Tips for planning a summer visit to the Museum & Theatre!

Summer Hours!
OPEN Monday through Saturday 10am-5pm!
OPEN Sunday noon-5pm!
Summer tip #1: The lunch hour tends to be less busy if you’re looking to avoid the crowds…

Memorial Day!
11:00 First Flags
1:00 Ready, Set, Play: La Gallinita Ciega
3:00 Japanese Dance Performance! Performers from Hachinohe, Japan have traveled to Maine to perform Enburi (Japanese folk dance and music) for us! The performers are part of the United States Nippon International Friendship Group and their visit is sponsored by the Maine-Aomori Sister-State Advisory Council.
Summer tip #2: Can you see the Memorial Day parade from the Camera Obscura? Try it at 10:30 am!

Pack a picnic!
Rain or shine, bring your picnic lunch to the Museum & Theatre. Check out the brand new picnic tables under the trees in the back yard, or enjoy your picnic lunch in the café.
Summer tip #3: Love air conditioning? Our forced air system brings in fresh air and cools it down…and the shipyard is open when the sun is shining!

Gross motor movement!
Need to get out some summer energy? Come climb the rock wall or play on the pirate ship! Do you have toddlers in need of a safe place to play? We spiced up the Toddler Park with some fresh, age-appropriate toys. Bring your little one to read an Eric Carle book and swim with the new ducks.
Summer tip #4: Kids who move all day will be ready for bed at night!

Continue reading “Tips for planning a summer visit to the Museum & Theatre!”

How Does it Teach: Art Through the Ages

Our newest art program series called “Art Through the Ages” is a tribute to all art past and present. This program is designed for our visitors young and old to achieve a more in-depth contextualization of art’s place in our life. At the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine we strive me make all of our topics fresh and vibrant and we do so by structuring this lesson as ‘hands-on history.’

Paint like Pollock!

A typical program will begin by looking at a piece of art while listening to a vignette of a specific artist’s life. I’ll then pose questions about formal elements of art such as color, composition, material and subject matter and segue to the more abstract and individualized concepts such as feeling and mood of a piece. Finally we’ll create our own masterpiece, whether it be inspired by Piet Mondrian’s geometric and primary color paintings or Monet’s almost monochromatic water lilies.

At times it may be difficult to understand certain works of art. Culture and time distance us from subject matter that is unrecognizable in our daily lives. By dissecting these works, children and adults alike can gain new insights including acceptance of matters that seem so vastly different that what we know and understand in our own worlds. By having this dialogue, children are given a greater appreciation of the past and can apply that to their every day interactions.  By simply understanding man’s progress from past to present day, art teaches us about solving problems and progressing towards the missing links.

Get to the point like Georges Seurat!

From the early cave art of Lascaux, France to contemporary conceptual artists, like Alex Katz, the works we study in “Art Through the Ages” provides an unparalleled view of culture and history. While the relationship of art to culture, history and religion may seem obvious, if we look deeper we understand art is also a reflection of science and mathematics. This is perfect considering our new exhibit, SmartArt which explores the connection between science and art.

Join us for “Art Through the Ages” (most) Tuesdays at 3:30 and let learning history be your springboard for creativity. Click here for the full list on our calendar.

Taking it Home: Paper Airplane Experiments

In Cool Science this month, we’ve been exploring which shapes fly or glide the best by doing experiments with paper gliders. Also, students from Casco Bay High School were here the first weekend in May to share their paper airplane designs, providing templates and instructions to our young visitors.

Here is a plan for a basic paper glider to use as a starting point. (Click to enlarge) Folding projects like this are often best for ages six and up. For younger children, make a plane together, and then let your child change it as he or she plays.

Paper airplane making is a great example of a project that allows kids to test their predictions using simple materials. There’s no right way to make a paper plane: each one flies differently.

Here’s an example of a prediction: “If I rip one of the wings, I bet the plane will spin in circles when I throw it.” Testing this prediction is so easy: all you do is toss the paper plane and see what happens. The most exciting discoveries happen when the plane doesn’t do what you predicted. For example, one boy who joined the Casco Bay High students for the workshop was trying to make a plane that flew very straight and far, and ended up with one that flipped upside-down almost every time he threw it. We hadn’t even imagined a plane that could flip upside down!

Encourage your children to keep trying new designs, and who knows what they’ll discover …

SmartArt Exhibit Opening

On Thursday, May 20 we held a SmartArt exhibit opening for our members and volunteers. Everyone had a blast exploring the exhibit, enjoying our smart snacks and we even had some raffle winners! We’d like to thank Pie in the Sky Pizza for donating their delicious pizzas, Ben & Jerry’s for donating our raffle prizes, Poland Spring for the bottled water and all our staff and volunteers who spent Thursday preparing for a fun-filled exhibit party! Here are some pictures from the event. Visit our facebook page for even more!

An amazing day of caring and sharing!

I bet when these volunteers signed on for the Day of Caring, they had no idea they’d be toppling the Taj Mahal!

