Message in a Milk Bottle Project: Building Community Connections

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.

The Makers are Coming

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary day at Boston Children’s Museum.  Families and local working folks are having lunch, kids are chasing the pigeons, people are texting friends to make plans for tonight.  Inside the museum, kids and families enjoy the exhibits—blowing bubbles, exploring the Japanese House,  creating art.  But if you were to take a peek behind the secret doors, you’d spy a very different  scene. Boston Mini Maker Faire 2017 is just a few days away, and everyone on Boston Children’s Museum staff is getting ready.

In one room, the Production Team looks over the site plan.  They’re putting the finishing touches on the map and figuring out exactly where each Maker is going to go.  Some Makers need to be inside and some need to be outside; some need a lot of space; some need electricity; some need access to a water faucet.   The team is also working on placement of food trucks, water fountains, dining tables and Port-a-Potties.  It’s a lot to manage.

In another room, staff are stringing together lanyards.  Every Maker will get one.  Nearby, other staff are sorting out the materials needed for the Museum’s own booth at the Faire: the Nerdy Derby, the Human Paint Roller, and Scribblebots.  Upstairs, people are sorting the materials that have been gathered for the Take Something booth, where visitors will be able to pick up all kind of materials and gadgets to take home for their own maker projects! In other places, ticket sales are coming in, emails are being sent, phone calls are being made.

The staff managers are figuring out a schedule for Sunday.   Staff will need to cover the Admissions table and the Information Tent (and the Info Desk inside), as well as assist Makers pack in and out, help visitors find their way around,  reunite families who have gotten disconnected from each other, check tickets, as well as staff usual Museum exhibits. In addition, the staff will be joined by about 40 volunteers. Scheduling all those people into all those locations is a gargantuan task.  The staff managers are sure to drink a lot of coffee while they work it all out.

The Facilities Team is making sure we have all the tents, tables, chairs, signs, stanchions and everything else we’ll need on site on Sunday. With nearly 100 Makers coming, it’s important that we make sure they all have what they need to have a successful day. There’s a Plan B in case of bad weather.  We’ve been monitoring the forecast closely for the last week,  fingers crossed.  As of right now, it’s looking pretty good.

Behind the scenes at Boston Children’s Museum is abuzz with all kinds of activity to make sure this Sunday’s Maker Faire will be a grand success.   It will all be worth it when the crowds arrive on Sunday morning discover the joy of creating, innovating, inventing and….Making! You can still buy tickets here!  We can’t wait to see you!

 

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.

Vacation Exploration: Constellation Creation

constellation-creationConstellations are pictures that people have imagined in the patterns of the stars. They are now accepted scientific ways of organizing the night sky. This idea that a scientific model could begin with imagination might seem surprising, but should it be? Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He was pretty smart. This activity, based on “Constellation Creation” from Boston Children’s Museum’s Beyond the Chalkboard curriculum, invites you and your children to look at star patterns and imagine your own new constellations, while practicing STEM skills like observing, recognizing patterns and thinking creatively. This kind of creative activity encourages children to make personal connections to objects in the sky, and to seek out their new constellation when you look up together at the sky at night. Continue reading

Vacation Exploration: Grocery Store Gifts

grocery-store-gifts“I just want something interesting and educational….not just another piece of plastic.  You know?”

“I know they like to do art and science stuff…but the kits are expensive.”

“Help!  I need a present for my 4-year-old niece and I don’t have time to shop.”

These are all things I’ve heard lately as a parent and museum educator as we count down to the winter holidays. All of us have the best of intentions as gift-givers, but not necessarily the budget, time, or inspiration to back it up. The unlikely solution?  Your neighborhood grocery store.

As I strolled down the aisles of our local supermarket recently, I made up a game for myself:  how many cool art or science “preschool activity kits” could I put together using only items available at a typical grocery store?  I was thrilled to concoct several such kits in my head that I knew would thrill my own kids if they found them under the Christmas tree. Below are some of the winners. Notice my recurring suggestion of including a plastic tablecloth with each kit – it’s a lot easier to find time and space to do these activities in a busy household if you know that your table is protected and you can throw the whole work surface in the trash afterwards! Continue reading

Sing Ho! A Silly Old Bear Turns 90

antique-books-stacked

When I was One,

I had just begun.

When I was Two,

I was nearly new.

When I was Three,

I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,

I was not much more.

When I was Five,

I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever.

So I think I’ll be six now and for ever and ever.[1]

This October, one of the most beloved bears of all time turns 90 years old. Though he appears in earlier publications, fans prefer to celebrate the birth of Winnie-the-Pooh on October 14 as that is the date Winnie-the-Pooh was published.

To join in the festivities, here are a few things you may or may not know about a silly old bear. Continue reading

More Than a Mess

IMG_1645“We have fabric, hula hoops, flagging tape, little drink umbrellas, string, some scissors, chalk, and cardboard tubes. What else do we need? What’s missing?”

“There are more cardboard tubes upstairs. Let’s bring out some duct tape. I think we might need more fabric…Oh this material has a cool texture! And look at these mirrors!”

This is a typical conversation I have every Monday morning here at Boston Children’s Museum. My Mondays are dedicated to making a mess. Each Messy Monday a team of Museum staff from the Art Studio and the Messy Sensory area in Playspace team up to support hands-on activities for children and adults of all ages. This could mean anything from painting with spaghetti to mixing shaving cream and sand to create moldable dough. This past Monday our invitation to our visitors was, “Come in and do whatever you want with the materials we have here.” It is increasingly rare for children today to be given this kind of open invitation and it is always interesting to see what happens next. Continue reading

Power of Play in Action: One Mom’s Story

Mimi Tovar PicWelcome to our guest blog post from Mimi Tovar, mother of five and parent partner in Boston! Mimi was one of fifteen parent partners who participated in Boston Children’s Museum’s Power of Play Training through the Boston Family Engagement Network on March 31. During the last year, our team at the Museum has trained over 300 adults in this interactive play training that helps teachers, afterschool staff, parents, family care providers, and others understand the importance of play for children. Participants leave with specific examples of how to support play in everyday life. On the night that Mimi participated in the Power of Play Workshop, she sent me this email:

“Today will forever change my perspective of the words “play or playing”!

As a mother of five children, I have always stressed the importance of education, not realizing that playing is a crucial part of their learning development. I also learned that playing can be and IS a stress reducing tool.

As an artist, it makes perfect sense, as a mom, well not so much, until today. Continue reading

Talking Art

Photo courtesy of Rene Dongo

Photo Credit: Rene Dongo

Holiday break can be a great time to see art as a family at a local museum or gallery. Ever wondered how to engage children in conversation about art? Here are some questions and tips you can use to get started:

– Let children lead the way. “What would you like to look at?” or “Take me to a painting that you want to see!” invites them to survey the space and find something that looks interesting to them. Continue reading

Poetry Collage

Poetry 1I recently offered a poetry collage workshop in the Museum’s Art Studio, focusing specifically on free-association and shaped poetry. Too often, writing in schools is presented in a way that is stressful and overwhelming for kids. I wanted to see if I could present a writing activity that was fun and creative by adding structure and inviting visitors to experiment with the most free-form type of writing: poetry.

Visitors used collections of pre-cut-out words to explore free-association composition and play with the arrangement of words. Visitors also experimented with shaped poetry, using both pre-made shapes and their own shapes, to gain inspiration and connect literary and visual arts. Continue reading