Have you thanked your pet today?

Animals bring so much joy to our lives that it’s so important to take some time to celebrate them, and to say thank you! During Be Kind to Animals Week, the first week in May (May 2 through the 7), we hope you’ll join us here at the Museum & Theatre to learn more about how to be kind to our animal friends. I’ve arranged a week of extra visits by live animals and humane educators who can teach you how to understand the subtle messages pets and wild animals send us. This event was inspired by conversations with humane educator Lona Ham of the Animal Welfare Society and humane educator Kathleen Fobear of the Animal Refuge League (check out the Linkage Project to learn more). 

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” 

~Sirius Black in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Although “inferior” is not the word I’d personally choose to describe any kind of animal (insects, for example, are vastly more abundant and arguably more powerful than humans), this is one of my favorite quotes from a very quotable series of books. What Sirus is trying to say is that a good man will treat those who are voiceless, targeted, or lacking some sort of power, with just as much kindness and respect as he treats somebody he hopes will help him. “Voiceless” is often the word used to describe pets and very young children just learning to communicate with words. I’m much more likely to trust a woman who’s kind to earthworms, hamsters, or puppies than one who will brush aside or even hurt a creature that’s smaller or slower than she is. This doesn’t mean I don’t swat mosquitoes… that’s self-defense, after all. It does mean that I pay a lot of attention to how people, both kids and adults, treat the animals in their lives.

Animals have messages to send us, and our awesome community partners can help you learn how to decode them. We are so lucky to have regular visitors from the Animal Refuge League (ARL) and the Animal Welfare Society (AWS). Their programs are a great way to introduce young child to furry (or sometimes scaly!) pets. The ARL and AWS have moved their visits to earlier in the month to coincide with Be Kind to Animals Week, but usually they visit on the third Thursday and Saturday of each month, respectively (check out our calendar for upcoming visits from ARL and AWS). Our ongoing schedule includes regular programs featuring Maine’s own David Sparks, who helps many families relocate skunks, bats, flying squirrels or other creatures who take up residence in their homes. During vacation weeks and occasionally throughout the year, David comes for a Sparks Ark Special Show – your ticket ($2 for members) guarantees a seat and helps cover the cost of this awesome show. Be Kind to Animals Week will feature David’s other program, Animal Friends with David Sparks, which allows for an up-close and personal visit with a single animal. (Last time we met two adorable baby pygymy goats!). 

A big thank you goes out to Kathleen Fobear of the Animal Refuge League of Westbrook for joining us for extra visits during this special week! Join us for How to Hear Your Pet “Talk” on Thursday with the Animal Refuge League and Saturday with the Animal Welfare Society. Or you can help make toys for pets at the Animal Refuge League’s shelter (and meet a real, live pet too!) on Tuesday during Animal Fun. During Be Kind to Animals Week you’re also invited to bring in a picture or photo of your pet or a wild animal you love, and attach it to a thank you letter you can write while you’re here! We’ll choose some of these letters to get post in the Vet Clinic exhibit. On Friday and Saturday you can make a sweet sticky bird feeder to take home and hang up to attract wild animal friends a treat. And don’t forget to sign up for Animal Yoga with Jamie if you’re here Tuesday morning! 

Visit the Calendar of Events for a complete list of our Be Kind to Animals Week programming.

For more information about our partners and presenters, visit them on the web:

American Humane Association

Animal Welfare Society

Animal Refuge League

Sparks Ark

We’re Going Through Some Changes!

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 previous posts here.

Last week Jamie and I sat down and really discussed how we can make the Youth Imagine Project more accessible and convenient for both us, the administrators of the project, and for our students. We also wondered how we could streamline the drafting process of student projects, and make it more structured.  So, two lattes and a lunch break later, Jamie and I feel we have come up with a few new adjustments that will make this project even better for both students and the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine!

1)      Location, Location, Location

We have found one of the biggest troubles we are having with this project is the location. While the Children’s Museum & Theatre is awesome for playtime, there is very little space for a group of 10-12 teenagers and two adults to sit down and actually discuss new ideas. Thus, we are hoping to move our meetings to Portland High School. The Program will still run at the same time, but it will be easier for our students because they will only have to walk down the hall to meet with us, instead of having to walk a few blocks. Also, PHS has a lot more space for us to meet in!

2)      Structure

We’ve found that the actual projects that the students are creating need a little more structure than we had initially planned. While our students are brilliant, they need a little more guidance than a blank page. We are now hoping to structure their projects around cultural programs that can be done with visitors at the Museum. So many of our students have expressed interest in sharing their culture with others that we feel this will be a good fit for both the students and for us, as we are trying to create more culture focused programs.

This has been a learning process for sure, but we are so glad that our students have been patient with us and are so brilliant! They always bring something new and awesome to the program to share with us, and we hope that these changes will benefit them! Stay tuned for new updates next week!

Lesson Plans

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 previous posts here.

