The Buzz About Our New Bees

Please check out this cool gallery of images taken yesterday by our Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan, as our brand new beehive was being installed. The bees were moved to their new temporary home in the Ranger Station on our second floor.

Some facts about the bees and our hive:

  • Davida Sky is our master beekeeper, with over 26 years of beekeeping experience. She will be checking in on the bees monthly to monitor them to make sure they are healthy and having a good time.
  • The queen is marked with a bright green dot on her back. Each year the new queens are marked with a different color, so in addition to being a tool for finding the queen, it is a way for beekeepers to track a queen’s age.
  • The new hive is an 8 frames hive from Bonterra Bees in Bar Harbor, Maine, almost 3 times bigger than our last one. This extra space gives the bees space to store enough honey to survive through the winter.

Thank You, TripAdvisor!

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We are so thrilled to be informed by TripAdvisor that we have been awarded a Certificate of Excellence, based on a 4.5 star rating from you, our visitors and guests. Thank you!

It’s always an honor to receive any sort of commendation such as this, but the thing that makes this award special is that it truly comes directly from you. Based on your enthusiastic feedback, comments, and reviews you’ve offered about your experiences here, TripAdvisor saw fit to let us know that you truly appreciate our presence here in this community; for you and your families.

Thank you again to everyone who makes this place great! We give you all a 5 star rating!

Meet Laura Poppick: Welcome to Hermit Crab City

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Hermit Crab City was my favorite haven as a kid. Tucked within the tall, sandy bluffs of Block Island, RI, this cluster of tide pools – dubbed Hermit Crab City by my Dad – always revealed dozens of scuttling creatures if we looked hard enough. During summer vacations, my brothers and I would wade with our heads bent down until we spotted a shell moving along the shallow pool floor. We’d carefully pick each up and examine their beady eyes. I squirmed with glee as their small claws tickled my hand.

When I learned in middle school that some scientists spent entire workdays loping around tide pools, rain forests, or other far off regions of the world for research, my mind buzzed. I joined a science club that allowed me to get outside and even skip some classes to give us time for fieldwork. I loved getting mucky in streams and forests while everyone else sat antsy at their desks.

By college, the spirit of discovery that Hermit Crab City had instilled in me flared strong. My geology major at Bates College in Lewiston, ME brought me kayaking along the coast of Maine mapping rock formations, wading through rivers collecting sediment samples, and drilling through frozen ponds inspecting wintertime aquatic life.

And the summer before my senior year, I found myself steering a small motorboat in Laura_Glacierfront of a massive Arctic glacier, collecting long mud cores and deep blue iceberg samples to study glacial retreat due to climate change.

This was it. Polar bears roamed around us, nightly meals of reindeer stew kept us strong for the next day of fieldwork, and towers of ice crashed in front of us as we documented the rapid melt of a glacier suffering from 21st century environmental pressures. The kid who had romped around Hermit Crab City in the early 1990’s would not have believed my 20 year-old self’s luck to have made it all the way to the top of the world, collecting glacial fingerprints.

Field research tested my physical limits, satiated my thirst for adventure and exploration, and gave my analytical side a chance to think deeply about complicated data. But as I graduated college, and spent the next year as a field assistant in the Australian Outback and then as a lab manager for geologists at Princeton University, I felt more energized talking about the work I was doing than I did actually processing samples and crunching data. As much as the ancient rocks fascinated me, they were still inanimate rocks at the end of the day, and I felt ever more compelled to share the stories of the rocks – and the scientists who studied them – with other human beings than I did spending days alone in the lab.

My path swerved back to Maine, where I spent the next year and a half teaching and writing about science for non-scientists. I started volunteering here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre, designed a website for a team of Geologists studying the ecological history of the Gulf of Maine, worked briefly as the assistant editor of the Maine State Climate Office’s newsletter, and as an educator at the Ferry beach Ecology School in Saco, ME.

As many professional paths do these days, my path swerved yet again, this time out to Santa Cruz, California where I spent a year in a graduate program for science journalism, writing for daily newspapers and popular science websites, digging deeper into the craft of engaging non-scientists with inspiring new scientific findings – this time on a much larger but less personal scale.

