Camp Blog 2019: Candy Cooking Camp

Our camps are off to a delicious start at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine! Our first camp of the summer was Candy Cook Camp, for ages 4-6. I had the sweet opportunity to join camp mid-week as a photographer and camp reporter. As a child, I spent many summers with my grandmother cooking candy, so the theme of this camp is particularly nostalgic to me. As an adult and an educator, I looked at making candy through a totally different lens.

Making candy takes patience! There are many intricate steps in the candy making process, and you can’t lick your fingers along the way, even if you really want to. When I first arrived on Wednesday all the campers wanted to show me the lollipops they made the day before. It took every ounce of will-power not to devour the pops, and we all demonstrated fantastic self-restraint!

Next, the young candy cooks faced their daily challenge—marshmallow fondant! You can check out the whole recipe here. This involved mixing 2 jars of marshmallow with 2 pounds of confectioners’ sugar. As you can imagine, this mixture was incredibly sticky. You may think kids would just want to dive into a sticky mess—these candy chefs were tentative, responsible. They contemplated the risk, some more comfortable with the idea of stickiness than others. I watched as each of them embraced the sticky for the higher purpose of mixing the marshmallow fondant. Once they were deep in sticky, one camper turned to me and said, “I can’t believe my mom signed me up for this camp!!” a look of pure exhilaration on her face. Getting really sticky and making a sticky mess is a safe risk that happens here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine! While the candy makers kneaded the dough they sang different variations of the Candy Man a song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sometimes providing their own lyrics about their marshmallow fondant. In that moment, every single one of them was a candy man or candy girl!

Later, after we snow plowed all the marshmallow fondant into a general pile and had snack, the candy chefs became scientists. They donned safety glasses and explored the molecular make-up of the marshmallow. The now scientist campers used a process of scientific inquiry to explore air pressure and observe what happened to a marshmallow when air was removed from a pressure jar. (I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re curious, check out an Incredible Enlarging Marshmallow program at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine sometime—this is a program we do pretty regularly.)

After making some scientific conclusions, the candy chefs turned scientists became artists. It was time to mold the fondant. Using rolling pins, cookie cutters, fingers, and plenty of concentration as well as creative inspiration they molded small marshmallow sculptures. I’m not sure what happened to them, but I think they were shared with loved ones at the end of the week. That’s really the best way to enjoy homemade candy! While our upcoming cooking camps are all sold out, there are a few spots left in the rest of our camps.

http://www.kitetails.org/exhibits-and-programs/camps/

We welcome children and families to play, learn, and grow. We are here for you each and every day.

Dear Community,

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine welcomes the many newly arriving asylum seeking families to Portland. We stand with the City and all of those helping children and families with their needs of food, shelter, and health care. We exist to inspire discovery and play for all children, and we are ready to offer educational and play opportunities to all new families in our community when they are ready for us.

We strive to be inclusive of all children and families. Please spread the word to families in our community who are in crisis or in need of help: We welcome children and families to play, learn, and grow. We are here for you each and every day.

Our inclusion work has a three-fold nature: reducing or removing cost barriers for families, partnering with organizations that share our inclusion goals, and connecting with community stakeholders to better understand barriers to accessing the Museum & Theatre.

We’ve been proud to support newly arriving families at the City of Portland Family Shelter, offering interdisciplinary educational programs to activate the shelter’s Warming Center space. During these visits, Museum & Theatre educators partner with Portland Maternal Health Nurses and Maine Medical Center’s International clinic to provide a “pop up” play space for children while nurses and doctors care for new or expecting mothers and triage acute care needs of anyone at the shelter. Families are also invited to play at the Museum & Theatre’s 142 Free Street location by using the Family Shelter’s membership pass. This partnership began with support from Francis Hollis Brain Foundation and continues thanks to Ronald McDonald House Charities. As the shelter expands services to meet the needs of our growing community, we will continue to work with the shelter in order to offer children play-based learning opportunities.

