Tackling Barriers of Inclusivity with Parent Ambassadors

Four years ago my colleagues and I were talking about barriers to visiting the Museum. The Museum is committed to providing playful learning experiences for all families but we know that there are many families in Boston who haven’t visited us yet. I started to think about what gives me the confidence to try something new and often it’s a friend bringing me along to a new activity with them – which is how I discovered Pickleball, Dim Sum and the Peabody Essex Museum!

What if we gave some parents who already use and love the Museum free memberships so that they could bring new families with them at no extra cost? These parents could serve as hosts, taking families on a tour perhaps or generally showing them the ropes – What can we touch? Where can I breastfeed? Will my child get lost in that scary climbing thing in the lobby? What line do I wait in?

The idea resonated with my colleagues, and in 2014 we launched a program called Parent Ambassadors to identify parents who are trusted community members in Boston neighborhoods who would be willing to introduce families to Boston Children’s Museum.

Before recruiting parents I had several conversations with some of our non-profit partners who serve children and families and were already using parents in leadership roles. They gave me some suggestions for how to shape the program and recruited a group of parents for me to run the idea by. After talking to the parents we adapted our idea based on their suggestions. For instance we made the membership good for 12 people instead of 6 because families come in many sizes. When we had the structure and Ambassador criteria defined, our partners recommended the program to some parent leaders in their neighborhoods and we recruited the first group of Parent Ambassadors who started in March 2014.

What have we learned?
We have learned a lot from the program. The Museum can be a very overwhelming place and Parent Ambassadors asked us for more tools to help them navigate the Museum and its learning opportunities. They are currently helping us test the 2nd iteration of a Parent Guide to Exhibits. Parent Ambassadors have also helped us see where barriers exist and where more training for staff is needed. Parents often enter the Museum with a high level of stress simply by trying to get here so it’s crucial that front line staff have a lot of empathy. Our staff also need to be approachable and knowledgeable about the learning attached to the play experiences because visitors see them as experts.

In addition, many of our Ambassadors are bringing families to the Museum who may not feel comfortable here if they don’t see themselves represented in our staff, exhibits, programs and the books displayed. Honest feedback from the Ambassadors has helped us to see that this can be a barrier. If we are to be a truly inclusive institution it is essential that our staff understand their own power, privilege and biases along with the basic concepts of social justice. To that end we’ve begun a series of trainings based on an anti-bias curriculum and are committed to this on-going process.

Parent Ambassadors talk with me frequently about their experiences in the Museum. They are united in their support of our mission but have identified some barriers to me that we didn’t foresee. Though we strive to be inclusive each of us has a lens through which we experience the world and having the benefit of many eyes is invaluable. Parent Ambassadors are those eyes.

Facts about our current Ambassadors:

1) They live in East Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxbury, Hyde Park and Roslindale.
2) In addition to moms we have one dad and one grandparent Ambassador.
3) Their collective networks include: Madison Park CDC, YMCA, Boston Public Schools, Family Nurturing Center, Charlestown Tenant Association, The Kennedy Center (Charlestown), Social Security Administration, First Teacher, Boston Family Engagement Network, Vital Village, Nurtury, South Boston Neighborhood House.
4) Half of them are bilingual.
5) Ambassadors are involved in many of the same groups that Museum staff are so we see them frequently at other meetings and events in the city.

Becoming a Parent Ambassador?
Parent Ambassadors must be Boston residents who have children or grandchildren between the ages of 0-10. They are well known in their communities and love to share resources and build positive connections with new families. Ambassadors complete an application, an interview and a 3 hour training before they receive their memberships. In addition, there are 2 meetings per year they attend to share best practices. Ambassador terms are a maximum of 2 years.

Martin’s Park – A Symbol of Joy, Friendship, and Peace for All

Photo credit – Clive Grainger, 2017

Today was a momentous day, as Bill, Denise, Jane and Henry Richard, Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin Walsh and others, broke ground on Martin’s Park; soon to be a world-class, accessible City of Boston park and playground in the “back yard” of our Museum on Fort Point Channel. This park, dedicated to Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, will be a symbol of all that is good in us – strength, resilience, love and fellowship. Martin’s vision of peace is the inspiration for this visionary place where all children and their families will play, have fun, and learn for years to come. And we need Martins’ vision now, more than ever!

In recent months, we have seen our civic discourse become increasingly divisive and destructive. While we, as Americans, may have views as diverse as our origins, we must all agree on one thing: hate and bigotry have no place in our society and we must do everything we can to stop it. In this context, the groundbreaking of Martin’s Park takes on a greater importance and urgency. For this park will be a symbol of peace and inclusiveness that reflects the noble aspirations of a family and a community.  It will forever inspire us to make a better world, a world in which every child can experience the exhilarating joy of play, discovery, and friendship. A park that will be a symbol for all, of the light and love that can emerge from darkness.  Edith Wharton once said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.”  Therefore this park will be, for all time, the brightly shimmering candle reflected in the mirror of thousands of children’s shining faces.

