Now Playing at the Museum & Theatre: Santa’s Reindeer Present: The Nutcracker!

A Note from the Director:

Every year, we reindeer put on a variety show before loading up the sleigh. The stage summons our magic, surges our energy and brings us together. Vixen does card tricks. Comet tells jokes. Donner recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.When Dancer and Prancer are getting along, they usually do a tap routine. This year, I challenged my crew to explore something different. If we can pull a heavy sleigh, we can put on a whole play! We can use our reindeer magic to play timeless characters with our hooves and with our hearts. This year’s play? The Nutcracker! A ballet, a symphony, and now… a realistic drama, told reindeer style!

We beg you to imagine yourself in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1892, in the small workshop of a toymaker named Drosselmeyer. Not just a toymaker, Drosselmeyer is also a clock maker and a mouse catcher. On Christmas Eve, his nephew, a young prince, comes to visit. But lo and behold – before Drosselmeyer’s one good eye an evil sorcerer turns his nephew into… a NUTCRACKER! To become human again, the Nutcracker must defeat the Mouse King, travel to far off lands, and fall in love with a beautiful maiden. Impossible? Not if you find yourself in a child’s dream! Drosselmeyer the Toymaker gives the Nutcracker to a young girl named Clara, in hopes that she will help the Nutcracker complete his tasks to be human again.

Join us for this reindeer tail of magic and wonder. Only magical flying reindeer can write, dance, choreograph and stage as complex a yarn as The Nutcracker. We’ve worked hard on these weeks leading up to Christmas. Without these elves Maud, Eli and Murray taking time off from building toys, the play would never be possible. Thank you Dasher, for keeping us on track as the Stage Manager. Thank you for coming, you elves and reindeer in the audience. Happy holidays and enjoy the show!

Your Esteemed Director,

Rudy the Red

Leah as Rudolph, director of the Nutcracker!
Leah as Rudolph, director of the Nutcracker!

Interested in seeing the show? Click here, call 1-800-838-3006, or stop by the front desk during your next visit to get tickets!

Raising Readers Visits Down to the Sea

Our friends from Raising Readers came to the opening of our new exhibit, “Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure.” They enjoyed themselves so much, they wanted to write about it! Here’s their story…

Thanks to Maine author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen, Maine families have learned to ski, joined camping sprees, and headed down to the sea with Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee. They’ve also helped Jack build a house with a flying room and a car that can submerge, float, and fly. Oh, and they’ve journeyed on the circus ship with Mr. Paine and have laughed out loud at the circus animals getting, um, adjusted to their new home on an isle in Maine. Remember the ostrich in the outhouse and the monkey swinging in Miss Fannie Feeney’s bloomers?!

With his colorful, lovable, imaginative stories and illustrations, Chris Van Dusen has captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike. His work is so esteemed that in 2015, the Maine Library Association awarded Chris the Katahdin Award, a lifetime achievement award and the highest honor given by the organization.

Chris and his stories, If I Built a Car and The Circus Ship, have been featured in two Raising Readers anthologies (2006 and 2010) and other titles are also a part of our library of well-loved children’s books. So, it comes as no surprise to learn that the Raising Readers staff are some of his biggest fans. Our team was thrilled (like kids-on-Christmas-morning-thrilled) to be invited to the grand opening of Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure exhibit at the Children’s Museum2`12 and Theater of Maine on June 18th.

Down to the Sea_CharlotteWhen we walked through the door, to the museum’s outside space, Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee came alive with a whale fountain in one corner, a sandy “beach” in the playground’s center, pedal cars, a shipwreck to explore, a greenhouse and garden, and Mr. Magee and Dee’s presence throughout. To add to the sheer delight of experiencing a book outside of its pages, kiddos were having a ball interacting with the exhibit and the author himself. They ran around with dog ears on their heads, toy boats in their hands, and were pedaling pint-sized vintage cars as quickly as they could. Even the youngest tikes were pointing at the life-sized painting of Mr. Magee and Dee and screaming their names in delight, a true testament to the power of reading to children and the relationships their young minds build with their favorite characters in their most beloved books.

From an early childhood development stand point, exhibits like many of those found at the Children’s Museum are wonderful for a number of reasons: they promote gross motor play, sensory play with sand and water, and of course, early childhood literacy.

Take it from us, a team of avid children’s book readers, advocates, and lovers of all things Maine, visiting Chris Van Dusen’s Down to the Sea exhibit is worth experiencing, for children and adults alike.

We also encourage you to come check out Raising Readers standing exhibit on the second floor of the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, our cozy and rustic Book Nook. It’s a great place to relax with a good book on a warm lap or cozy chair amongst the hustle and bustle of the museum.