I’ve always known that the United Way is a great organization doing wonderful work around the world, but seeing their impact locally – right in our backyard – serves as a pretty amazing reminder of how much impact people can have when they unite. Last Thursday, more than 1,000 volunteers donated a day’s work to 60 non-profits in Greater Portland.  More than 20 of those volunteers came to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, where they had a big impact on the back yard.  On your next visit, notice the freshened up pirate ship and picnic tables – and the absence of a certain wonder of the world! (The Taj Mahal wasn’t built for long-term outdoor use, so our volunteers helped to dismantle and remove it – tata, Taj Mahal!)

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at the United Way offices, there was still more volunteering! Kathryn Miller (dedicated Marketing and PR Assistant) and I met with seven of Greater Portland’s top professionals with expertise in the fields of marketing, branding and public relations. These volunteers offered Kathryn and I a lot of very helpful guidance for sharing our message with the community, providing stronger service to our members and theatre-goers, and advancing our mission.

A big round of applause to the United Way and all their volunteers for making the Day of Caring happen! Read more about it in the Press Herald here.

Goodbye, Phebe!

We surprised Phebe with photos from some of the art projects she helped create!

This morning we said goodbye to one of our most dedicated volunteers, Phebe Snow. Phebe has been volunteering with us for 15 years! Every Thursday morning Phebe would come in and prep art projects. You know all those paper shapes and cut-outs you use in Big Messy Art, Imagination Station and Make and Take? Those were all the products of Phebe’s hard work!

We wanted to celebrate her years of outstanding service, so we decided to throw her a little surprise going away party. Phebe will be missed (many of us commented, “I won’t know when it’s Thursday anymore!”) but we are so grateful for her years and years of donated time and service.

We will miss her but we sent her off in style!

Tall Tales

On Sunday, May 16, I had an fantastic time making up some stories with a four-year-old named Madeline during Tall Tales: Forest Creatures. Here are two of the stories she came up with, one featuring our very own turtle, Eloise!

Once upon a time there was a turtle named Eloise. He swam along the riverbank. Suddenly, Eloise heard a noise. And it was: ROAR! Eloise didn’t know what to do. He turned around and swam the other way. Pretty soon, Eloise saw something amazing! He saw a peacock! The peacock’s feathers were bright blue. He started swimming the other way! By this point, Eloise was getting very tired. And then he fell asleep while he was swimming. When Eloise opened his eyes, he was in his cozy bed. And then he started swimming again. The End!

Today was a very exciting day. Cause there was gonna be a birthday party! Jasmine the bluebird was turning four years old. And then she was decorating the room with balloons and decorations. She hoped all her friends would come. And then she started hearing knock, knock on the door! And she heard all her friends, they were all singing “Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you!” Everyone was so happy to be celebrating Jasmine’s birthday. There was even a huge birthday cake! It had star birthday candles. And then she heard another one go knock knock knock ROAR and it was her friend the bear. The End!

Join us for Tall Tales this summer and enter an adventure of your own making! Check our calendar of events for dates and times.

Sneak a peek at Smart Art!

It’s hard to believe that all these bits and pieces will soon be one big interactive exhibit. Talk about transformations!

I love the final weeks before a new exhibit opens – they’re busy and exciting for everyone on staff. Educators are planning new programs that will help introduce visitors to the new exhibit. The front line staff and those of us in the marketing department are learning all we can about the exhibit so we’ll be able to spread the word to members, visitors and the community. But it’s the exhibits and operations department who are especially busy – in just a few short weeks, they have to remove all traces of the departing exhibit and install all dozens of brand new components!

The incoming exhibit, Smart Art, will be open to the public this Friday, May 21st. This is the fifth exhibit in a very special series, the Environmental Exhibits Collaborative, or EEC (you may remember Turtle Travels, Treehouses, Attack of the Bloodsuckers, or Dinotracks – they were all a part of this collaborative, too). Our staff worked with a group of museums in New England and Canada to develop and build these exhibits; over the past five years, the exhibits have toured through all of our museums.

These little charmers will soon be butterflies in our butterfly garden. We’ll say we knew them when!

EEC exhibits have always been a lot of fun for us and our visitors, and I was especially excited to hear about some of the ways that Smart Art’s visit to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine will be unique. We’ve chosen a local artist in residence, Galen Richmond, who will create musical art and work with our visitors. We’re also adding a butterfly garden to highlight the exhibit’s theme, transformation.

If you are a member or a volunteer, you’re invited to an exhibit opening on Thursday, May 20th from 5:30-7pm. We’ll have food, activities, special guests and good company. It’s a free event for the whole family! RSVP to Kathryn at  (And of course, if you become a member by Thursday, you’re invited, too! Click here for membership information.)

Celebrating AmeriCorps Week!