Each Saturday, the Museum & Theatre hosts an English language class and playtime for parents and children. Parents learn conversation skills, new vocabulary, and practice what they’ve learned by playing in the Museum & Theatre’s exhibits. Children attend class or play in the exhibits. English classes are made possible through the support of The Sprague Family Foundation and the J.T. Gorman Foundation.

We have a long history of providing free admissions to families who cannot afford our rates.Through generous donations by community members and businesses, families can apply for a free year of admission to the Museum & Theatre. This program is the heart of our inclusion work and allows families to become fully integrated into the Museum & Theatre community at no cost.

Families, children – you are all welcome here.


Sincerely,
Suzanne Olson
Executive Director
Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine

For more information about access to the Museum & Theatre, please contact us by calling 207-828-1234 x234 or by emailing welcome@kitetails.org. You can also visit http://www.kitetails.org/about-us/visit/general-info/ for reduced admission rate information. To apply for a scholarship membership, visit http://www.kitetails.org/membership/scholarship-memberships/

“Silly Slime” with Museum & Theatre Educator, Sam!

Slime. We certainly know it when we see it, but what really is it?

Kiddo playing with the final product: Silly Slime.

The Science

Usually, we define substances as solid, liquid, or gas- the three states of matter.  Solids, consist of tightly packed molecules that move very little. Liquids, have molecules that flow and move around each other. And in gasses, the molecules are very fast and far apart… Which raises the question, what do we do about something that can look and feel solid but actually moves more like a liquid?

Well, think Silly-Putty. While it might harden when you squeeze it, or even bounce if you throw it on the floor, if you let it sit in your hand it’ll begin ooze. So here’s the answer, substances with a slime or putty-like consistency are called a non-newtonian substance. This is a substance that (dependent on how you manipulate it, like our silly-putty example) can sometimes act like a solid or like a liquid.

Fun Fact: Non-Newtonian substances are all around us! Many of them are food products that we eat such as honey, ketchup, peanut butter, and whipped cream.

Playing with Silly Slime

It’s Slime Time!

This Silly Slime recipe, is really simple but requires heating which can be an added safety hurdle when working with kids. Please, if you’re interested in making this at home, have an adult present to assist any kiddos.

Our main ingredient for this recipe is Psyllium husk– A plant based, fiber supplement found in products like Metamucil (I like to use it because it’s borax free!).

For this recipe you will need:

  • Psyllium husk
  • Water
  • Food Coloring (of your choice!)
  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • ADULT ASSISTANCE

Another tidbit before we being: The ratio for Silly Slime is 1 tbs of psyllium husk to 1 cup of water. For the sake of this recipe, we’ll assume that you are making slime for one!

Let’s Begin!

First, pour…

  • 1 cup of water
  • Desired amount of food coloring (Pro Tip: less is ALWAYS more)

…into a microwavable-safe bowl. Begin to mix and add…

  • 1 tbs of psyllium husk.

Continue stirring until mixture until well-combined.

This is where things can get tricky (and sticky)

READ THIS SECTION FULLY BEFORE YOU BEGIN HEATING!

Microwave the mixture for 5-10 minutes or until it reaches desired consistency. Be aware, after the initial 2 minutes of heating, the slime can begin to rise. So, we recommend you keep an eye on it at is heats!

Pro Tip: My “desired consistency” for slime is when it sticks to a spoon and creates a long slime train.  A good thing to keep in mind is that the slime is “sheer thinning” which means it acts more like a liquid the more you manipulate it. This can mean a bigger mess but helps if it comes in contact with things like fabric.

Finally, cautiously remove your mixture from the microwave and pour it out onto a plate (or table-top if you love a good mess like I do). Once the slime is cool enough, it’s time to pick-up, jiggle, and play!

Have fun scientists!

-Sam Connelly, Educator

Kids Cook: Honey Brittle

Easy and so much FUN to make (and eat, of course)!

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to perfect this salty and sweet snack:

  • Saltine Crackers (1 box)
  • Butter
  • Honey
  • Brown Sugar
2 of your 4 ingredients: Saltines and Honey.

Let’s get started!

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Next, line a baking sheet with parchment paper for your brittle base of crackers.

