Category Archives: Family Programs

Science Snapshot: Observing

A few weeks ago I facilitated an early-education program for our museum visitors 6 and under. A parent in the audience snapped this great shot of our small group adding ingredients in our experiment and observing the results. The theme that week was…TOOTHPASTE. We discussed teeth, dental hygiene, and Elephant Toothpaste. The last is connected only in name, but a terrific experiment for all ages. A quick Google search, and you’ll stumble over multiple scientists, entertainers, and communicators demonstrating this awesome chemical reaction. The kids (and parents) at the program really seemed to enjoy it. At the end we clarified…elephants should definitely not brush their teeth with this “toothpaste.”

A year ago, conducting such an experiment with visitors would have made me pause and likely get nervous and unsure. Now, thanks to a busy spring rush, with lots of school groups and public programming, I really enjoy it! Working with STEM subjects at the museum has really expanded my comfort zone with educational content and artifact interpretation. While I certainly don’t know everything, I feel comfortable researching and exploring themes and concepts and then experimenting! In this photo, you may also notice an animal skull or two…We used these to talk once again about the different types of teeth animals have – and what they may be used for (or on). I’m always excited when we can focus on object-based learning in programming, as it combines two of my professional interests – artifact interpretation and audience engagement/education!

Looking ahead, we’re about to kick off week four of our summer camps. The theme? Amusement Park Engineers! What have you been up to this summer? Traveling? Taking in a museum or two?

Young visitors observe as we add ingredients to our experiment.

Young visitors observe as we add ingredients to our experiment.

World Autism Awareness Day – April 2

Autism Awareness Day!

Autism Awareness Day!

Ignore the glossy-eyed look – it’s 7:30 AM and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Traffic was minimal, and I got to work too early – enough time to quickly share a post!

Today is Autism Awareness Day, and one of our new staff members crafted some homemade Autism Awareness Day pins. Our staff is excited to help spread awareness, and this highlights not only a positive and supportive community, but also an openness to new ideas and program research!

Several staff show support for Autism Awareness Day.

Several staff show support for Autism Awareness Day. Photo: Courtesy of our awesome Marketing/PR guru

We recently started to investigate low-sensory programming, inspired by The Children’s Museum of Houston. The CMH works to reduce light, sound, and high number of crowds on low-sensory days, and offers specific recommendations for other times of year – i.e. in the afternoons during the school year, or early in the mornings during the summer, when crowds are smaller. This parallels our busy times with school groups here at the museum, specially during this busy spring season and post-testing season. The CMH also offers ear-defenders, to help cancel out noise which may be overwhelming. The website makes a special note on these low-sensory days, and highlights that no music is played. Additionally, it should be noted, the CMH is closed to the public on these specific days.

Does your museum or institution offer low-sensory programming?

What have you found which works – or doesn’t?

As we continue to explore offerings to make all our visitors feel welcome and engaged, I am curious about your experiences! At this stage in program research, we are exploring programs and opportunities at other museums – especially other children’s museums and science centers – and seeking professional insight and experiences. While museums definitely encourage bustling galleries with excited and engaged visitors, this does not always create a positive visitor experience – especially for visitors with heightened senses and needs.

Side note: As you can tell in this early morning shot, my gaze is directed toward my snazzy Brain Scoop poster, which, while decorative, also raises a lot of questions from other staff members unfamiliar with this terrific YouTube program, now hosted out of The Field Museum by their Chief Curiosity Correspondent.

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Science Snapshot: Celebrating Sixth Grade Students in STEM

Science Snapshot: Discovering Excellence in Arkansas

Arkansas Governor Beebe and the Museum of Discovery celebrated nearly 100 sixth grade students, their families, and teachers at a recent event, Discovery Excellence in Arkansas. Students represented schools from across the state. It was a busy evening – but a fantastic one!

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Science Snapshot: Artifact Experiences

Recently I proposed, planned, and implemented a new visitor experience program at the museum, “Artifact Experiences.” In an effort to interpret our collection (of +1,500 objects!), “Artifact Experiences” seeks to curate temporary, facilitated displays of artifacts from the museum’s collection that connect with a temporary exhibition, special event, or program. Since becoming a more hands-on science center, the museum’s collection is largely otherwise uninterpreted to the public. Combining my museum collections and education background, this program seeks to safely and carefully interpret the collection as appropriate. I created temporary object labels to specifically connect with the new exhibit, Tech City. I also placed the objects on muslin cloth during their temporary display. 

At all times carefully facilitated by museum staff, interested visitors had the opportunity to don gloves for a careful hands-on exploration. I also provided mini-magnifying glasses for curious eyes to get a closer inspection. The display offered visitors an entirely new opportunity to connect with the museum’s collection and mission, and I had a lot of great questions and enthusiasm from visitors. 