Please join me in celebrating this historic ground-breaking and its urgent message of peace and hope for our city, our state and our country.

Message in a Milk Bottle: Every Fish Is Unique

This blog post was written by our Health and Wellness intern, Alexa Curtiss. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.

The “Message in a Milk Bottle” program has become an annual spring tradition at Boston Children’s Museum, and allows the Museum’s Health and Wellness Educator intern to create and run a special themed activity for children of varying ages, abilities, and circumstances. This Spring it was my turn, and I was excited to be able to create a project that would not only involve children visiting the Museum, but that I would be able to take it out into the community and include pediatric patients at both Shriner’s and Franciscan’s hospitals, as well as students from the Campus School at Boston College. I titled my activity “Every Fish is Unique”.

For the first part of the project, children were asked to choose a paper fish cut out from a variety of pastel and bold hues. They were offered colorful strips if they wanted to “weave” the body and make fins, and then were able to further individualize their fish using crayons, markers, craft feathers, and sequins. As they worked we talked about how, just as every fish was special, different and unique – so too is every child. When they come together, they all make up one big community.

Having already visited and worked with the children at the hospitals and school earlier in the month, I brought their completed fish to the Museum on April 23rd, when I ran the activity for visitors. As I chatted with the children while they worked on creating their fish, I began to assemble the second part of the project. This was a huge 5’ x 9’ fish which I hung in the window of the Museum, to which I began affixing all the completed fish. This allowed me to visually demonstrate the second part of the message: showing how, by putting all the very different and special fish together, they created and contributed to a beautiful and unique community.

One very unexpected aspect of the project began to reveal itself as I began adding the individual fish to the larger one: the sun came streaming through the window and seemed to light up the fish, creating almost a rainbow effect, which to me signifies the beauty of diversity within a community! The big fish remained “swimming” along on display at the Museum through the end of April, continuing to spread the message of the value of diversity in community to all who viewed it.

Exploring Tartans

dscn7646Throughout the recent holidays, Museum Educators have been asking visitors and staff what they do with their families and friends this time of year. As a family that takes pride in our Scots-Irish American heritage, my answer is that we come together to eat mashed potatoes, pull British crackers, and wear Scottish tartan. When I share this, there are often many follow up questions. What is tartan? Why is the shade you’re wearing different from other shades? Here are some answers to these questions. Continue reading

Seeing Stars on the Waterfront

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“Wow, what a beautiful view!”

That’s often what visitors say when they first come (and then come back) to Boston Children’s Museum. Our location along Fort Point Channel is truly a spectacular sight that greets visitors throughout the day.

But did you also know that the view is just as stunning at night?

As the STEM Specialist, the key part of my job is to develop science, technology, engineering, and math activities for children of all ages (and their grown-ups!) using the materials and exhibits the Museum already has to offer. As an educator and a learner I also enjoy collaboration and bringing people from different communities together. In my work, I constantly strive to unite these two interests. When I learned about #popscope, the stars really aligned. Continue reading

We Stand with You

Today we awoke to the horrible news of another mass shooting, the most deadly in American history. In the assault on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 49 innocent people were killed and over 50 wounded in an attack on a popular LGBTQ club celebrating both Pride Month and the Latino community.

Boston Children’s Museum is a place of joy and learning for all families, many of whom are members of the diverse communities of Boston and the Commonwealth. An attack on the LGBTQ and Latino communities is an attack on all of us, and we grieve for the families of those who senselessly lost their lives.

It was just three years ago that Boston suffered its own terror attack with the loss of three lives and the injury of many others. At that time, we arose as Boston Strong – the slogan that helped us come together and heal. But, just three years later, we see our community under duress, as hate crimes against the African American, Muslim, Jewish, Latino, LGBTQ and other minority communities persist. At the same time, Boston saw the senseless death of a young student, Raekwon Brown, at Jeremiah Burke High School in Dorchester last week. This promising junior lost his life in an attack just steps from the school.

As parents, teachers and citizens, how do we make sense of these heinous acts and how do we explain them to our children and students? How do we manage our outrage, our fear, and our confusion? I would like to suggest we channel these feelings of helplessness into action. Young children are learning at a fast rate and absorbing all that they see and hear. They also have an acute sense of what is right and wrong. During these critical impressionable years, we need to teach our children to understand differences, to recognize bias and hate, to learn to accept those different from themselves, and to stand up against bullies. We need to set them on a path that will lead to the development of healthy relationships, respect and compassion for those different than themselves, and a strong sense of community and citizenship. At the same time, we must also look deep into ourselves and uncover our own unconscious biases, addressing them in an open and transparent way, with humility and an eagerness to change our own behaviors and beliefs, so that we can stand against intolerance and bigotry.

