Playing Grown-Up

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her first post here.

                It’s been a busy week at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. With the Explore India event, and the new program surrounding celebration of Mawlid (did you get to meet some of our students? They were helping at both events!) we haven’t had much time to sit down, organize our thoughts, and answer some questions. That being said, sometimes the big questions come up in hindsight. The other day, we began to realize that we had one big question to answer as we proceed with the Youth Imagine Project: why the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine? Why should we get to create and host this amazing program, with a group of kids that is well beyond our normal age bracket? We began to think of our mission statement – that the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is very focused on facilitating discovery and imagination through exploration and play. How could this mission statement be related to the Youth Imagine Project?

                Honestly, it comes down to two words in that mission statement: discovery and play.  The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine offers a safe space for all families and children. It’s that very atmosphere offers a unique opportunity for students to play at being grown up; that is, discover themselves and their interests while being able to make mistakes and try new things. So, I guess the Youth Imagine Project is a lot like dressing up as a firefighter in the Fire Truck exhibit, only these kids are trying on certain careers, passions and personas.

                When you really think about it, play time is a time to try something new without fear of judgment. There are no such things as mistakes during play, only opportunities for improvisation and learning. We hope to bring this mission and attitude to every meeting with these kids.  While it’s important to gain professional skills, it’s just as important to know what makes you tick. We hope that by developing their own service-learning projects, students will be able to try out a potential interest that could become an important aspect of their life… or not.  Sometimes it’s just as valuable to know what doesn’t work for you.  So, in short, what we really want to do is offer these kids some time to discover themselves through play, while giving them a few mental toys to use along the way.

Snowflakes and Thought Drops

Normally, as a college student, I welcome any snow day so that I can forget my academic responsibilities, remain in my pajamas, drink hot cocoa, and just enjoy a day’s worth of relaxation. Not so this winter. As the Community Engagement Intern, I found myself wishing that the snow would stop showing up on Tuesdays so that we could get the Youth Imagine Project up and running.

The Youth Imagine Project is an exciting new program which works with immigrant high school students from Portland High School to develop their own service-learning project within the museum, while simultaneously offering them professional development workshops to help them gain skills for college and the workforce. It’s exciting not only because we are working with a new age bracket of students, but also because…well…these kids are awesome and have so many ideas to share with the Children’s Museum and Theatre staff and visitors!

You can imagine our excitement when the snowstorms stayed at bay, and our group of students was able to show up for a brainstorming session. Our kids came up with so many great ideas (what I sometimes like to call, in the spirit of weather metaphors, “thought drops”)! They are taking so many awesome avenues in their projects, including psychology, technology, tradition & culture, gardening, music, and drama.  Many of them expressed interest in running education programs with our visitors, while others are thinking of other ways to use their skills and interests.

We can’t wait until next week when we freeze these thought drops into more solid project ideas! I’ll be writing posts weekly, so stay tuned for further developments!