Now, as the Science Educator at the Children’s Museum and Theatre, I am so pleased to have the chance to share the world of science everyday with real live people. I continue to freelance write about scientific findings on the side, but am thrilled to come to the museum each day to get my hands mucky with tide pool creatures at our touch tank, examine ancient rocks from our museum collection, and explore the small ecosystem of our garden with curious visitors.

I am constantly energized by the tiny sparks we generate in little minds here at the museum — similar to those sparks that propelled me to explore Hermit Crab City and the world of science beyond — and look forward to helping foster a bright future of science exploration amongst our visitors and the local community!

Introducing… The Playscape

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Our newest exhibit, The Playscape, is under construction in conjunction with our friends from CedarWorks and is being readied for its grand debut. The Playscape will officially be open to the public Friday, March 14th during normal Museum hours, 10am-5pm.

The Playscape features two indoor climbing structures with lots of room for big movement and giant, open-ended, blue blocks that can become anything you want them to be. With one climbing structure specifically designed for toddlers and another, taller climbing structure for the big kid in us all, as well as the ability to make your own structure from very unique blocks, families will find something for all ages in The Playscape. Let your imagination take flight as you climb to the top of a tower, send bucketfuls of balls to your friends below, roll in a mini ball pit, traverse bridges, soar down slides, create unique blue structures, and explore The Playscape in your own, creative way.

Many thanks to our sponsors:

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WCSH6    |    Let’s Go!

and UNUM.

Parking & street closure info for $2 First Friday on December 6

We’ll be open on for $2 First Friday this Friday, December 6: from 5pm-8pm, admission is just $2 per person (kids under 18 months free).

You’ll notice that this Friday there will be some extra excitement around town! A large portion of Congress Street will be closed for First Friday: Holiday Edition, a special First Friday night with a special Circus in the Streets performance. This means there will be limited street parking on Congress Street; see below for details.

To reach the Spring Street municipal parking garage from 295, we suggest the following route:

    • Take exit 6-A (Forest Ave. South).
    • Bear right at the lights onto Rt. 77 South and proceed through the park.
    • Continue up the hill (Rt. 77/State Street).
    • Cross Congress Street and proceed to Spring Street.
    • Turn left at Spring Street.
    • Turn left on High Street.

Bear right at the Congress Square intersection onto Free Street.Proceed past the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine; the entrance to the parking garage is on the right, past Oak Street.

Street closure/parking restriction information from our friends at Portland’s Downtown District:

  • Congress Street (between Brown & State) will be closed to vehicular traffic from 6-8 pm on Friday, December 6.
  • No vehicles will be allowed in during that time, except for emergency responders.
  • High Street will remain open to traffic with a police presence stationed at the Congress Square intersection.
  • Vehicles are NOT allowed to park on Congress Street (between Brown & State streets) from 4-8 pm. 
  • Any cars in the Congress Street zone (between Brown & State Streets) during that time will be towed at the owner’s expense.
  • Side streets will remain open.
  • Please alert tenants, neighbors, visitors, business owners and shoppers in the district to the 6-8 pm street closure and 4-8 pm no-parking zone.
  • Even those living or working in the zone will NOT be allowed in to park during that time (No exceptions!)
  • For those attending or coming to downtown Portland during that time, we recommend taking the Metro Bus, using area parking garages or parking on side streets.
  • The street closure will happen rain or shine.

Click here for lots more information about First Friday: Holiday Edition on Friday, December 6.

Just Sew Stories: Hmong Culture Comes to Maine

Kue John Lor, the exhibit's co-curator, in traditional Hmong clothing

On Sunday, June 30th, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine will celebrate the opening of Just Sew Stories: Hmong History Stitched, a new temporary exhibition within the acclaimed We Are Maine exhibit.

Just Sew Stories features more than a dozen costumes, toys and tapestries created in the traditional Hmong style of paj ntaub (literally translated as “flower cloth”). Long an important element of Hmong clothing and decorative arts, this intricate embroidery style evolved as the Hmong people were driven from their native countries during and after the Vietnam War, settling in refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia. As they traveled and resettled – many in the American Midwest – Hmong women used embroidery to tell the story of these migrations. The narrative tapestries they create are known as story cloths.