This Friday, February 7th I kicked off the new program with a small display connecting to the new exhibtion in our WOW Gallery, Tech City. Focused on themes of industrialization, manufacturing, and communication (all key elements to a modern city, eh?), the temporary display highlighted a small sample of our truly awesome collection. 

Curated pieces included: 

  • An Automatic Fire Alarm Repeater (c.1899) 

  • Hallicrafters Model 505 Television (1948) 

  • Wooden Planer (c. 1850) 

  • Dalton Adding Machine (1912) 

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    An Artifact Experience

     

    Any suggestions for this program as it continues to grow and evolve? I’m eager to continue to safely highlight our collection while continuing best practices. 

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Twister, anyone?

My sister is visiting from Chicago, so it has given me the chance play tourist with an actual tourist to the area. We’ve been able to visit serval fun stops in the last few days, including art galleries, historic sites, and probably too many restaurants. One of the places we’ve explored is the Historic Arkansas Museum. Part of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the mission of the Historic Arkansas Museum (or H.A.M.) is to “communicate the early history of Arkansas and its creative legacy through preserving, interpreting, and presenting stories and collections for the education and enjoyment of the people we serve.”  

While at H.A.M. we enjoyed several of their permanent and temporary galleries, an orientation video, a tour of several historic homes, and the museum store. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, I was really impressed with my visit, and I can’t wait to return as a visitor – or perhaps a volunteer, if they’ll have me!

I wanted to take  a quick moment and highlight an awesome interactive we enjoyed at the Historic Arkansas Museum in a hands-on children’s gallery. 

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Arkansas Twister

I love this interactive.

It’s quickly identifiable to the popular game Twister, requires limited instruction, educational (left foot in Texarkana!), and definitely combats any museum fatigue. (There is seating nearby for caregivers or family members to watch players from a safe distance.) Throughout the rest of the galleries there are several hands-on opportunities – many digital and computer based, but something about this “Arkansas Twister” stood out to me. From an exhibits stance, the construction and fabrication of this seems fairly basic – as does the upkeep. From an educational perspective, the color, left v. right coordination, and map are all awesome aspects that are neatly included. Looking at this interactive further, I wondered about year of the map (my Arkansas state history is a bit rough…), but was very impressed about all these connections. And, it was 100% on mission.

What do you think? Are there any children’s exhibits that have stood out to you? Any that I should check out?  

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Ready for a collection close-up?

ImageThis is a close-up of an animal sculpture. Can you guess the animal?

Made out of fabricated and chromed steel, I’ll be highlighting this piece from our art collection at an upcoming family program. What do you think it is?

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Happy Earth Day!

To help celebrate Earth Day, the ISM celebrated with a Recycled Play Day! Visitors of all ages helped construct a giant playhouse out of repurposed cardboard boxes and other recyclable materials. It was a lot of fun! To fasten boxes, we utilized a product called Makedo – this was a very easy, kid-friendly product that allowed all visitors a chance to “saw,” fasten, and construct a variety of materials together. The Makedo kit also included a fold out poster that inspired all sorts of creations…

The finished house featured several detailed features including window boxes for flowers, turrets, and a swimming pool.  

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Are you (or your institution) doing anything to celebrate Earth Day?

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Escape from Storage!

Escape from Storage!

Normally housed at our Research & Collections Center, this barn owl made his way downtown for a special family program next week. We used archival boxes to transport the specimens, and I may have gotten a few odd looks from other drivers on my way across town. I’m very excited to have the collection items for the event!

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Bats, Birds, & Biodiversity!

A  couple of weeks ago I was excited to assist in the planning and implementation of an annual middle school science workshop. This specific workshop focused on the importance of biodiversity in urban environments. The program featured a guest naturalist, and then middle school students were able to build a bird or a bat house to take home. It was great fun – we all learned a lot! 

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No students or staff were harmed during construction! Here I am helping a very capable student build a bat house. It was a lot of fun!

 

 

 

 

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Connecting with Collections

This week I’ve been working with our wonderful curators to incorporate animal specimens from the Museum’s research collection in an upcoming program. The program will focus on endangered wildlife from Illinois. The event’s objective is not only to educate visitors about the range of plants and animals in danger, but also highlight what people can do to help. Museum visitors will also get a chance to see collections rarely on display! 

A range of animal specimens will be on display, including snakes, turtles, and birds from the area. Some of the specimens will be real, preserved examples of the species while others will be realistic models.

Here is a sneak preview of what will be featured at the program: 

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Several examples of snake models.
Included is Kirtland’s Snake – can you spot it?

Because of the condition of the models and the specimens, visitors will not be able to touch the examples, but will have the opportunity to closely observe the examples during a drawing activity. The event will feature other hands-on crafts and activities.

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