Did you know that this is AmeriCorps week? It’s a week to celebrate the people of all ages who commit to serving at non-profits across the nation. AmeriCorps members commit to full-time service positions for terms of at least several months (some serve for several years!), receiving a small stipend, money to apply toward education, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (That’s just a smidge of an explanation about what this program does – you should definitely check out their website to find out all about what they do.) The programs, exhibits, productions and events that happen here could not happen without our AmeriCorps members – thank you ALL for your service!

I asked all of our current staff who are or were AmeriCorps members to tell me a little about their experience with the program and what has made it worthwhile. Read on to get to know four of our favorite Americorps members!

Jamie Andrew, Volunteer Coordinator and Educator (member 2008-2009): I spent eleven months as an AmeriCorps Community Resource Corps member here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine starting in 2008 – I wore a lot of different hats, learned more than I ever fathomed possible, and grew exponentially as a person and as a working professional. Initially I saw serving in AmeriCorps as a way to give back – but now I see that it was a great way to transition into a meaningful, professional job. Currently I’m a full-time Educator as well as the Volunteer Coordinator here at the Museum & Theatre, and I couldn’t be happier. It can be tough (sometimes nearing impossible!) to live on an AmeriCorps stipend – but at least now I know how to cook on a teeny-tiny budget. Besides – in the end, it’s all worth it. Tenfold.

Hannah Wilhelm, Science Educator (member 2009): I served as Maine Conservation Corps Environmental Educator in 2009 at the Department of Environmental Protection here in Portland. Every summer, the state’s Biomonitoring Program captures insects, algae, and water samples from rivers, streams, and wetlands. Last summer, we traveled to Aroostook County to collect samples. I helped with data entry, and started a teaching herbarium of wetland plants. One of the best parts of my year was visiting schools to teach outreach lessons about water quality and insects that live in streams and ponds. I appreciated getting a chance to see the inside view of how part of the state government works. The state biologists I assisted are dedicated and patient. They are engaged in service work every day. Getting to help them exposed me to so many new people and places, and I am so grateful for the experience.

Kathryn Miller, Marketing & Public Relations Assistant (current member): I began my AmeriCorps position in the Marketing and PR department in late September and I can’t believe it has already been 8 months! Since I started, I have learned so many skills that are invaluable to my professional career. Coming in with just a little old degree in English and Theatre, I have now gained responsibility for the Museum & Theatre’s entire social media presence. I’ve even be given the opportunity to use Adobe Design programs to make graphics and signage, something that I NEVER saw myself learning – and now I really enjoy it! AmeriCorps is a great option for those who want to use their knowledge and skills to give back to a community that sorely needs them and for those who want a chance to grow with an organization and be given opportunities you could never receive in an entry level job.

Matt Chamberlain, Museum Assistant (current member): I started my AmeriCorps position at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine just two months ago. My first week was “Auction week,” which needless to say was hectic and a little intimidating. Everyone on staff was more than helpful though, so I was quickly put at ease. We then moved on to designing and creating the set for the theatre’s production of “The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.” This was right in my wheel house and I felt completely at home painting and fabricating faux trees and rocks. It’s such a great sense of pride to watch a production that I had a part in creating. I think this is what makes this place so special. There is a lot of hard work involved but at the end of the day you get to see your results come to life and actually enrich someone else’s life.

I’d also like to give shout-outs and huge thank yous to past Museum & Theatre AmeriCorps members Shawn Cole, Becky Mueller and Shana Tinkle!

Dancing With Books

Dancing With Books is a series of innovative early childhood reading programs at the Museum & Theatre that uses theatre, movement and music to help develop young children’s enthusiasm for performing arts and reading while enriching their language skills in a fun and engaging way. Our most recent series was funded by a generous grant from the Sprague Foundation and concluded on May 3 with children from St. Elizabeth’s Child Development Center performing what they had learned for their teachers and families.

Hope Hoffman and students dance their way through Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

Organized and facilitated by Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short, this Dancing with Books series featured musician Jim Hall, dancer Hope Hoffman and three stories, Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter, A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. St. Elizabeth’s students and teachers explored the featured stories through song and dance in sessions throughout April. And every day St. Elizabeth’s had a session, the artists would offer an additional one to Museum visitors!  During the sessions, children read the books and learned to dance like a seed or tree and sang songs using vocabulary from the stories.

Teachers at St. Elizabeth’s have also benefited from this program. From attending the sessions with their students, they learned new ways to teach literacy through the arts, such as creating rhythms, singing vocabulary words, using body movement to make shapes of letters and words and telling interactive stories with props and puppets.

We hope that Dancing with Books will continue to inspire children to see the connection between the performing arts and literature and develop a life-long interest in not just reading, but music and movement as well.

Singing songs and dancing with Jim Hall!

Coming up in June will be Dancing with Books: Alphabet Dance! Children will use the letters of the alphabet to make fun shapes with their bodies. They will learn movements for each letter and create dances by spelling things out! Click here for dates and times. Dancing with Books will continue in the fall with a grant from the Beim Foundation and support from People’s United Community Foundation.