At The Intersection of Music and Art, Collections and Education

IMG00817-20150523-1516-1Boston Children’s Museum has an art gallery on the second floor, which is sometimes overlooked as children run from Arthur’s World to Johnny’s Workbench. Exhibits rotate every two months, with work from local, contemporary artists. A recent exhibit was Floor van de Velde’s A Curious Symphony and it featured a wide variety of musical instruments from the Museum’s collections, arranged to show off instruments from around the world. Music played overhead and in phone booths so visitors could hear a range of music from different countries, cultures, and eras. On one of the last Saturdays of the exhibit’s run, I held guitar-making workshops for nineteen visitors and their grown-ups.

Since the fall, I have planned workshops for each new Gallery exhibit, hoping to help children explore the art in new ways and obtain new tools for encountering and interpreting art. Past workshops included learning how to “Move Like a Monster” for Monster Party and designing a boat for dreams for The Star Travelers’ Dreams. This A Curious Symphony exhibit challenged me. Initially, the instrument-making workshops I eventually settled on seemed too obvious. But sometimes the most obvious ideas are the best ones. Continue reading

It Looks So Easy

May 1They make it look so easy. The NBA player going up for a lay-up. The jazz pianist improvising on stage. The cook who whips up a delicious soup in minutes. Experts make difficult tasks seem effortless. Maybe even so effortless that you are lulled into thinking – I could do that. And maybe you could, but only with years of practice. Good teachers in classrooms and informal educational settings like museums do it too. They make it look easy. But it’s not. A quick look around Boston Children’s Museum offers some examples.

Start with the Visitor Experience Associate who greets you. While he smiles and answers your question about how to use the lockers, his eyes are searching 360 degrees as groups of people pass by in multiple directions. He notes the toddler wandering into the bubbles exhibit by himself, ready to step in if no adult appears soon. He remains calm and sympathetic listening to a parent complain about traffic in downtown Boston, and gives a high five to a frequent visitor leaving for the day. And that’s just the first few minutes of his shift. Continue reading

Look Closer

Benjamin, Cranston, RI, Age 9 bruiserdog77@gmail.com Macro April 21 2015-033Working with our collections I was recently tasked with choosing objects to be highlighted in Boston Children’s Museum’s Macro Photography program. Macro Photography is an art form which can turn even the most mundane leaf or twig, which we might otherwise destroy without even noticing, into a treasure just by looking closer at it. With the hustle and bustle of spring in Boston, I cannot remember when I last stopped and looked at something simply to study it.  As I took the time to select objects for this program, I wondered which of them kids would be drawn to. I chose a brightly colored quail, whose feathers were filled with patterns and shapes. I chose crystals with many facets and ornate metal-work from Syria, thinking that kids would be excited by the artifacts’ intricacies. With the stage laid, objects picked, and camera ready I was still surprised by the depth and thoughtfulness of the first photographer. Continue reading

Let’s Play in the Mud!

Mud 1

International Mud Day is on June 29 (really!) and we at Boston Children’s Museum will be celebrating on Saturday June 27 from 11:00-3:00. We’ll be looking at different types of dirt under microscopes, playing with “clean mud,”  and exploring objects made from clay. But the highlight of the day will be the giant bowl of mud in our front yard, under the tent.  And I hear you asking, “Why on earth would I want to let my kids play in a giant bowl of mud??”  To which I say, there are lots of reasons!

Kids, especially young kids, need to activate all their senses to help their brains develop.  Mud-play is a highly tactile, sensory experience that actually helps to build the brain!  This kind of tactile play is a great opportunity to develop science skills too; kids will notice cause-and-effect, advance their “what if” experimenting skills, explore the properties of matter, and lots more.  Mud is also a great equalizer; anyone can play with it, at any age and any ability. Continue reading

Talking With Children About Tragic Events

talking about tragic eventsTragic and senseless events such as the one in Charleston, South Carolina can make us feel vulnerable and helpless. For those who have children or who work with children, the emotional reactions can be even greater, especially when children are involved in the event. Even if only viewing such events from a distance, children want to understand what happened and why. What’s the responsibility of an adult to help children understand events like this?