An aspect of the Youth Imagine Project is giving students professional skills that will help them achieve success, no matter what path they may choose to take in life. This Tuesday, Rahma and I drafted a rough draft of a lesson plan for her Where Does Your Food Come From? program. A lesson plan details the objective of your program, the materials needed and the script for the program that tells the reader things that they can say and do with the visitors. Basically, a lesson plan is a description of your project that can be used by others who want to do your program themselves.

Lesson plans are usually used by educators, and some of the things you learn by writing one, such as the format and content needed, are specific to the task.  However, some of the skills that come with learning how to write one can be used in almost any discipline. Writing a lesson plan means learning how to write clearly and concisely, which is valued in any discipline that requires communication.  Writing clearly is one of those things that appear easy, but once you start doing it you learn it is harder than it sounds. Clear writing includes correct spelling, grammar, and appropriate vocabulary. Can you think of a time someone didn’t communicate clearly? Wasn’t it confusing?

Next week, Rahma and I will work together to edit her lesson plan so that it is as clear as possible. In general, writing is a process, and creating a lesson plan is no different. Check in next week for more exciting updates!

Starting Projects

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 previous posts here.

Getting our hands dirty!
Rahma and I get our hands dirty preparing soil blocks.

It seems like everywhere we look, someone new wants to help with our new greenhouse! Alias, one of our Youth Imagine volunteers, has decided that he wants to help with the construction of the greenhouse – from helping plant the seedlings to constructing the raised beds that they will be planted in. On Tuesday, Alias, Rahma, Jamie and I made soil blocks to plant the seeds in. These small soil blocks will be placed in larger ones once they have grown a bit, and then will eventually be moved into the greenhouse. We are just waiting until it gets a little bit warmer! We had a lot of fun getting our hands dirty!

Last Wednesday, Rahma was able to do her education program with our visitors! She taught them about the different parts of a plant. She used a carrot and a strawberry as examples, and while she was teaching them, the kids got to snack on baby carrots! Yum! Rahma was very excited about how well her program went, and remarked that all of the kids were so smart! Both Rahma and Alias have stated that they would like to continue volunteering with us after their Youth Imagine Project term is over. We are very excited to add them to our list of volunteers! Stay tuned for more news next week!

Sketches & Erasers

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 Thursday I got the chance to meet with Elfriede, one of the Youth Imagine students I have mentioned in prior blogs. She brought in a sketch of the painting she is going to make for us, which details the different types of plants that you can find in our brand new greenhouse! It looked really awesome, and we are working out the details as to how large it can be, as well as what painting supplies we would be able to give her. Soon, she will be coming in to work on it, and it will turn from a pencil sketch to a permanent piece of artwork.

Like Elfriede’s plans for her painting, the Youth Imagine Project is still in the sketching stage. It’s a pilot program, which means certain plans will have to be erased and replaced with more manageable and relevant ideas. This does not mean that the project is doing poorly. On the contrary, alterations are merely an indication that this program could become permanent once it is perfected. Much the same as any piece of art, perfection takes a lot of eraser marks. I guess what I am trying to say is that you don’t fix something just to throw it out! You want to keep it around!

The biggest change we have made to the Youth Imagine Project over the past few weeks is the scheduling. We’ve found that our students have taken on a great amount of responsibility, and have many interests that manifest in other settings than the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. For example, many of our students are participating in Portland High School’s International Show.  While this is a very exciting opportunity for our students to share their culture with the community, their practices were at the same time as the Youth Imagine Project! We are flexible though, and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to change how we structure the meetings with our students. We’ve found that one-on-one time is most beneficial for both the students and the people who are working with them. This is hard to do when you have 10-12 amazing students in one room. We’ve decided to change the scheduling of the program from one 2 hour group session, to multiple small group or individual meetings that are scheduled in different time slots during the week. We hope that this will make our program more convenient for our busy students, but if not, we will just alter it one more time!

We can’t wait until this volunteer program is perfected, but until then, we will slave over the sketches and make changes until our figurative erasers are merely nubs that we hold between our nails as we scratch the paper trying to make a change. We want to make sure that this program is a perfect fit for the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, but also a perfect fit for the youth that participate in it. Stay tuned for next week for new and exciting updates!

Beeswax Candles are good for all of us!

What’s the difference between 100% natural beeswax candles and “regular” candles? Paraffin candles, the most common type available, are made from petroleum, the same crude oil that is refined to make the fuel for our cars, lawn mowers, and airplanes. When you burn a paraffin candle, you release some of the same compounds found in auto exhaust, which can be risky and cause soot stains if you’re not burning the candle in a well-ventilated area. Beeswax candles burn cleanly and smell naturally delicious. They also burn a long time for their size, and give off a bright yellow light reminiscent of sunlight. Best of all, beeswax is a renewable resource… the bees can always make more! For Honey Time this spring, we’re offering a candle-making workshop suitable for the youngest kids: Candles made from beeswaxrolled beeswax candles. Using sheets of pressed beeswax, kids can create colorful candles, perfect for gifts!  During the workshop we’ll also learn about how bees live and build their hives. It’s a great treat for those who are excited for the upcoming production of Winnie the Pooh. I hope to see you there!