This blog post was written by Health and Wellness intern, Deanna Gouvia. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.
Every year at Boston Children’s Museum, the Health and Wellness intern puts together a special community project called Message in a Milk Bottle. This year, I had the opportunity to design, coordinate, and facilitate the activity with visitors at Boston Children’s Museum as well as children and adults at Boston College Campus School, Franciscan Children’s, and Shriners Hospital for Children. I titled my activity “Building Community Connections” to emphasize the idea that we all have people who are important to us and whether we live near or far, or cannot always be together, we are still connected as one community and we can work together to create a collaborative piece of art.
The goals of this activity were to promote community engagement throughout local organizations, to encourage social and emotional development by thinking about social relationships and the importance of those people, and to enhance interactions between people of different ages, gender, cultures, abilities, and locations.
During March and April, I visited Shriners Hospital for Children and Franciscan Children’s to facilitate the activity. Materials were provided for Boston College Campus School staff to do the activity in their different classrooms. Each participant was asked to think of one or more people who were important to them and create a piece of art that represented those important people using a variety of craft materials that were accessible to people with different interests and abilities. The activity was then duplicated at Boston Children’s Museum during April’s Morningstar Access program and again during regular operating hours on April 22nd.
During the creation process some wonderful conversations and illustrations about community and important people took place. At Shriners, one child decorated a person as her favorite nurse who helped her throughout her medical experiences starting when she first went to Shriners. Another child at Boston Children’s Museum commented that her father was her important person because he “tucked her in and [they] did fun things together and [he] loved her”. At Franciscan, a family group of a mother, a teenage boy, and a toddler girl worked together to create their own family piece to contribute. At the Campus School, each classroom completed the activity to contribute their pieces to the overall display, which created a sense of community at the school.
There were people of different ages, abilities, and languages working together which really illustrated the idea of community connectedness despite differences. At the Museum I was very encouraged to see a great deal of inter-visitor interactions. Children and adults alike, were conversing about their important people, working together to find desired materials, and complimenting and commenting on each other’s art. I was also happy with the number of adults who participated, making their own important people, connecting their art with their children, and encouraging conversations about community and how we are all connected.
The art gathered from the local organizations as well as from the Museum were collected and installed on display in The Common at Boston Children’s Museum on April 22nd. Despite the distance between the children and adults in the hospitals and Campus School, and the visitors at Boston Children’s Museum, they were each able to contribute a piece of art that was important to them, to a greater collaborative piece of art that signified community, near or far, as represented by the people centering around the Earth. The display will remain until I complete my internship on May 4th.
Being responsible for this project from start to finish allowed me as an intern to develop skills I otherwise would not have. I had the opportunity to take on a strong leadership role as I coordinated with staff members at other organizations and facilitated the activity in the various settings. By completing this project I have also learned how much work, effort, time, and collaboration goes into putting together an activity of this scale. It is certainly an experience I am very proud to have had and one that will continue to influence my work as I continue on in the field of child life.