Greetings from the Greenhouse!

Hi, I'm Becky!

Hello, I’m Becky Gall, one of the Greenhouse Education Interns here at the Museum. During the fall and spring, I’m a student at the University of Maine, Orono, studying Human Nutrition and Dietetics. I’m lucky to be part of such a great team this summer, working outside sharing what I know about nutrition and gardening with you and your children. I’m writing to give you an insider’s perspective of what’s happening inside and outside of the Greenhouse (located in the Shipyard).

Currently, Corrine (the other Greenhouse Intern) and I have been keeping ourselves busy by maintaining, harvesting, planting, and composting. If you have visited the Greenhouse recently, you may have had the chance to taste some of our ripe strawberries, touch the pea pods, and design your own vegetable garden drawing.

Inside of the Greenhouse right now, the cucumber plants are flowering, the melons are flourishing, the peas pods are maturing, the tomato plants and other plants are looking good. Outside of the Greenhouse, the beets are starting to uproot and the broccoli heads are beginning to crown.

Art inspired by our vegetable garden.

This summer, I encourage you and your kids to come explore and ask us questions to get a better understanding of food. Corrine and I look forward to meeting you as we venture through the lifecycle of fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs. I hope that you will participate in many of the Museum’s Greenhouse activities.

Crayfish and drum solos…Get to know Ibe Mokeme!

Teaching about culture is no easy task. In a world where we look for categories and definitions, it can be tempting to say “this is what people in Nigeria eat; this is what Nigerian people do for fun.” However, my favorite pastime (hiking) is very different from my brother’s (computer games), and we grew up not only in the same culture, but in the same family! The We Are Maine exhibit takes a different approach; giving children the opportunity to see a Maine child’s life and heritage, and to learn about his traditions in a unique, interactive setting.

This summer and fall, Ibe Mokeme from Peaks Island will be the featured Mainer. His father, Oscar, is from Nigeria, and Oscar has generously loaned the Museum & Theatre many artifacts from Nigeria and Ibe’s life to help demonstrate their story.

Welcome to our table. The food looks good enough to eat!

At Welcome to Our Table, children can play with food Ibe and his family enjoy, including Ibe’s favorite- macaroni and cheese! When exploring the area, examine the types of food, family pictures, and recipes- and ask each other questions. Do you enjoy fish? What ingredients are new to you? This is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the whole foods ingredients come from, and how some food grows in specific places. Don’t forget to take a sniff of some seasonings that are sometimes used by the Mokeme family (the crayfish will knock your socks off!).

Drumming is an important part of Ibe’s family story- he shares a special drum game with his father and they practice traditional dances together. In the Celebrate with Us exhibit there is a hand drum for anyone to try on and costumes that were once worn by Ibe. Around the exhibit you can find Ibe translating simple phrases into Igbo (pronounced ee-bo), a language spoken by many in Nigeria.

We Are Maine is a great opportunity to learn something new and to explore your own heritage. After watching the video of Ibe, record your own video in the Tell Your Story kiosk. We all have a story to tell, and the more we share, the more we will learn about each other and new places!

Camera Obscura: Drawing tool extraordinaire!

It’s probably apparent that the staff at the Museum & Theatre love the intersection of science and art. Our new exhibit SmartArt demonstrates this along with programs like my Saturday series Where Science Meets Art. Where else in the Museum do we exhibit this interest? Our camera obscura, of course!

Portland Museum of Art as seen through our Camera Obscura

For thousands of years people have used camera obscuras in a variety of applications; early cartographers, magicians, and especially artists. I’m most excited about the artist part. Through dissecting paintings and studying perspective, art historians are close to proving that a camera obscura was used in many of the most remarkable paintings to date. There is a good article found here.

Like anything, reading can teach you a lot, but at the Museum & Theatre, “hands on” is our preference. I’ve started a new program called Perfect Perspective Drawings. After a brief explanation of how our camera obscura works, we’ll jump into making a masterpiece.  By tracing the shadows and shapes on a piece of paper you’ll complete a very accurate representation of Portland’s cityscape.

A Perfect Perspective Drawing!

Some think drawing this way is considered cheating, but we think it’s just genius! So join us to use the camera obscura to create your own Perfect Perspective Drawing at the times listed below.

Thursday, June 17 at 2pm
Tuesday, June 29 at 2pm

Did you know?

For $4 a person the Museum & Theatre offers Camera Obscura tours for the general public. We have a lot of students from photography and college classes take advantage of this deal! If you know someone that may be interested have them call to schedule or just stop by and we’ll do our best to give a guided tour!

How well do you know What about Whales?

Have you noticed those colorful pillows in the What about Whales? exhibit?  They’re more than just a cozy place to rest after dancing up a storm while acting like a whale in front of the green screen.*  Each pillow mimics the size and shape of one of Istar the humpback whale’s organs.

A key:

  • Red, (Teardrop-Shaped) = heart
  • Pink (Long and Wavy) = lung
  • Purple (Elongated) = kidney
  • Orange (Blob) = liver
  • Yellow (Shaped like a Filled in number 8 ) = stomach

Peeking at Istar from the second floor Book Nook

Another idea for getting the most out of What about Whales?: play a migration game using the painted sandwich boards in the center of the exhibit.  Ask your child to wear the “see like a whale” goggles and try walking towards the big glass doors at the back of the first floor while you try to interrupt his or her journey by acting out the many hazards (described on the small red signs) that a humpback whale encounters while traveling to the warm Caribbean for the winter.

The summer months humpback whales spend in the Gulf of Maine are a time to fill up on mackerel and plankton and build up their fat stores.  Then, during the winter breeding season, humpbacks eat much less.  Imagine if a couple months of the year, you ate all you could, and then just had a couple of small snacks each day for the rest of the year!  Unlike whales, people need regular meals all year round.

After your game, talk about ways people help protect whales.  Here’s an example: in areas including Boston Harbor and the Bay of Fundy, shipping lanes have been changed to avoid the places where whales are most commonly spotted, reducing the likelihood of collisions between whales and boats.

* Note: to the left of the exhibit entrance, kids who don a whale costume and step in front of the camera projector will see themselves on video with humpback whales in the ocean.  This setup uses the same technology used to place weather forecasters in front of a digital map on TV!