To learn more about ways you can have fun engaging your child in early literacy opportunities, visit:

To see a list of Chris Van Dusen’s books and to get ideas of fun activities that you can do with your kiddos based on his stories, Raising Readers recommends visiting:

Would you like to attend and participate in more activities with an early literacy focus in Maine? Check out the Portland Kids Calendar to see what activities are scheduled near you!

Hancock Lumber Celebrates Earth Day and 10 Years of “Tree to Timber!”

Happy Earth Day, and happy 10 years to Tree to Timber! Our company, Hancock Lumber, has been the proud sponsor of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s second floor sustainable forestry and pine manufacturing exhibit since 2005. We love sharing what we do with the thousands of kids and their families who visit the Museum & Theatre every year.

TreeToTimber3-sawmill-girlplayingIn Tree to Timber, we not only get to talk about the process of harvesting trees, we let kids in on the experience. From an interactive video game to a sawmill, children can watch the felling of trees, then help turn the logs into lumber using the sawmill crank. The exhibit is also home to a treehouse where you can build your own structures using interlocking wood blocks – the only limit to what you can build is your imagination!

We’re also excited to be a part of the Museum & Theatre’s Earth Day celebration this Wednesday, April 22nd, for the second year in a row. Last year’s Earth Day festivities were a huge hit: we had a meet and greet with our mascot, Forest Hancock, and gave away over 200 White Pine seedlings to visitors. Eastern White Pine –the kind of trees that grow in our forest and we make into boards—seedlings will be available to children and their families for free again this year (while supplies last).

Check out all of the Earth Day activities, including reading stories about forests, planting seeds, and more! While you’re here, take a turn at the sawmill or building a home in Tree to Timber, then take home your own seedling and plant a tree for the next generation to enjoy.

Hancock Lumber started doing business in Maine over 166 years ago –in 1848! We responsibly manage forests, selectively harvest Eastern White Pine trees to manufacture into boards at our sawmills, ship those boards all over the world and sell them at our 10 lumberyards throughout Maine and New Hampshire! We also sell building materials to contractors and homeowners at those locations. Being connected to the community, however, is one of the most important parts of our business. We are so proud of the space we’ve created together with the amazing team at the museum and look forward to continuing the partnership for many years to come! Please visit our website to learn about our community involvement:

Exploring "Tree to Timber." Photo by Olivia Birdsall.
Exploring “Tree to Timber.” Photo by Olivia Birdsall.



GUEST BLOG: The “Muchness” of Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is nothing like you’ve ever seen before. It’s funny, witty and imaginative.


Today they were rehearsing one of my favorite scenes. The tea party. Today I witnessed tea drinking, hair grabbing and “Muchness” as the march hare (played by actor Andrew Johanson) would say. The Mad Hatter is mad enough. Alice is curious enough, the Dormouse is tired enough, and the March Hare is grammarless enough!


This is one amazing play that you don’t want to miss!


Edyson Pines April 2014About our guest blogger:
Edyson is a sixth grader in Portland. She has worked on and off-stage on productions at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. You may remember her as the young Snow White in 2012. She enjoys writing, acting, caring for animals, and you may catch her live blogging from the stage as the stenographer in the trial of the Knave of Hearts during the show!

The Smallest Whole Foods Market & Our 5% Day

Whole Foods
Photo by Kaitlynn Perrault

Welcome to the smallest Whole Foods Market in the entire company!  Our exhibit in the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine may be small on space (a mere 211 sq ft!) but it is big on experience.  The colors and chalkboards were specifically chosen to mimic our Portland store, but in a miniature size.

I began my career as the Marketing Team Leader at the Portland store in 2007 when the store opened.  When I was dreaming up my marketing action plan, I secretly desired to have the grocery space at the CMTM but it was currently being utilized by another sponsor.  Imagine my surprise when two years later, I received a call from the Museum that the space is available and would Whole Foods Market like to sponsor it?  YES, PLEASE!!!

Several Portland team members were involved in the refurbishing of the space to have it resemble the Portland store; painting, ordering supplies, illustrating the chalkboards and imagining how the space would be best utilized. We also requested help from our regional décor team to find cute items (like the banana and the strawberry) to decorate the walls with and create a bench for parents to sit on while their kids “shopped”. One of our suppliers, Melissa & Doug had the most perfect kid-friendly faux fruit and veggies for our produce department. And the bakery? What can I say? I always want to chomp on one of those faux croissants.