Everyone, both children and adults, responds to tragic events differently. Some people are more affected than others. Some people show emotional responses while others may be more reserved about expressing their feelings. People cope differently, and it’s important to act accordingly based on how your family processes difficult situations. Here are some tips that may be helpful when you are thinking about ways to explain tragic events to your child. Continue reading

Fix-It Fest

Fix 1On Sunday, May 3 Boston Children’s Museum held our first Fix-It Fest, a one-day extravaganza devoted to construction, fixing, and creating. Inspired by Broken? Fix-It, a traveling exhibit from Long Island Children’s Museum, Fix-It Fest was the brainchild of educator Cora Carey. I sat down with Cora to learn more about this exciting event. She talks 21st Century Skills, the “magic” of making, and the challenge of overcoming the prevalent “disposable goods” mentality. And make sure you check out the Glue Recipe at the end of the interview!

 

What is Fix-It Fest? Continue reading

Wheelock College Student Observations: Follow Me!

Climber 5This post is the last in our series of articles by Wheelock College students documenting their observations of the many different kinds of learning and adult-child interactions taking place at Boston Children’s Museum every day.  This post was written by Wheelock Student Researchers Meghan McWeeney, Katherine Finegan, Emma Petner and Paige Dillon.

Children loved leading us up and down the Museum’s Climber. Through these journeys, we discovered answers to the following questions through observation, note-taking, picture, and video:

 

1) What does the interaction between children and caregivers look like?

2) How do children find their way to the top and back down The Climber?

 

Climber 1In order to get a closer look at how children moved up and down The Climber, we sent one of our researchers, Emma, to gain a better understanding of how Josh, age 5 made his way through.

Climber 2Right from the start, Josh was eager to show researcher Emma how he found his way to the top. Continue reading

Wheelock Student Observations at Boston Children’s Museum: The Wheels are Spinning

Peep 1This post is part of our series of articles by Wheelock College students documenting their observations of the many different kinds of learning and adult-child interactions taking place at Boston Children’s Museum every day.  This post was written by Wheelock Student Researchers Samantha Marrocchio, Tatiana Medina-Barreto, Gaby Boivin and Mallory Johnson.

Our observations took place in the Peep’s World exhibit at Boston Children’s Museum. We were seeking to investigate questions we had regarding child development and play, including:

  • How do children in different stages of development use modeling as a technique when playing?
  • How do boys and girls play differently when playing?
  • How does parent/adult involvement affect children’s play?

Continue reading

Wheelock Student Observations at Boston Children’s Museum: Interactions in PlaySpace

PS 4This post is part of our series of articles by Wheelock College students documenting their observations of the many different kinds of learning and adult-child interactions taking place at Boston Children’s Museum every day.  This post was written by Wheelock Student Researchers Ashley Domaldo, Amanda Kalander, Braelan Martin, and Katlyn-Rose D’Errico.

As student researchers from Wheelock College, we observed children playing in PlaySpace. PlaySpace is an exhibit specifically designed for children three and younger. During our observation, we focused on two main questions:

  • How do caregivers and children interact in the space?
  • How do children play with other children?

Continue reading

Wheelock Student Observations at Boston Children’s Museum: Random vs Structured Play

rw01This post is part of our series of articles by Wheelock College students documenting their observations of the many different kinds of learning and adult-child interactions taking place at Boston Children’s Museum every day.  This post was written by Wheelock Student Researchers Priyanka Deb, Julia Kelsey, Shannon Hennessy, and Liz Randall.

We were able to observe and interact with many children and families who visited the Raceways exhibit at Boston Children’s Museum. Here we documented how children interacted with both the materials and people in the exhibit. This gave us a better understanding of how children play in this particular social setting. The questions we considered during our visits were:

  • What is the difference between the first time visitor and the frequent visitor?
  • Some children play randomly with the balls and tracks. Some children plan their play. What is the difference and how do they play differently?

Continue reading