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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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 HospitalSeana 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.
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
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:
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?
Welcome to a new series on our blog that helps YOU – our readers & visitors – get to know our Museum Experience Guides!
Erika can be found at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire most weekdays and is always ready to greet families with a smile! You might recognize Erika even if you’ve never been to CMNH! How’s that? Well . . . maybe we should let Erika explain:
Zach: Erika, how long have you worked at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire?
Erika: Just over a year and a half.
Z: When you first came to CMNH, you were . . .
E: . . . an intern! Yes. I interned here for a short while and then . . .
Z: . . . and then you became an employee?
E: Yes! Then I became an Experience Guide at CMNH!
Z: Tell me – why CMNH?
E: I love museums. ALL museums! I live here in Dover and I love working with children and families. I found out about CMNH and I really wanted to become a part of such a wonderful place.
Z: I must mention this because I’m not sure how many in the museum field can claim this, but you don’t just work at one museum. You don’t just work at two museums. You actually work at three different museums! That must be quite a whirlwind!
E: It certainly can be. I’m constantly going from museum to museum. I work the majority of my time here at CMNH, but I also work at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye and the SEE Science Center in Manchester as well.
Z: My goodness! That’s a lot of work! Do visitors ever get confused when they see you at more than one museum?
E: That’s actually happened a few times. I’ll be at CMNH all day on a Friday and then at the SEE Science Center on a Saturday and visitor’s will look and me and then do a double take and seem confused until it dawns on them where else they’ve seen me.
Z: Now, sadly, after more than a year and a half with us at CMNH, you’ll be leaving us later this summer. You’ll be attending George Washington University.
E: Yes, I will. I’m extremely excited.
Z: This will be to obtain your Master’s Degree. What will your degree be in?
E: Museum Education.
Z: Museum Education?! I would think that you would already have plenty of museum education working for so many museums!
E: (laughing) You would think!
Z: But one can always learn more!
E: Exactly! And I certainly plan to!
Z: Erika, you grew up here in New Hampshire, correct?The Annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene, NH
E: I did, yes. I grew up in Keene, NH.
Z: Did you visit museums as a child?
E: I did. There was a small Children’s Museum in Keene that’s no longer there. We used to visit that museum A LOT. I loved it.
Z: Did you visit other museums?
E: Oh, yes. We would visit both the Museum of Science and the Boston Children’s Museum in Massachusetts. We’d also visit the Seacoast Science Center in Rye.
Z: Did you ever visit this museum when we were located in Portsmouth?The Children’s Museum of Portsmouth, 1983-2008
E: I did, but I was so little that I don’t have very clear memories of the experience.
Z: That’s ok. We won’t hold it against you. Erika – tell us – what’s your favorite museum outside of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire?
E: My favorite museum is actually an aquarium. I consider aquariums a type of museum . . .
Z: (faux-sternly) Hmmmm . . . we’ll allow it. Proceed.
E: The aquarium is L’Oceanografic in Valencia, Spain. It acts as a science museum as well, so you can definitely allow it. (laughs)
Z: So why were you so taken with L’Oceanografic?
E: For several reasons. Apart from the exhibits, one thing I was immediately taken with was the entire set-up of L’Oceanografic. It’s the biggest aquarium in all of Europe and it’s made up of about a dozen zones with each one devoted to a different body or water or type of aquatic ecosystem. One building might showcase the Mediterranean Sea while another building is devoted to the Arctic. There are also underwater walking tunnels and sections of the facility that contained small bubbles that the visitor could stick their head into and suddenly be surrounded by fish on all sides. You felt like you were in the water with the fish. It’s an amazing sensation.L’Oceanografic Underwater Tunnel
Z: Wow! I really want to visit L’Oceanografic now.
E: And I haven’t even told you about the glow-in-the-dark octopuses yet!
Z: Oh, man. Something tells me CMNH doesn’t have room for glow-in-the-dark octopuses. Erika, could you share with us what your favorite CMNH exhibit is? And why?
