Behind the Scenes at the Museum: Critter Care

critter-careHi there!  We’re doing Critter Care right now.  Meet Marina, one of our Visitor Experience Associates.  She’s cutting up food for our critters.  Boston Children’s Museum has four live animals:  Watson, our bearded dragon lizard; Oliver our ball python; and we have two new spotted turtles who we haven’t named yet.   Every day a Museum staff person is assigned to “Critter Care”.  No experience is required to sign up for Critter Care, just a willingness to deal with the messes that animals can make. Critter Care team members seem to think that the benefits and enjoyment of working with the animals outweighs the little bit of unpleasantness.

Caring for the critters gets them used to humans as we handle them which is important because we like to take them out of their homes occasionally to have them meet our visitors during “Creature Features”.  Some Critter Care staff are also trained in “Creature Features”, where they learn proper handling and how to talk to visitors about the animals.

Staff members on the Critter Care team generally really enjoy getting to know the animals and develop a real fondness for them.  They learn a lot about these individual animals, as well as the species in general.  Watson is a staff favorite.  He’s extremely social and often can be found at our staff Morning Meeting.  He likes to latch on to the front of your shirt and hang there, head cocked to the side listening. Sometimes we let him skitter along the floor. His claws slip a bit on the tiles, but he is undeterred – so much freedom!

The next time you’re at the Museum come visit our live animals on the first floor in Investigate, between Bubbles and Raceways.

Behind the Scenes of Happy Noon Year

hny4Every year, Boston Children’s Museum celebrates the New Year with a special event called Happy NOON Year. For many of our visitors, it is challenging to stay up and ring in the New Year. To help be inclusive in this celebration, we invite families to celebrate with us and count down to the noon hour on December 31st. One of the traditions of this event is to drop a Museum staff-made ball during the countdown. My colleague Steve and I agreed to take charge of its creation this year, and our mission was to make the best, greatest Happy Noon Year ball ever with our master plan of decorating a 4-foot tall clear beach ball! Continue reading

Eleanor’s Adventures in Wonderland

Two summers ago, I went “down the rabbit hole” of dollhouse furniture in the Museum’s collection (https://bostonchildrensmuseum.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/down-the-rabbit-hole/) With hundreds of pieces of previously uncatalogued dollhouse furnishings, one of my interns finally picked up where I left off. Read more about her adventures in here with Boston Children’s Museum collections…

IMG_7593My seven year old self would be extremely jealous of the position I’m currently in. For the past few months I’ve been helping digitize records of Boston Children’s Museum’s dollhouse furniture collection as the Growdon Collections Intern. Growing up an avid doll-lover, memories of playing with my own dollhouse are some of my strongest; and one of my favorite places to go – and drag my unwilling family to – was an independent doll and dollhouse store. Getting the chance to dive headfirst into the endless drawers of miniatures at Boston Children’s Museum is literally my childhood dream!

It’s my last day as Growdon Intern and as I look back fondly on my time here, I’m astounded at how much I’ve learned. It’s hard to appreciate the work the Collections team does when visiting Boston Children’s Museum for a short time, with 24 window displays, and special programs only showing a small percentage of the range of over 50,000 objects! Continue reading

Liam Patrick – Runner Story

Welcome to our Boston Children’s Museum Marathon Team Runner Spotlight Series! This is an opportunity for you to get to know our incredible Boston Marathon runners and their journey to the 120th Boston Marathon. 

This is our last story and last week! We hope you all enjoyed meeting our runners,and we encourage you to spread the word about our team’s perseverance to hit their goals, both in miles and in dollars.

If you wish to support any of our runners, visit our Crowdrise page today


Liam Patrick FamilyLiam Patrick is no stranger to running around.

As new CFO of &pizza, father of two playful kids, active Trustee of Boston Children’s Museum, and advocate for underprivileged children, Liam is familiar with going the distance. Continue reading

That Giant Milk Bottle

BCM at NightSince 1977, visitors to Boston Children’s Museum have been greeted, as they approach the Museum, by a 40-foot tall building in the shape of a milk bottle. This may seem like an unusual choice for the front of the Museum, but it was not placed there as a statement on the importance of dairy in one’s diet, nor is it a marketing tool for Hood. There is a story behind this structure, and it is one filled with twists, turns and intrigue. The Milk Bottle’s journey has been an interesting one, and in the nearly four decades since its trip to Boston, it has become a beloved icon of the Museum and our mission. Continue reading

