateo in May. The Dover Mini Maker Faire will be a smaller, community-focused event, but will follow the Maker Faire model of celebrating do-it-yourself creativity and tinkering.

“Make, create, craft, recycle, build, think, play and be inspired by celebrating arts, crafts, engineering, food, music, science and technology.”

Featuring both established and emerging local “makers,” the Dover Mini Maker Faire is a family-friendly celebration featuring rockets and robots, DIY science and technology, urban farming and sustainability, alternative energy, bicycles, unique hand-made crafts, music and local food, and educational workshops and installations. A Call for Makers will open on Monday, May 6.

In developing plans for the Dover Mini Maker Faire, the Children’s Museum of NH gathered a group of key advisors from New Hampshire and beyond to be part of the steering committee. Individuals and groups currently on the Dover Mini Maker Faire include: Angela Sheehan, Clint Crosbie of Port City Makerspace, Alex Nunn of Seacoast Makers, Lindsey Wright of Seacoast Robotics, Richard Cecchetti and Tara Hicks Johnson of the Sea Perch program, Mark Critz of FIRST Robotics, Tim Tabor and Taylor Poro from the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, Wayne Moulton of New Heights Adventures for Teens and Sages of RPG, artist Nathan Walker, Rob Worobey of Black Sparrow Industries, local maker John McColley, Karrah Kwasnik of Genius Switch Studio, Doug Ridley of Vital Design, Dylan Haigh and Kristy Martino of Haigh & Martino, Jim Harvey of Letgo Your Mind and Chris Evilsizer of Metis Networks.

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), and community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires are now being produced around the United States and the world. Dover Mini Maker Faire is independently organized and operated under license from Maker Media, Inc.

Follow the development of the Dover Mini Maker Faire on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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Top 3 Toddler Development Questions

Guest post by Alison Leighton, Child Life Specialist at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, and Seana Hallberg, Family Resource Coordinator for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth’s clinic at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital

Seana Hallberg (left) and Alison Leighton (right) visited the Children’s Museum recently to answer parents’ child development questions.

In our work with children and parents at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, we get a lot of questions. Each day, we meet with families who are dealing with pediatric medical issues and try to help in any way we can, from answering questions and acting as a sounding board to connecting them with community resources and specialist care.

No matter who we meet or where we go, we find we get a lot of the same questions about child development. We recently spent time at the Children’s Museum of NH’s Toddlerfest and took questions from new parents and it was no exception. Their concerns were typical of what we are asked most often.

So here are our Top 3 Toddler Development Questions, along with the answers we can practically give in our sleep!

1.) “My child has used certain words before but when prompted, he does not want to mimic. Is this normal?”

Children who are typically learning to speak are also seeking “mastery” of their new skills. This often involves practicing the skill repeatedly, but on their own terms. A general rule of thumb is by 12 months of age a child should use simple gestures as a way to communicate like waving, or simple signs. You can begin modeling simple signs as early as five months and doing hand-over-hand with your children to model the sign. Children as young as nine months are seen making approximations of simple signs. What’s most important is that your child is moving forward in her communication skills — using his sounds, gestures and facial expressions in increasingly complex ways. If you have concerns about where your child is developmentally, you should speak with your pediatrician.

2) ” My child is resistant to being potty trained. What do I do?”

Our general feeling surrounding this issue is that children need to show signs of readiness before we begin the stages of using the potty. Often a child will tell you that they are about to go, or after they have gone, they begin to hide when voiding, or they are dry at night. This shows they are beginning to have bladder/ bowel control. Every child gets to this place at different times. It is important to remember to make potty training exciting by reading books about potty training, talking about the potty, practicing sitting on the potty. Rewards can work wonders (such as giving a sticker for each time they go). If a child isn’t ready, it often becomes a source of anxiety and stress for the entire family and they do not gain the sense of accomplishment or mastery of an important new skill.

At the museum’s FoodWorks events, children are invited to sample colorful fruits and veggies they may not have tried before.

3) “I feel like my child only eats particular foods and I worry she isn’t getting all of the important vitamins and nutrients she needs. What should I do?”

As we all know, children can be extremely picky. Toddlers love to turn their noses up at the food we often want them to eat and those meals we slave over. It is important to remember to expose your child to a variety of foods beginning at a young age. Don’t assume your child may not like something … give it a chance. If your child does not like the food initially, they will begin to try if it is offered repeatedly. Children are more likely to resist if they are forced to do something. Try to be creative when making foods. Make smoothies with ingredients that they will not eat raw. Make fun snacks, etc. using cookie cutter shapes. In the process of making food, involve your children as they will be much more likely to try something they created.

- About Alison Leighton, Child Life Specialist, Wentworth Douglass Hospital:  As a child life specialist, I ease the stress and anxiety for families in the medical environment using the child’s method of communication, play to teach, learn and cope.

- About Seana Hallberg, Family Resource Coordinator for CHaD at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital:  As a Family Resource Coordinator, I am able to support families with the stressors of a child’s medical diagnosis and can assist families in finding socializing opportunities, educational and financial information and behavioral counseling. 