Then, (resist the urge to eat an entire sleeve of Saltines) and begin to lay out…

  • 30 Saltine crackers

Side by side on the parchment paper.

Now let’s get sticky…

In a separate sauce pan combine…

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar

Not take that sauce pan of sticky deliciousness over to your stove top and sit over medium-heat. Stir until your mixture has a few boiling bubbles. Then, continue to stir for an extra 3 minutes.

CAREFULLY, remove from heat and pour your warm butter, honey, and brown sugar mix over the saltine crackers. Make sure they’re all thickly coated for guaranteed extra yumminess!!

You’re almost there!

Finally, once your oven has preheated, carefully place your baking sheet of coated saltines into the oven for 5 minutes (to add a little crunch to your stick).

Educator, Brittany, putting baking sheet into the oven.

DING DING! Once the 5 minutes are up, remove baking sheet from oven and let cool for at least 2 minutes.

Snap a picture to share with us on Facebook or Instagram using #CookingByKidsForKids and enjoy your sticky Honey Brittle snack!

Yummo! Join us for a Kids Cook Program this month! FREE with admission.

Construction Update: Projections and Reflections of NEW “Cloud City” Exhibit (Coming May 23rd)

The new exhibit, Cloud City, will challenge your perception!

Original Rendering of Cloud City Exhibit

Let’s talk light…

Upon entering Cloud City, visitors will see a scene of clouds projected across the entire space. Here’s where we begin to tamper with your sense of wonder and perspective:

Construction of Cloud City!
  • LIGHT- The cloud projections will be cast from opposite corners of the exhibit space. Here’s the twist (and the key element behind this design choice): each looping projection will be played at different speeds. So, while you view one projection whizzing through clouds, the other will be soaring in slower motion right next to it. Talk about enhancing how your mind registers speed and perception!

  • DEPTH– Each projection screen will be situated at different depths within the space, allowing YOU to go behind or in front of their figurations. Why? Well, we’d like you to meet shadows (perhaps even your own) in ways you’ve never met them before!

  • SENSORY PLAY– As you take in the sights, hide behind cloud-like structures and find little components we’ve strategically placed for you to further explore the power of light. But you’ll need to discover each of these when you visit! …okay okay, we’ll tell you:
    • Interactive mirror wall;
    • Large magnifying lens;
    • Convex bubble mirrors;
    • Blacklight and glow-in-the-dark painting;
    • And a slap-organ!
Exhibit designer and fabricator Andy Rosen at work

We’re so excited about the progress being made and can’t wait to welcome Museum & Theatre members and visitors to Cloud City for play and learning! Remember, as a member, you’re invited to this exciting exhibit opening party as a benefit of your Museum & Theatre membership!

Stay tuned for updates and sneak peeks over the next several months on our social media (follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin & Twitter using #KTCloudCity!), and email!

Til’ next time!

Maple Roasted Roots

Roasted roots meal in front of “The Story of the Root Children” by Sibylle von Olfers.

In Maine and across North East America, March is the season for maple syrup. Cold nights and warm days wake up the maple trees and the sap begins to run. Take advantage of this special time of year by using maple syrup to sweeten up winter root vegetables.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Next, chop an assortment of root vegetables—about 3 cups. These could include :

Raw root vegetables tossed in maple syrup, butter, and sea salt.
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Potatoes
  • Beets

Then, toss with

  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt

Roast in your preheated oven for 25 minutes or until browned

The finished product: Maple Roasted Roots.

Enjoy making some maple memories!
We’d love to see how YOUR delicious treat turned out. Share your creation on Facebook and Instagram using #CookingByKidsforKids or by tagging us!

Sincerely,
Samantha Connelly, Educator
Brittany Liscord,, Educator & Community Engagement Coordinator

Sensory Saturday: Egg Hunt

One of the best parts of programming, activities, and special events at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is that members, visitors, and friends are always welcome to share their ideas for us to turn into a reality! This spring, we’re bringing one-such idea to you: The first ever Play Your Way Before-Hours Egg Hunt. The Play Your Way special morning hours are designed for anyone who might benefit from a quieter play time and egg hunt experience! And YOU are officially invited to attend our Play Your Way Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 13th from 9-10am.