At Boston Children’s Museum, we work hard to create community through our many cultural festivals, our MorningStar programs for kids with special needs, our Boston Black exhibit, our access programs and our outreach to Boston’s diverse communities. In the next few years we will increase our focus on teaching tolerance and combating bias and bullying. Below I have shared some resources that may help you to teach tolerance to your children and students.

In the wake of this past week’s terrible events, and those that came before, we pledge that Boston Children’s Museum will remain a place of peace and community, where all families are welcome to enjoy their time together in our rich, learning environment. We stand by the communities that have come under attack and we will stand by you in your efforts to raise healthy, happy children who will grow to become great citizens of our country and our world.

Resources for Teaching Tolerance:

Beyond the Golden Rule, a Teaching Tolerance Publication:

http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/beyond_golden_rule.pdf

Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Bias Study Guides:

http://www.adl.org/education-outreach/curriculum-resources/c/anti-bias-study-guides.html#.V14a9FeFXzI

Anti-Bias Education, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC):

https://www.naeyc.org/content/anti-bias-guide-holidays

 

Carole Charnow 6/12/16

The Makers are Coming! The Makers are Coming!

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Have you heard the news? In July, Boston Children’s Museum is hosting Boston’s first official Maker Faire! What is a Maker Faire, you ask? Great question. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of creative doers – tech enthusiasts, designers, robot builders, artists, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, authors, crafters, students, commercial exhibitors, and more. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they create with their bare hands and bold minds, and to share how they do it, why they do it, and what they learn. And visitors get in on the making as well. Maker Faires are community-based learning events that inspire everyone to think creatively and innovatively, and to connect with people and projects in their local community.

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There have been over 150 Maker Faires around the world since 2005. New York, San Mateo, Detroit, Kansas City, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Orlando, San Diego, Washington DC, Ottawa, Lisbon, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Hanover, Oslo, Trondheim, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Shenzhen, and over 120 other cities and towns have hosted Maker Faires. And now you can add Boston to that list.

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Want to see a 3D printer in action? Join us at the Boston Mini Maker Faire. Want to meet R2D2 and BB8? They’ll be at the Boston Mini Maker Faire. Want to see a Japanese woodworker do his thing? Or create your own spin art? Or fold and paint a paper birdhouse that you get to keep? Or try some LEGO engineering? Or see a robot dance? Well…you know what to do. Join us at the Boston Mini Maker Faire!

The details:
When: Saturday, July 23, 2016, 10 am-5pm
Where: Boston Children’s Museum
308 Congress Street, Boston, MA, 02210.

Tickets are on sale now! Click here to purchase.

For More Information, Visit:

https://makerfaireboston.com/

To contact us, please write:
info (AT) makerfaireboston (DOT) com.

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Boston Mini Maker Faire is a kind of marketplace of possibilities, where both children AND adults will be exposed to the amazing, the ingenious, and the captivating; where you can shop around for creative endeavors you may not have thought possible. Children will find that future self they can aspire to, whether it be an artist, engineer, hobbyist or world-changing inventor of marvelous things. Adults will find inspiration to spark their own creativity. And parents will see their kids in a new light, as they try, test, and stretch their minds in new and exciting directions. And most of all – it will be a whole lot of fun. We hope you will join us! Pre-event tickets are on sale now – click the link above, or visit the event website to get your tickets before the event is sold out. See you at the Faire!

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

Carolyn Manning – 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. 

We will post a story each week about one of 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! We are so honored to have these individuals represent Boston Children’s Museum on Marathon Monday, and we applaud their efforts to bring critical funds to the Museum.


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Meet Carolyn and her sister!

This isn’t Carolyn Manning’s first run through the 8 cities and towns that make up the Boston Marathon route, nor is it her first time running this race for Boston Children’s Museum. Carolyn ran for our Marathon Team last year, and when she heard we had bibs again this year, she knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent one of her favorite nonprofits. Continue reading

Mary Langevin – 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. 

We will post a story each week about one of 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! We are so honored to have these individuals represent Boston Children’s Museum on Marathon Monday, and we applaud their efforts to bring critical funds to the Museum.


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Meet Mary Langevin!

Meet Mary Langevin, a Massachusetts native, mom of two boys, and social worker, passionate about giving children opportunities they would not otherwise have. So it should come as no surprise that Mary was one of the first runners to commit to this year’s Marathon Team. In Mary’s own words:

“I am honored to run and fundraise on behalf of such an amazing place. I brought my own children to the Museum for years and have experienced firsthand how all the exhibits enhance the lives of so many young people.”

Mary loves the Museum’s evolving, dynamic programs, coupled with the constancy of its core exhibits, which are deeply rooted in its impactful mission.  “The exhibits you can’t wait to go back to experience again” hold a special place in her sons’ hearts. Every visit to Boston Children’s Museum will be unique and special, and she cherishes these moments with her family. Continue reading