What is David Champlain’s Favorite Creature?

David Champlain is a guest artist leading our “Amazing Metamorphosis!” program at the Museum & Theatre. I asked him to share some interesting facts about the creature he will share with Museum & Theatre visitors!

“At the Children’s Museum & Theatre, we studied the tiny eggs of my favorite creature and the tiny babies that hatch from them after three days of incubation.  The babies were too small to hold but we could hold those that were a few days older because they grow fast.  In just ten days, their weight increases 10,000 fold.  If a newborn human grew that fast, their crib would explode on the first day and by the tenth day the baby would weigh as much as six full grown elephants!

David Champlain, a professor at the University of Southern Maine, is coming to the Museum & Theatre with a fascinating little friend!

When it finishes growing, my favorite creature turns into something that looks like a piece of beautifully carved wood.  Three weeks later a beautiful moth emerges.  At the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, in addition to holding caterpillars, we got to hold pupae and moths too.  The pupae and moths were alive but didn’t move very much because the pupae were undergoing metamorphosis and the moths rest during the day and then wake up to fly in the evening to find nectar in flowers and a mate.  Animals that are awake at night are nocturnal.  Animals that are awake during the day are diurnal.  Animals like my moth that are awake in the evening are said to be crepuscular. If you see a hummingbird feeding on the nectar in flowers at twilight it might actually be a moth because they hover while feeding just like a hummingbird.  The moth uncoils its proboscis, a long drinking straw, and sips nectar from deep-throated flowers.  The drinking straw on my favorite creature is over three inches long!  Charles Darwin described an orchid on the island of Madagascar the throat of whose flower was nearly a foot deep.  Darwin predicted a corresponding moth would be discovered with a foot long proboscis!  The moth was found and when tucked away during flight, its proboscis is coiled around and around more than twenty times.  Insects are amazing!”

David's favorite creature is the Manduca Sexta, otherwise known as the Tobacco Hornworm!

David will be back at the Museum & Theatre with his favorite insect on Sunday, September 12 at 1:30pm. Join us to examine, touch, and learn about each life stage of this beautiful moth from its bright green caterpillar phase to winged adulthood.

We’ve Got Milk!

I knew the Got Milk? tour was coming to visit the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine today, but I didn’t know they’d create such a fun atmosphere! The shipyard had music, games, giveaways and milkshakes – quite a party! I’m psyched that they’ll be back tomorrow (Thursday, 9/19) from 10:30-12:30 to do it all again.

Electricity to Sound to Art

The latest addition to Galen Richmond’s evolving sound sculpture was installed this month. Coming to visual art from a background in music, his work frequently involves sound sculptures built from discarded electronic parts.  This work is an interactive experiment in the transformation of electricity to sound and a look at how different electronic components shape and augment what sound is produced.

A young visitor helps Galen put the finishing touches on his new SmartArt component.

The science: the work is that it functions as a large model of a primitive circuit board synthesizer complete with oversized replicas of resistors, diodes, and switches. Inside, the work’s low voltage power is continuously running through an incomplete circuit board to a speaker (transistor) underneath the unit. Visitors can then add jumpers and electronic components to complete the circuit and create or change the sound. The sound produced is the result of the sum and order of the electronic components. This makes the work very open-ended and visitors can turn switches or change and remove parts to experiment and create a variety of different sounds.

The finished product! The signs help visitors understand how to turn electricity into sound!

The art: the music being produced is the metaphor that comes out of the explorative process that Galen provides the visitor. The art works by completing a circuit through experimental connections. This act of bridging or making parallel connections to create a new experience functions as a tangible metaphor for the modern artist. This relates back to the exhibition as a whole and the bridges that all of the featured artists are making between science and art.


Galen is our SmartArtist-in-Residence, and will be spending time weekly at the Museum prototyping and testing out ideas for a series of works that he will install in SmartArt, our current science/art exhibit. The SmartArtist-in-Residence program was established as a way to provide the Museum & Theatre’s young visitors with an ongoing collaborative art experience that connects them with a local science-based artist and enhances our SmartArt exhibit. The program will run throughout the SmartArt exhibition and Galen will be on site creating work and hosting workshops at select times through December 2010. Click here for upcoming SmartArt programs.

Creative Kids and Recycled Robots

What do trash robots, snake sculptures and shaving cream paper marbling all have in common? Besides being super fun, they are all educational (and messy) projects from last week’s camp, Creative Kids!

