What’s in the Greenhouse?!

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.

Have you peeked out into our backyard lately? Have you noticed a new addition? We have a greenhouse now! Isn’t that exciting? We have started planting lots of new fruits and vegetables for our garden, but how will you know what is what? I mean really, how many people know the name of every type of vegetable and fruit (and trust me, we picked some awesomely unusual ones!) and know exactly what it looks like? I’m betting not many!

This is where one of our Youth Imagine students, Elfriede, steps in. She is thinking about painting a picture of all of the different plants in our greenhouse, including kale, carrots, melons, broccoli and so much more! Along with the image, she will also label each plant with its name, the amount of time it takes to grow, and also the vitamins that you can get from eating it. We aren’t exactly sure where this painting will go just yet, but you can be sure it will be located within sprouting distance of the greenhouse so you can reference it.

It will still be a little while before the greenhouse is all set for our visitors. Soon, the plants will all be in their raised beds, and children will be free to explore it and participate in a variety of programs that are being designed specifically for the greenhouse. (Plus, it’s still chilly out, so it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to play in it right now!) When you do get a chance to poke around in it, make sure to keep an eye out for Elfriede’s painting!

Polishing a Project

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 mid-term week at USM, which means I’m in the dregs of research and outlines for papers. Personally, I think the best part about doing a presentation, or writing a paper, is polishing them until they sparkle, and just finding that perfect phrase to get my point across. It’s really the little details that matter. This Tuesday, a couple of students began putting the finishing touches on their service-learning projects, and even picked the dates for their programs!

One of our students, Rahma, has decided to do an education program called Where Your Food Comes From. She wants to teach children that their food does not just come from a grocery store, or a kitchen, but is actually grown in a garden first. She hopes to do this program in the Explore Some More room, and then bring the kids to our new greenhouse to show them the plants we are growing! It’s very exciting!

Another one of our students, Suzan, wants to do an education program focused on language. She hopes to teach the kids a little about her own language, Arabic, by teaching them some Arabic letters, and showing the kids how she writes them. Did you know that Arabic is written from right to left, instead of left to right? Isn’t that awesome? Suzan is thinking about doing this program in the We Are Maine exhibit.

These kids are really getting to the point where they can focus on the details of their projects. For example, we asked them how they would keep kids excited while doing their projects. Their answers ranged from food, to art, to music!  Hopefully, next week, we’ll have more amazing ideas to share with you!

Service Learning & Student Voice

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.

This week, the Youth Imagine Project focused on proposal writing. We discussed how a proposal is used, the different sections of a proposal, and then the students began writing their own for their service learning projects. While talking about introductions, I asked the students to think about what makes their projects important, why should someone pay attention to what they are doing? They came up with many awesome answers, but it got me thinking, why is the Youth Imagine Project important?

There are many benefits to service-learning projects. Studies have proven that it can lead to higher graduation rates because it keeps students more engaged with the classroom by connecting academics with real-world experiences. However, as a whole, Portland’s drop-out rate is better than the national average, and our students’ school, Portland High School, has drop-out rates that are better than many other high schools in Maine. In other words, while higher graduation rates are grand, they aren’t exactly the biggest concern. There are many other statistics that prove the benefits of service learning, and the ones most relevant to the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine share the same factor: voice.

Looking back on my high school years, I can honestly say that one of my biggest frustrations with school was a lack of voice. Even the student government, the voice of the entire student body, really didn’t seem to have a say in the decisions that affected us, and it really hurts student morale and confidence. One of the great benefits of service-learning projects is that it gives students voice, especially in the case of the Youth Imagine Project, in which they design their own project. Studies have proven that service-learning projects that allow students to have their own voice lead to students participating more in political engagement and are more connected to their community. One study has even stated that students become more accepting of differences, which I find poignant considering that many of our students are designing projects centered on the idea of teaching children about accepting cultural differences, and the prevention of bullying.

Structuring Ideas

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  and second posts.

As an upper-level college student, I am often faced with the dilemma of narrowing down a very broad topic into a very detailed thesis.  As you might know, writing papers is all about structure, and you can’t build a strong argument on a shaky thesis. This challenge frequently leaves me staring at my textbooks for hours trying to figure out how to take a grand idea and turn it into something practical. So, I understood the strife of our students this Tuesday as they tried to narrow down and combine their interests and concerns into a manageable service learning project.

We started off with a worksheet which posed the challenge to create a service learning project by combining an interest and a community issue. I personally think the greatest difficulty in creating a project is finding the means of combining both ideas into something that can actually function. For example, it’s easy to say you want to combine your interest in dance with your interest in cultural education, but then little details get in the way, like, how are you going to talk to kids about culture and keep their attention? Are you going to have them participate in the dance, or are you going to perform for them? What dance will you perform and why is it significant? These questions can cause cracks in the foundations of projects, and sometimes they are hard to patch up, but these kids worked through them like champs!

 They have come up with a lot of brilliant ideas. For example, one of our students is concerned with teaching kids about where their food comes from. In other words, she wants to show kids that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store. She is thinking about doing a program in our new greenhouse in order to teach kids about this topic! Isn’t that awesome? There are lots of other great ideas that include topics such as the history of technology, dance, culture, food, art, and giving kids some time to dream. Be sure to check back for individual student interviews, which will allow you to get to know these kids and a little about their projects!