Borrowed and Returned

ExhibitOne of the most frequently asked questions I have here in collections is, “How did the Museum get all this stuff?!” (Considering how eclectic our collections are, that question
is usually asked with a hint of awe and wonder.) For the vast majority of materials in the collection, the answer is simply that they were gifts or donations to the Museum. Occasionally items are purchased; occasionally items are “found in collections” (which is just what it sounds like – an object with no documentation that has been lost to time and storage); and occasionally items are loaned. Well, in this past year, one old loan has been of particular interest. Continue reading

Joyful Discoveries: Evaluating the Museum Visitor Experience

How many visitors drive the Bobcats in Construction Zone on a typical day? Do visitors in PlaySpace use the resources we create for them? If a child doesn’t get to go on stage during a KidStage play, how might that affect their experience during the show? If visitors use an exhibit in a way we didn’t design for, but they still have fun, is the exhibit a “success”?

At Boston Children’s Museum, where visitors choose their own route, create their own experiences, and construct their own meaning from all that happens during their visit, questions about evaluation and measurement can be challenging to answer. There is no such thing as a “standard” visitor experience, so the idea of “measurement” takes on a whole new meaning within the Museum walls. So how does Boston Children’s Museum go about evaluating programs, exhibits, and visitor experiences in ways that help meaningfully inform our practices or improve the museum experience for visitors?

As the Museum’s Evaluation Coordinator, my role is to implement evaluation projects that work to answer these questions while not losing sight of the inherently playful and open-ended nature of a museum visit. Here’s a little glimpse into how this work gets done at Boston Children’s Museum.

Observations: Visitors at Play

Cardboard 1 smWatching visitors explore, play, create, and interact – and taking good notes on what visitors are actually doing – is a crucial part of any evaluation project at the Museum. Are visitors using an exhibit component in the ways we thought they would? Do they appear interested and engaged? Are they having fun?

Last summer we spent time observing several special workshops created for an audience of older children and their families. We observed that during a music workshop, adults and caregivers took a backseat and watched their children explore sounds and create musical instruments. However, during an engineering workshop, adults and children actively worked together to build structures that would hold up against a simulated earthquake. As educators and program planners in the Museum, we now have a better idea of what kinds of activities engage both adults and children, because we took the time to observe real visitors engaged in real Museum activities.

Surveys: When We Want a Broader Picture

Sometimes, we need to collect data from many visitors, but we just don’t have enough time or staff members available to interview people in any open-ended way. Surveys are a great way to get a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Recently, we collected surveys from KidStage visitors, and what we learned opened up a host of new questions for us to explore. For example, we found that Friday Night visitors had more positive experiences in KidStage than Weekday visitors. Why might this be? These surveys helped us learn about visitors’ experiences in KidStage at a certain level, but we’ll need to continue asking good questions to really understand where we can continue to improve.

Interviews: Listening to the Visitor Voice

Boston Children's Museum Family Fest 2013Asking visitors to tell us about their experiences, in their own words, is a vital part of understanding how visitors actually experience the Museum. What do visitors think they’re getting out of a Museum experience? How are they connecting with exhibits and programs? What do visitors think is missing, or what could the Museum do to improve?

Recently Boston Children’s Museum celebrated Arthur the Aardvark’s 8th birthday. Some Museum staff were curious: How many visitors came to the Museum to celebrate with Arthur? To answer that question, we asked visitors a few short questions, one of which was the open-ended question: Why did you decide to visit Boston Children’s Museum today? We learned that nearly 20% of visitors came to celebrate with Arthur. However, allowing visitors to describe their reasons for visiting, in their own words, also taught us some interesting things about what gets visitors to the Museum. Many visitors were simply looking for something fun to do with their kids while visiting Boston. Others were using the Museum as a way to spend time together with family and friends. Learning about our visitors through these simple, open-ended questions helps us see our visitors in more nuanced ways, and helps us create experiences that can better serve the diverse needs of our audience.

At Boston Children’s Museum, we aim to “spark a lifelong love of learning” within our visitors. We also work to maintain this spark within ourselves, as the playful educators and experience creators we are. Evaluation at the Museum keeps us asking questions and seeking new insights from our visitors, which help us sustain our own love for inquiry and curiosity, and our own desire for “joyful discovery” in the work we do every day.

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

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