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

Getting To Know You

Image 1Many of you are probably familiar with our Visitor Experience Associates (VEAs, for short) here at Boston Children’s Museum.  These are the green-shirted floor staff you encounter at admissions, the information desk, and in many exhibits throughout the Museum. They are, without a doubt, the face of the Museum.  Many of them are students so there is a natural ebb and flow to their time at Boston Children’s Museum—many only work for the school year or just for the summer. As a result, we have certain times of the year that we are busy hiring and training new staff.

I have been the Science Educator here for 14 years and in that time I have trained many, many floor staff (who, over my time here have been called Program Assistants, Program Interpreters, Exhibit Interpreters and Visitor Experience Associates). I have my training spiel down to…well….a science, after all this time.  But that does not mean it is boring for me. Not at all.  Because even though I present the same information each time, the diversity of our staff means it is always a different experience for me. Continue reading

Welcome Critters!

Kids and Pets 1On the third Saturday of each month, Boston Children’s Museum celebrates “Critter Day” when we have special live animal presentations delivered by local organizations.  Most of these presenters bring wild or exotic animals – we’ve been visited by a variety of creatures over the years, including snakes, owls, bats, alligators, armadillos, tarantulas, ferrets and lots more.  But Critter Day is also an opportunity to meet more familiar animals, including ones you may be considering bringing into your home. Continue reading

Tradition!

momfruitplateThe holidays are coming and with them, the assorted joys, stresses and traditions of being with family. Some traditions come from your religion or nationality, and some are specific to your family. They may have been around for generations, or they may be something new. And, in some cases, they may be completely unintentional.

When I was growing up, we spent most holidays at the home of my grandparents, my Nana and Bumpa. My aunts, uncles and cousins lived nearby so it was always a noisy gathering, full of lots of teasing, laughter and love. And of course, lots of food. Many holiday traditions revolved around the dinner table, and my family is no exception. I remember that at Passover, my grandfather got his own bowl of horseradish because the regular stuff wasn’t hot enough for him. He’d have a spoonful out of his special dish and his face would turn red and there would be tears streaming down his face as he gruffly declared that it still wasn’t right. At the end of the Seder, he would roll his eyes and grumble when my aunt burst into singing Daeyenu, a traditional Passover song. Continue reading

For the Birds

file4771307375681If you are a regular follower of the Museum’s Facebook page, you’ve probably seen the photographs of the seagulls that live on our roof.  I watch the gulls and take the pictures; I like them, and I suspect a lot of people think I’m mildly crazy. They’re seagulls. Gross.  They poop on everything.

The gulls are fascinating to me. They mate for life and come back to the same spot year after year. , which is not the case for many animals. This is the fourth year we’ve had our pair living on the roof, and we’ve watched them raise many chicks during that time. They are very protective of their nesting area. Gulls can be highly territorial and definitely have….well, a pecking order. An older gull will chase a younger one off of a good spot, or steal food from it.  There are also different species of gulls. In our front yard we have Herring Gulls and Ring-Billed Gulls. We used to have Greater Black Backs, but they disappeared and the Ring-Bills moved in. I wonder why that happened. Continue reading

The Tao of Turtles

under turtlesEveryone seems to like turtles. I don’t know what it is about them, but I often find myself smiling when I watch them, even if they’re not doing anything particularly interesting.

The turtle tank, which is on the first floor of the Museum,  is made from two “bubble” style skylight windows, attached together to make a large egg shape. And because they are windows, they are clear, which means you can watch the turtles from underneath as well as from above. There’s a mat under the tank, making turtle watching a pretty comfortable activity. It can also be a pretty magical place to be. Continue reading

Fear Not Science!

IMG_6496Raise your hand if you don’t like science, or think you’re not very good at it, or think it’s really hard or that you have to be incredibly smart to do it.  Or anything else that might be called a less-than-positive opinion of science.  OK, put your hands down.

Science gets a bad rap.  This is mainly due to the way it is taught in school; many of you probably think back to your science classes and remember memorizing a whole bunch of formulae and vocabulary.  But that’s not science. It’s not fun either. If you look up “science” in the dictionary, it says something like “knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.”  The italics are mine. We gain knowledge by asking questions and then looking at and messing around with the things around us. Sound like anyone you know? Someone under the age of 5, perhaps? Continue reading

Failure Is Always an Option

Raceways KidsHere at the Museum, I regularly teach a program called “Balls and Tracks” for school groups.  The kids are given some simple materials and are challenged to design “the coolest roller coaster possible” with them.   After giving the class the details, I turn to the chaperones to give them their instructions:

“Your job today is to help rip tape, referee infighting, and hang on to the marbles until the kids are ready to test their track.  You are not the engineers; they are right here in front of me. So I don’t want to see any adults fixing things or saying things like “just make this part steeper!”  Are we clear?” (The kids think this is hilarious. They’re in charge!)

Most of the time they will laugh and say “Oh don’t worry! I’m terrible at this sort of thing!”  Inevitably, I find myself tapping adults on the shoulder and shaking my head at them.  “But I was just…!”  Nope. Hands off.  Those are the rules.

As adults, of course we want the kids in our lives to be successful.  But part of being successful in life is learning how to get things wrong, how to mess up, how to fail…and to move on.   Continue reading

Respect is Not the Same as Fear

snakeKids love animals.  Even at a very young age, kids are attracted to them—they learn the names and sounds of animals before they learn other, more practical words and phrases. Why the fascination? Unlike toys, animals move without anyone pulling or pushing them, they move around in unpredictable ways, they make unexpected and unusual noises and they are just enough like us to be intriguing. Most of the animals that kids are likely to come across have some of our same characteristics: they eat, they poop, they have eyes, a nose, feet. Continue reading