Jocelyn Clark 12-2-11 05
Photo by Olivia Birdsall

One of our core values is to satisfy and delight our customers.  At The Children’s Museum& Theatre of Maine, we have an opportunity to satisfy even the smallest and youngest with imagination and the chance to “shop” and “work” in a real grocery store. You can’t imagine how satisfying and delightful this is for us!

Don’t forget to shop at our real store, located at 2 Somerset Street on Tuesday, June 3rd when we will give 5% of the day’s net sales to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine!

Please visit our website to learn more about what’s happening at our Portland store:

Barbara Gulino is the Marketing Team Leader for Whole Foods Market – Portland.  They are proud to provide charitable giving and community support to organizations that improve the lives of Maine citizens. 

Hancock Lumber Helps Us Celebrate Earth Day

preschooltourHi! I’m Forest Hancock and I’d like to welcome you to learn a bit more about Hancock Lumber and their connection to the Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine. In 2005 our company partnered with the museum to create our Tree to Timber exhibit and have been proud to share this space with thousands of kids and families for 9 years!

Our Tree to Timber exhibits shows children the process of sustainable forestry. There’s an interactive video game and real Eastern White Pine tree trunks. At the sawmill you can crank a conveyor belt that draws in rough pieces of wood and returns finished pieces of pine and watch a complete sawmill tour video. In the tree house you can use the finished pieces of pine to build your own home, along with touch, see and feel by-products like bark, mulch and wood chips.

“We appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to collaborate with the
sawmill_tour_videoChildren’s Museum on our Tree to Timber exhibit. Through this space, we’ve been able to bring life to our everyday sustainable forestry practices. In return, thousands of families each year can enjoy a fun, interactive exhibit that teaches them about turning logs into premium Eastern White Pine boards! It feels good to know that our company is a part of the Museum’s success and we look forward to our continued partnership.”

Kevin Hancock, President | Hancock Lumber Company

Please save the date for Earth Day fun at the Children’s Museum on 4/22 from 10:30 – 4:30! Join me for my first CMTM appearance for a day of earth-friendly activities – planting seeds, playing with mud and making art with all kinds of natural materials, along with much more! Throughout the day they’ll also be earthy story times, special face painting, and meeting live creatures such as worms, turtles, and sea creatures. Visitors can also take home a special Eastern White Pine seedling to plant that I’ll be handing out compliments of Hancock Lumber, while supplies last! You also don’t want to miss a special reading of the children’s book Tree to Treehouse that will be a part of our exhibit in the afternoon! Join the family fun during school vacation and stop by to see me, take a picture and bring home your new tree!

Hancock Lumber started doing business in Maine over 166 years ago – that’s right in 1848! We responsibly manage forests, selectively harvest Eastern White Pine trees to manufacture into boards at our sawmills, ship those boards all over the world and sell them at our 10 lumberyards throughout Maine and New Hampshire! We also sell building materials to contractors and homeowners at those locations. Being connected to the community, however, is one of the most important parts of our business. We are so proud of the space we’ve created together with the amazing team at the museum and look forward to continuing the partnership for many years to come! Please visit our website to learn about our community involvement:

Intern Anna ‘s Printmaking Project

anna printing 2

Hi I’m Anna! Between receiving my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from William Paterson University and committing to a Master of Fine Arts program, I applied for an Art Education internship at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. Since September I’ve been learning and designing art programs for visitors at the Museum & Theatre.

Having a background in Printmaking, I naturally gravitated towards a print-based project when it came time to hatch a plan for a program series. Having only a little experience working with very young children there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to implementing some of my big ideas and advanced printmaking techniques. With time, the aid of wonderful experts at the Museum, and trail and error, my project went through numerous incarnations and ended up being (much to my delight) a colorful, fun and successful program!

The idea was to have visitors print their own scenes centered around the topic of how animals in Maine adapt and survive the winter. I made a series of stamps that acted as a launch-pad for their pictures.

It was amazing how quickly the kids picked up on the printing process, and fascinating to watch different kids use the stamps differently, find elements in them that I never intended, and augment their pictures with absolutely unique drawings.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve taken away from the experience is flexibility, trial and error, learning to expect the unexpected, and how much there is to learn through the reciprocal process of teaching.

Currently in progress is a series of pieces showing animals in their habitats during the different seasons, which will eventually hang in the Museum. For these pieces I’m using the newly created stamp set, as well as incorporating painting and drawing with the prints – an idea the kids gave me! Keep your eyes out for the final pieces later this month.