YOU’RE INVITED!


Why now?

This Egg Hunt is particularly special because the idea came from the families in our community who would benefit from such an event. At the Museum & Theatre, we are always excited to host a spring-time Play Your Way morning as well as an Egg Hunt. This season, we thought, why not combine the two for a festive and inclusive morning of fun?! On Saturday all children can experience the spring-time egg hunt they deserve to have. We could not be more excited for you to attend!

We’re welcoming children to come hunt for treat-filled eggs throughout the Museum & Theatre as they play in our exhibits!
Curious about our other upcoming events? Educators will be on-hand throughout the morning to answer any questions you have about our upcoming and current projects and programs to support your family’s needs. We hope to see you there!

Sincerely,
Lily O’Brien
Educator at the Museum & Theatre

Introducing: Cloud City

Coming soon…

Our team is beyond excited for this wondrous addition to our Museum & Theatre! Cloud City is spectacularly designed to energize and awaken a sense of wonder and exploration through your senses. Now, you’re probably thinking… well, what does that mean? Picture this: You jet up the stairs to our third floor, eager to experience the miraculous Cloud City. You take a deep breath and open the exhibits door. Immediately you’re washed in moving shadows, projections, and light. Looking around you examine a space COMPLETELY drenched in dreamy landscapes and rich cloud-like projection displayed on cloud shaped screens and walls. Suddenly, a wave of wonder and fascination excites your senses as you feel (perhaps for the first time) like a plane, whizzing through the air or a bird carving through a morning fog… Congratulations, you’ve made it. You’ve entered Cloud City.

What to expect…

Cloud City is intended to be a truly immersive and sensory rich environment, ready to be explored and transformed by each visitor’s unique range of senses and imagination.

Other elements of this exhibit will include projections and reflections, blacklight and glow-in-the-dark features, as well as hidden “sensory eggs” to discover. Plus, (we hope you’re sitting down for this) a stellar and massive raincloud made up of a series of hundreds of hanging fabrics of various textures. The raincloud is designed as a tactile and audio experience where visitors must rely on their senses of touch and hearing to navigate through.  

*Spoiler* Hidden in our raincloud will be a secret ladder to get to the Sky Lounge. That’s right, this exhibit literally has layers to it!

Let’s talk science…

The multi-sensory exhibit design is informed by current science on the various ways we process our world. Visitors navigate through a tactile environment of order and disorder by using their body as an instrument for sensing. Hidden throughout the exhibit are fun hidden surprises for visitors to find. As an immersive environment with open ended interactives, our visitors will be invited to play, invent games and discover.

Something to look forward to…

Cloud City will occupy the Lights Camera Color exhibit space and build upon some of its existing ideas and components. The Camera Obscura will stay until it’s needed for the new space. The opening of the exhibit will take place on May 23.

The Holi Celebration

On Sunday March 24th the Museum & Theatre joins together again with members of Maine’s community to celebrate Holi, the Hindu celebration of spring and color.

Better Understand the Tales of Holi

Did you know, Holi gets its name from Holika, who, according to Hindu religion, was the name of an evil enchantress. As the story goes, a good and kind prince named Prahlad was trapped by the evil enchantress, Holika. Yet, through a series of events, Prahlad was saved by his goodness and loyalty to Lord Vishnu, while the evil Holika was burned. Thus, on the night before Holi, many families have massive bonfires to celebrate this moment when good conquered over evil.
*See this story performed live this Sunday @3pm at the Museum & Theatre as we use finger puppets to tell the story of Prahlad and Holika.

This is not the only tale incorporated in and remembered during the Holi celebration. Another important story is that of the God Krishna who lovingly colored his friend Radha blue. This story inspires friends and family to take to the streets with handfuls of colorful dye and spray water pistols known as pichkaris. As people play Holi, they become covered head to toe with colorful dye!

