We Won! Our Cultural Policies Received the 2012 MetLife Promising Practice Award

The community comes together at a celebration of India.

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine received the MetLife Foundation Promising Practice Award and a $10,000 grant in recognition of the Museum & Theatre’s innovative cultural policies. The award was presented on Thursday, May 10 at Interactivity 2012, the Association of Children’s Museums’ international conference, held this year in Portland, Oregon. The Museum & Theatre was among four children’s museums selected from an international pool of applicants to receive the honor.

This year’s theme was the important role of children’s museums in nurturing global citizens. The Museum & Theatre was recognized for its unique policies guiding the development and delivery of cultural programs. These policies include the requirement that cultural programs must be developed with input from a community partner who is of the culture the program seeks to explore.

Suzanne Olson (the Museum & Theatre's Executive Director) pictured with Rohit Burman (Director, MetLife Foundation) at the 2012 Association of Children's Museums conference in Portland, Oregon.

“These policies challenge us to create personal, experience-based programs that span cultures from around the globe but are also sourced within our local community,” says Olson. “Our educators facilitate programs as conversations. We don’t give authoritative presentations that attempt to define or speak for an entire culture. This creates a safe space for children and adults to converse about their place in the world and explore the connections they have with others.”

Other 2012 Promising Practice Award recipients were the Treehouse Museum for Children in Ogden, Utah; the Explore & More Children’s Museum in Aurora, New York; and the Magic Bean House Children’s Museum in Beijing, China.

New Exhibit: Child Inventor Service

There goes Sandy! She's an unstoppable inventor and the star of our new exhibit.

We’re in the home stretch of exhibit construction for Child Inventor Service, an exhibit that explores engineering through the eyes of Sandy, a young problem-solver, and her clubhouse full of exhibits and inventions. This is our first all-new, permanent exhibit since we opened We Are Maine in 2006, and we couldn’t be more proud! All of our staff – educators, exhibits and operations team members, development, marketing and administration – has been part of making this exhibit happen. The volunteers and philanthropy committee from Fairchild Semiconductor have been enthusiastic partners throughout many months of exhibit development, and they were essential to making the exhibit content accurate, authentic and fun. YOU have been a part of it, too! We’ve learned a lot from your feedback as members and visitors, from observing how you and your family engage with exhibits, and we’ve even prototyped components of this exhibit and brought them out onto the floors to get your input.

Thanks for your patience as that corner of Our Town has been under construction for the past few weeks. The exhibit will open to the public this Friday, June 15. (If you’re a member, you’re invited to attend a special exhibit opening party on Thursday evening, June 14 – email lucy@kitetails.org for details.)

For more info about the exhibit, I’ve pasted our press release below. And of course, to really understand what the exhibit’s all about, I hope you’ll come in and see it for yourself!

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Portland, MaineThe Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine will open Child Inventor Service, its first all-new, permanent exhibit since 2006. Resembling a child’s fantasy clubhouse crossed with a scientist’s laboratory, the exhibit invites children to use robotics, circuitry and other technology to devise creative solutions to problems in Our Town, the Museum’s child-size city.

The exhibit opening is the culmination of a fifteen-month collaboration with a team of volunteers (many engineers) from Fairchild Semiconductor, the exhibit sponsor and a key advisor. Fairchild is committed to supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy among Maine’s K-12 students. The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine creates hands-on exhibits that inspire discovery and imagination through exploration and play. This unique partnership, in which the sponsor provided financial support and staff expertise, proved vital to determining the exhibit’s direction and purpose.

“The engineers told us that they have trouble explaining their jobs to their own children,” says Suzanne Olson, the Museum & Theatre’s Executive Director. “That inspired us. We got excited about combining our expertise with theirs to create a place where engineering is not only comprehensible, but fun.”

The Museum & Theatre and Fairchild want the exhibit to inspire a lifelong interest in science and technology, making a long-term impact on Maine’s students, and ultimately, its workforce.

“I think the kids of today are picking up technology really fast,” says Jim Siulinksi, an Applications and Systems Engineer and member of the exhibit development committee. “If we can help them learn how these technologies work, they’ll want to learn more. This is key to developing the next generation of engineers and technology workers. It will give them the power to shape their own futures.”

The exhibit stars Sandy, a child inventor who uses technology to solve problems for her Our Town neighbors. A private opening for Museum members and Fairchild staff and their families will be held on the evening of Thursday, June 14. The exhibit opens to the public during regular Museum hours on Friday, June 15.