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Basics on Raising Backyard Chickens

isak tooToday’s post comes from guest blogger Sharon Kitchens, who recently came to the Museum & Theatre to lead a program about raising chickens and bees. Sharon is an active is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice.  She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and Maine’s food sources for The Portland Press Herald. When she is not writing she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her bee hives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

First, let’s talk about why someone would want to take on chickens. Well, there are the delicious fresh eggs, which once you’ve tasted you are unlikely to ever go back to store bought. A surprisingly not so well known fact is chickens, when permitted humane living conditions and personal interaction with their (let’s say) keeper, are a riot. Some of my chickens come when called (no, not by name…more than likely by the sound of my voice), a couple even sit by me on the back stoop, and heck I just crack up watching them run across the field. Want to live a more sustainable life, chickens could be your answer. I feed mine veggie scraps and wilted greens from the garden, which they turn into manure, which gets worked into the compost (chicken manure is high in nitrogen).

Second, ask yourself if you should take on a backyard flock.  Please think about this next part good and hard. It’s what I call the “Dalmatian Effect” when someone sees these adorable chicks at farm supply stores in the spring and says I’ll take some of those home. A few weeks later, those chicks are not so small, are making a lot of noise, need more space, and suddenly their owner decides to give them away. The other issue to consider, is what will you do with your chickens once they stop laying? It’s a fact that they will. Not all egg layers (the most common type of chicken for backyard flocks) make good meat birds, so eating them might not be the best idea.

During my recent talk at the museum on keeping backyard chickens, I talked about how to keep chickens happy and healthy.  After all, keeping chickens means you are responsible for their welfare. Like any other animal, chickens have basic needs: water (should be changed every other day, but might need to be refreshed daily during a heat wave), food, shelter (including shade and protection from predators), and nesting boxes (they might make a nest out of a hay bale, but chances are they’ll lay their eggs in the box if it’s built properly). Here’s a link to an article on nesting boxes from Backyard Poultry.

I talked a lot about coops, both build your own (some books have plans and there are ideas/layouts online) and coop kits. (I’m a fan of Roots, Coops & More in Augusta, Maine.) An important fact that I think is frequently overlooked when planning for chickens is researching breeds before purchasing chicks. Some chickens are more friendly, e.g. Buff Orpingtons, of which I have five and liken to the yellow labs or golden retrievers of the dog world. There are others that might be more aggressive with people and/or not be able to coexist with other breeds.

There are several free online resources. (I’m always an advocate for investing in good books, but if you are trying to figure out if keeping chickens is even for you/something you can do and/or you just want extra information, by all means don’t spend extra money.) In addition to Backyard Poultry magazine’s site, I like  Backyard Chickens and My Pet Chicken. The post I wrote for my Portland Press Herald blog “The Root” on raising chickens covers most of the basics including books and more online resources I used when preparing for my flock, figuring out the size of your flock and if you want a rooster, purchasing chicks and preparing for their arrival, equipment, and more.

If you take on chickens I congratulate you on your new adventure, and if you decide they are not for you then I applaud your decision to put their health and happiness first.

Answering Unanswered Questions on the Greenhouse Blog

Meet Rosanne!Most days I’m at the Children’s Museum & Theatre, I wish I had the power to pause time.  The clocks would stick, the crabs would halt mid-scuttle, and the rumbling space shuttle would delay its ignition.  And while the Museum stood still, I would fly down to the library and research the query of a three year old.  Because they ask some pretty incredible questions!

But when we’re sitting in the magical darkness of the Camera Obscura room and our discussion takes a turn towards the tangential and then a skip and a leap into Never Neverland, some questions are left unanswered.  Like this doozy from last week: If you stood on your head enough, could you train your brain to see right-side-up when you’re up-side-down? Hmm.  Sometimes the clock is ticking or attention is faltering, but much of the time, I’m simply not sure of the answer.

In teaching such imaginative and curious minds, I’ve come to realize that I essentially know nothing.  You could fill fire trucks and forests and whales and volcanoes with the things I don’t know. And while I’m perfectly happy to admit that, I always rush home a little faster those days to sherlock some answers.

Which brings us to the point of this introduction, a blog. A blog, you say? How fun! Adventures from  a Museum Greenhouse was created as an outlet to explore, to ponder, to teach and to learn.  A slight bit a way to grow my smarts and a bigger bit a way to answer the questions I couldn’t, this blog was born and blossoms from the minds of our visitors.  Because their imagination and creativity impress me every time I come to work, and I’ll happily let their questions follow me as I leave.

Rosanne started at the Museum & Theatre as a greenhouse education intern and recently joined our staff as a Visitor Guide. Learn more about Rosanne and the rest of our staff here.

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.