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Meet the CMNH Experience Guides: Sarah

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!

Sarah welcomes you to the Muse Studio!

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.

The Charm of the Highway StripThis 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.

Avast ye, matey!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.

Magic School BusAll Aboard the Magic School Bus!

Z:  Wow!

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 = Kiosk Voice!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 . . .

Z:  Yes?

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

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A few lessons learned

In May, three of our staff attended the annual Association of Children’s Museum conference.  All together, Justine Roberts, Executive Director, Paula Rais, Director of Community Engagement and Jane Bard, Education Director, presented in 5 conference sessions on topics ranging from museum business models, to how to create inclusive programming, to facilitating STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) activities with visitors.  It was wonderful to be able to lead discussions about topics that matter to us, and to talk with our colleagues about how they do things.  In addition, there were talks by John Seely Brown and Leila Gandini to inspire our thinking.

Among the many exciting and often provocative ideas we heard, those below have continued to resonate and are influencing our thinking:

We are a Children’s Museum for FAMILIES

At the conference, we heard from colleagues around the country that families are looking for rich experiences to have together, and adults want to be engaged with their kids not just watching them. We need to provide opportunities for adults to interact in the Museum, and find ways to support the adult role in the Museum experience.

This was great to hear.  We believe that the Museum experience is at its best when the entire visitor group interacts joyfully and creates a shared memory.  Research has shown the importance of adults in children’s learning, and also in the development of their interests.  Consumer studies show that adults who are bored opt out of repeating experiences.

And trend analysis has shown that adults want to enjoy their children – they made the choice to have them, and they are determined to appreciate the time they have together.  We have also heard from our own visitors and members that they want more family programming.

It isn’t too late

Another big conversation was around engaging children in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related studies.  Research shows that if a child isn’t interested in science by age 11, it is difficult for them to make a switch and become engaged.   What can we do to ignite interest in science for young children?

We run a program called Junior Science for 4-5 year olds.  As one participant’s mother said to us this past year:

Its like my daughter had all of these ideas about how the world works, but didn’t have the tools or vocabulary to describe it.  This class has given her those and it’s a huge ‘WOW’.”

Based on the success of that program, we are considering launching a second class for 5-7 year olds.

We also added lego robotics this year, and have been doing more to fuse science and art in the Thinkering Lab – where you can design and test cars and ball runs – and in the Studio where you can investigate structure, color, natural materials, light and more in artistic ways.

One area we believe the Museum can really participate in making science engaging is by showcasing its drama, and its surprisingly unexpected delightfulness.  We see science in the everyday world around us and one of our goals is to help capture that and make it visible to others.

Wide Walls and High Ceilings

Shifting demographics in this country will have an impact on our current and future audiences.  Studies have shown that 90% of museum-goers are Caucasian while ethnic populations in the United States continue to grow.  In addition, it turns out that museum-going is passed on within families; you are more likely to visit museums if you were taken to them as a child.

Since Children’s Museums are not as common in the rest of the world as they are in the United States, we need to work additionally hard to be visible to, and accessible to immigrant and first generation audiences who may not be familiar with what we do.  One way we do this is through the schools, but increasingly we are looking for opportunities to kids who come with their class to return with their families as ambassadors to the Museum.

Cultural diversity is not the only emerging demographic shift of significance for museums.  The adult/senior population is growing and 60% of seniors participate in childcare of their extended families.  This raises important questions about how we can target this group more and provide more amenities for them.

We don’t have the answers but we do have a lot of questions! One is what are their needs and interests?  Another is how can we engage seniors more in playing with their children in the exhibits? – put adult size costumes/props w/ the green screen?  Ask them to recall favorite ways to play when they were young? Promote photographing the kids playing/learning by putting more photos on our website and/or in house bulletin boards (People stop all the time to look at the staff/volunteer bulletin board in the hallway!)

Getting it Right: inclusive and accessible programming

In the areas of inclusion and accessibility we already operate on a foundation that places the child’s learning process and creativity as central.  This is important for all children- those with special needs certainly, but also for typically developing children.  All children have different skills, strengths and interests.  Our expertise is in designing environments which are layered for learning over time, and which are scalable in complexity as visitors gain mastery.

But really being inclusive and accessible goes further than this.  A theme among keynote speakers at Interactivity was how learning is about imagining and tinkering so you can figure things out – this is great to hear because this is what museums are good at!

“Arc of life learning honors child + adult”          - J. Seely Brown

Adults should be more attentive to a child’s cognitive process than the results they achieve.” – Loris Malaguzzi, founder of Reggio

CMNH does a great job with this, but how can we help parents and teachers engage more and notice the learning taking place for children in their care? can we ask questions (through signage, or experience guides) that encourage observation? Point out the kinds of milestones they might witness (esp. in Primary Place) that could go unnoticed? De-emphasize “craft projects/products” and highlight creative process and how to continue this at home?

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