We delved into art making on Monday and didn’t stop! Friday marked the conclusion, in which our camp room turned into an art gallery. We invited all our friends and families to show off our impressive work.

What were we so busy doing, anyway? Between silly games such as acting like a certain color and trips to our neighbors, the Portland Museum of Art, campers learned about different styles of lines through the theme of ‘snakes.’ We tried sculpture, printmaking and drawing to explore straight, zigzag and curvy lines that real snakes would be shaped like or how they’d move. Our most involved piece of the week was the snake sculpture we worked on a little bit EVERY day. We first made the shape with tinfoil, and then covered it with plaster strips (the same kind used when you get a cast for a broken bone at the hospital!). Once they were dry we used masking tape to tape off lines so our stripes would be  nice and neat. We gessoed them as a final touch, so now they are super shiny like real snakes.

Another project we’re proud of is named Auto. He’s our giant trash robot! Take a look in the SmartArt exhibit and you’ll notice this friendly creature created all out of trash. It’s amazing what a little silver paint can do! Be on the look out this fall for my “Recycled Robots” program, where you’ll have a chance to make your own version and add it to our exhibit.

The campers are gone but the art lives on. If you enjoyed camp this summer, or haven’t had a chance to yet, there are still a few openings for Amazing Animal Journeys camp with Hannah. Check in at the front desk!


Recommended reading and inspiration for our colorful snakes: Verdi, by Janell Cannon (creator of Stellaluna).
Our favorite way of learning about lines: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson

Sowing Seeds, Plant Play and Nature Treasures!

A few weeks ago, I lead an impromptu gardening program in our Shipyard. I had some beautiful cucumber plants that needed a home, so I thought – what better place than the empty planters outside? I had lots of eager visitors help me with the digging, planting and watering!

We hold a lot of gardening and nature programs at the Museum & Theatre. You can learn about foods that come from plants (like our cucumbers) during Sowing Seeds: Farmer’s Market and Harvest Time. Plant Play teaches our visitors how plants grow and thrive, you’ll even go home with your very own leaf rubbing! Nature Treasure Box is one of my favorites,  I find treasures from the outdoors or the Museum collection and share them with visitors – it’s a surprise every time!

We hope to see you at one of our many nature programs at the Museum & Theatre. Here are photos from the cucumber planting!

Putting the brakes on the “summer slide”

Early this summer I was invited to attend a PTO meeting at Plummer Motz Elementary School (my alma mater!) in Falmouth. The topic of discussion was the dreaded “summer slide” – learning losses that children may suffer if they’re not getting any intellectual stimulation during the summer months. The room was packed – clearly this was a topic of great concern to parents. I, along with a panel of teachers, education experts, and librarians, were there to offer tips and suggestions as the parents took diligent notes. I know that everyone left that meeting with every intention of maintaining a rigorous academic regimen for the next ten weeks… then there was camp. And playdates. And the week at grandma’s. And visiting relatives. And summer soccer league. And suddenly a back to school commercial popped up during “America’s Got Talent” and it was already [gulp]… August?!

Playing pretend is a great way to develop problem solving skills.

The good news is, your summer activities have probably already provided your children with a lot of the stimulation they need to keep their young minds alert and growing. Summer learning doesn’t require stacks of flash cards or work books full of word problems – a lot of the things you do every day keep young minds active and engaged. The Museum & Theatre’s philosophy (backed up by volumes of educational research) is that unstructured play is a vital component of learning. Whether it’s a board game, a tree fort, or just a game of “let’s pretend,” the activities children choose during their free play time are helping them learn essential life skills.

Here are a few suggestions for increasing the educational impact of your summer fun. Try incorporating a few of these strategies before school starts up in a few weeks!

Fun (and free!) learning opportunities are right in our backyard!

Plan it! Whether it’s a trip into town for the afternoon or a cross-country plane trip to a new city, planning any sort of voyage engages a broad spectrum of skills. Mapping a route, working within a budget, and scheduling activities are tasks children of all ages can participate in with the appropriate amount of guidance. Set parameters and challenges for a child to work with. Try planning a green day trip that uses public transportation, bikes, or pedestrian routes; set a tiny per-person budget and find out how many low- or no-cost activities you can find in a weekend; plan a “locovore” day, visiting only locally owned businesses and eateries (use Portland Buy Local for ideas). Giving a child ownership of an activity can inspire amazing creativity – and lead your family on new adventures!

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