Category Archives: Health and Safety

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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Move, Move, Move!

As a partner of Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens the Illinois State Museum encourages families to engage in physical activity and make healthy choices through its exhibits, programs, and special events. For example, the Museum’s popular Halloween family event Where Are the Wild Things? transitioned from giving away traditional sugarcoated goodies several years ago to a Let’s Move-friendly mission of promoting “safe, healthy, and fun activities.” 

Last Friday evening I was excited to debut a Let’s Move designed activity during our first Kids’ Night Out event of the year. This evening program focused on caves and allowed kids aged 6-11 to discover cave formations, cave safety, and what life thrives in a cave environment. Needless to say, the kids (and myself!) learned a lot about caves! One element of the evening was the life-size board game I designed which highlighted the differences in cave zones (Entrance, Twilight, and Dark Zones), while calling on players to engage in a variety of phsycial activity. I set the game up in a dark classroom and gave each team a flashlight to shine on their cards while they explored the “cave.” I added simple decorations such as hanging bats from the ceiling, and the kids loved stumbling upon them! Sample activities included: 

Can you reach the ceiling of the cave? Stretch your arms up high for ten seconds and try! (Entrance Zone) 

You almost stepped on a snail! Careful – move forward two squares in slooooow motion. (Twilight Zone)  

Burrr! It’s cold. Stay warm by jumping up and down until your partner takes a turn. (Dark Zone) 

The kids loved the game – most teams wanted to repeat the activity three or four times. I was pleased to see every team participate. The combination of physical activity and flashlights (almost always an audience pleaser) was a hit. Before and after the game we had a casual group discussion about the different zones of the cave, and this served as a good reinforcer of the material. I awarded a simple prize for completing the activity, a temporary bat tattoo. 

As a museum visitor, have you ever noticed or participated in Let’s Move!-type exhibits or activity?

If you are a volunteer or staff member of a museum or garden, is your institution partnered with Let’s Move? Or does it strive to incorporate aspects of Let’s Move?  





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A Healthy Museum

Recently I was out of commission due to the flu and missed out on a few days at work. Thankfully our Education Section is a well-oiled machine, and the team was able to help cover my duties while I was away!

Working with the younger public, I see a lot of bodily fluids. During the winter, it’s sniffle season, and we work to keep a box of tissues available in our discovery room and hand sanitizer at the door. The sanitizer is a hit with kids, the novelty of the size and shape of the dispenser perhaps helps its popularity. One of my goals in visiting museums and historic sites is to keep in mind the different sanitary techniques and tools available for visitors in both restrooms and public spaces such as galleries.

Have you seen any other type of sanitary measures taken in museums?

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