E: My favorite exhibit, no question, is Dino Detective. I love – LOVE – anything to do with dinosaurs! I also love that exhibit because it’s one of the easiest exhibits to get down to our young visitor’s level and interact and explore with them while they learn about and dig for dinosaurs. I also enjoy teaching visitors about fossils and evolution.
Z: Well, Erika, we hope that you’ll still come back in the future and visit CMNH after you’ve moved to Washington D.C. and check in with the visitors and staff!
E: Of course! I’ll always love CMNH!Essential Information about Experience Guide Erika Favorite Color: Blue Favorite Animal: (Tie) Three-Toed Sloth / Hedgehog Favorite Movie: Cinderella Favorite Type of Music: A cappella
Growing your own fruits and vegetables means that you know exactly what goes into your food and exactly where it comes from. This offers peace of mind to families who are concerned about feeding pesticides and genetically modified foods to their children. Not only that, having a home garden promotes good nutrition and gives families an activity that they can take part in and enjoy together.
Families are also motivated to grow their own food to stretch their food budgets. According to the US Department of Agriculture, for every $1 spent on seeds and fertilizer, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce! That can be a significant saving for families and a great rationale for getting started.
Wanting to inspire as many growers as possible, we’ve constructed our own fruit and vegetable gardens along the river behind the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. We are partnering with Master Gardener Leslie Stevens to offer a FREE six-part series covering everything from seed starting and building your own raised beds, to composting and maintaining your own home gardens. Three raised beds will produce food for our visitors to help monitor, maintain, and watch flourish, all while learning the ins and outs of gardening.
The children who participated in our most recent session enthusiastically planted snap peas and potatoes. During the next session, we will be adding tomatoes and strawberries to our outdoor beds. Future sessions will cover helping plants grow and how to harvest fresh produce when it is ripe.
Families are invited to stop by the Museum’s front desk and find out how to can join our Growing Gardeners Club at any time this summer. We hope families will be inspired to see what can blossom in their own home garden.
We go through a lot of baking soda and vinegar in my house. We’re not cooking with it. We’re not cleaning with it. We’re mixing “potions” with it, erupting volcanoes, mixing it with food coloring and painting with it. Splashing salt on top to see what happens. Raiding the recycling bin and building courses for the bubbly liquid to travel down. (I highly recommend building such courses in a bathtub or on an outside deck!)
Although I’ve been an educator both in schools and the Museum for nearly 20 years, I’ve received some great insights into the way kids learn about the world observing my own kids try to figure out “what happens if” and “how does this work.”The author's son in a previous winter when snow was abundant!
This past weekend, my 9-year-old son was lamenting the pitiful ½ inch of snow on the small hill he likes to sled on in the yard. “That’s a problem,” I said. “Can you think of a solution?” After trying to relocate snow from other parts of the yard to no avail, he asked for a bucket. His solution: to pour bucket-loads of water down a path on the hill. How long will this take to freeze? How many layers of ice do I need to put on the hill to make it thick enough to hold the weight of me and my sled without cracking? Does the water freeze faster if I put cold water in my bucket?
My son was playing, getting messy and having fun, but most of all he was determined to have a place to sled by the end of the day (which was how long it took for the multiple layers of ice to freeze). Did he realize that he was conducting experiments? Forming hypotheses? Using scientific reasoning? No, but that’s okay.
Here at the Museum, we may not have the icy hill in the backyard, but we know we’ve done our job when we observe kids (and adults) engaged in asking questions, experimenting, or creating something new together. Are you looking for some “what-happens-if” fun during the cold winter months? We’d love to have you visit and experiment with us.
And check out these websites for some science inspiration you can try at home – recommended by Museum colleagues through the Association of Science and Technology Centers:
“The SciGirls website, http://pbskids.org/scigirls/, is awesome! It’s great for girls and boys.”
“www.edheads.com is a great website that has some really fun kid-friendly interactives with accompanying teacher guide (including virtual surgeries, crime scene investigations and nanoparticle development.”
“Carnegie Science Center has a website as part of our girls program at www.braincake.org.”
Activities for school, home or group projects on a variety of science topics: http://www.kids-science-experiments.com/