Our Maine Community: Holi Celebrations

Sunday’s celebration of Holi is also special because it is part of a longstanding tradition for members of the India Association of Maine to share this celebration with the Portland community at the Museum & Theatre. Sabina, a longtime partner of the Museum & Theatre reflects, “From food and art to dance and music, the Indian community has enjoyed a very special collaboration with the Museum, allowing us to educate Mainers as well as welcome families.” Over the years, one of my favorite moments as an educator was watching a toddler from India get her first chance to touch traditional Holi dyes and make a Holi finger painting art piece. There are many traditions celebrated in Maine, and the Museum & Theatre is honored to be a place where people can celebrate together.
Also celebrate with the India Association of Maine: May 5th!

World Water Day & Sustainability

With an economy that relies on the health of Maine’s waters and land, and a population of people dedicated to the outdoors, the Museum & Theatre seeks to rally and excite our community to take part in preserving our natural resources. Children and families use the Museum & Theatre as a resource to learn more about our environment and how to protect it, and the Museum & Theatre plans to grow that impact through expanded programming and exhibits.

Casco Bay remains one of the fastest warming bodies of water in all the world. The Museum & Theatre’s live touch tank program, How Climate Change Effects Casco Bay, seeks to inform and empower children and their caregivers, fostering empathy in the youngest visitors and action and engagement with older visitors. During the program, visitors have access to real tools to measure salinity and temperature, as well as microbe health, and compare these results to current scientific data.  Visitors also have freedom to touch and explore the life within the tank, from microscopic phytoplankton to large anemone, sea stars, and rock crabs.

Crab (named Sandy-Shelley by visitors) being held by the hands of a Museum & Theatre educator.

For World Water Day, March 22nd, we will be exploring our Tide Pool Touch Tank at 10:30am to meet our marine creatures and explore a little piece of Casco Bay. 

Sustainability & the future home of the Museum & Theatre

The future Museum & Theatre on Thompson’s Point (coming in 2020!) will feature a brand new, custom aquatic exhibit designed to explore the interconnected Maine watershed through incredible experiences with live fish and animals. Three large touch tanks and several viewing tanks will be the feature of this interactive aquatic adventure. This exhibit will feature many of Maine’s native aquatic species from freshwater turtles to gulf of Maine skates, providing the opportunity for all ages to develop connections to Maine species and fostering stewardship of natural resources.

While plans to build the future Museum & Theatre at Thompson’s Point progress, the organization is continuing to ramp up our offerings at 142 Free Street and in surrounding schools, including a new education outreach program available to surrounding schools and organizations: Heating Up: Climate Change & Sustainability in Maine. Now students can explore the interconnected relationship between microscopic plants, humpback whales, and humans during a hands-on experience that allows participants to view live samples under a microscope and climb inside a life-sized whale.  

Our sustainable programming


Eric Venturini, a native pollinator conservation expert from The Xerces Society, educates visitors on the importance of Honey Bees in our community.

Current sustainability programs at the Museum & Theatre on Free Street focus on the roles different creatures play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem for Maine. On February 23rd, the founder of the Maine Wolf Coalition, John Glowa, joined Museum & Theatre visitors to talk about how wolves hold an important role in keeping our ecosystem healthy. In our popular February vacation week mainstage theatre production, The Three Little Pigs, audiences experienced an interactive version of the story which suggests that perhaps the pigs built their houses on wolf territory; this play (with youth actors from Maine!) explored habitat use in a fun, playful manner for families. Biologist and conservationist, Eric Venturini, from The Xerces Society talked to families visiting during February vacation week all about native bees and pollinators. And a honeybee exhibit allows visitors year-round to see a live honey bee hive in action as the bees come to and from the Museum & Theatre’s unique observation hive.

As the primary resource for Maine families, we believe it’s important to offer families learning through play opportunities for increasing their understanding of and connection to the natural world. Do you have suggestions for other sustainability educational programming or special guests that you would like to see at the Museum & Theatre? Please comment below with your ideas, and we hope to see you soon!

Young visitors play in Cascade Stream of our Discovery Woods (sponsored by L.L Bean)