The exhibition was co-curated by Museum & Theatre staff and Hmong cultural consultant Kue John Lor with support from the Frances R. Dewing Foundation. In addition to the Hmong embroidery (most created by Lor’s aunt, Nao Vang, a Laos native living in Wisconsin), the exhibit features

Nao Vang (far right), paj ntaub artist, with her family in Thailand

interactive components, including felt boards that children can use to create their own story cloths.

In the spirit of cross-cultural learning, the exhibit opening celebration will also feature a short documentary about the Culture Scholars, four Portland High School students from around the world who work part-time at the Museum & Theatre leading programs that encourage families to learn about new cultures and share their own. The Children’s Museum & Theatre’s multicultural programming – including the Culture Scholars program, the We Are Maine exhibit and other endeavors – earned international recognition in 2012, when the Museum & Theatre was one of four children’s museums in the world to receive the MetLife Promising Practice Award.

Announcement: $2 First Fridays start July 5th

On the first Friday evening of each month, we’re open from 5-8pm for a reduced admission rate. On Friday, July 5th, admission will increase from $1 to $2 per person.

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is a non-profit organization. Providing a safe, high-quality experience costs $11.60 per visitor. Increasing our First Friday admission rate from $1 to $2 will help us continue to provide affordable hours for our community. Thank you for your support!

Scholarships are available.

If you cannot afford the new admission rate, please visit our website for a scholarship application. Donors have provided funding for memberships and day passes for families who receive public assistance. We are committed to keeping the Museum & Theatre accessible to all families.

Noah on Skates (not the kind you think!)

Noah's hard at work this summer!

Noah hard at work in his lab.

Every weekend during the school year, and most days in the summer, we are joined by high school students who want to teach science. Known as “Youth Rangers,” these high school students are a variety of ages and backgrounds, but all have a common interest: teaching science to children. One of our Youth Rangers loves teaching about dinosaurs, while another likes to focus on marine mammals. They all lead Star Shows and Tide Pool Touch Tanks, and they do a great job! 

If you’re familiar with these science-teaching youth, you might have noticed the absence of Youth Ranger Noah during your summer visits. Where is Noah? Noah has been away for a fellowship at the Mount Desert Island Biological Lab, doing molecular biology experiments and gene expression identification. He is working with the little skate “Leucoraja erinacea.”

But it’s not just scientific inquiry that has kept Noah busy – he’s also been continuing to teach by leading family science nights about the reproduction of skates inside Mermaid’s Purses. We look forward to his return at the end of August and to hearing about the findings from his fellowship work!

Creative Kids and Recycled Robots

What do trash robots, snake sculptures and shaving cream paper marbling all have in common? Besides being super fun, they are all educational (and messy) projects from last week’s camp, Creative Kids!

We delved into art making on Monday and didn’t stop! Friday marked the conclusion, in which our camp room turned into an art gallery. We invited all our friends and families to show off our impressive work.

What were we so busy doing, anyway? Between silly games such as acting like a certain color and trips to our neighbors, the Portland Museum of Art, campers learned about different styles of lines through the theme of ‘snakes.’ We tried sculpture, printmaking and drawing to explore straight, zigzag and curvy lines that real snakes would be shaped like or how they’d move. Our most involved piece of the week was the snake sculpture we worked on a little bit EVERY day. We first made the shape with tinfoil, and then covered it with plaster strips (the same kind used when you get a cast for a broken bone at the hospital!). Once they were dry we used masking tape to tape off lines so our stripes would be  nice and neat. We gessoed them as a final touch, so now they are super shiny like real snakes.

Another project we’re proud of is named Auto. He’s our giant trash robot! Take a look in the SmartArt exhibit and you’ll notice this friendly creature created all out of trash. It’s amazing what a little silver paint can do! Be on the look out this fall for my “Recycled Robots” program, where you’ll have a chance to make your own version and add it to our exhibit.

The campers are gone but the art lives on. If you enjoyed camp this summer, or haven’t had a chance to yet, there are still a few openings for Amazing Animal Journeys camp with Hannah. Check in at the front desk!

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Recommended reading and inspiration for our colorful snakes: Verdi, by Janell Cannon (creator of Stellaluna).
Our favorite way of learning about lines: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson