Now Playing at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine: The Witches!

Reba as a Witch

Theatre Director, Reba Short, joining in the witchy fun!

“Oh, is my tongue blue?” Here’s what our Theatre Artistic Director and director of our production of The Witches has to say about the play… Want to see more? Get your tickets to The Witches here and for our own special interactive adaptation of the story for preschool ages, How to Spot a Witch, here!

From the Artistic Director, Reba Short:

Why would a theatre company produce The Witches anyway? The themes are dark, the images are gruesome; for goodness’ sake, there’s a chorus of witches talking about crunching children’s bones! The Grandmother in the story seems alright, but she’s smoking black cigars! How could this possibly be a children’s play? Has the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine lost all its good sense?!

 

As Theatre Artistic Director, I say not in the least! We are producing the work of Roald Dahl, hailed as one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1983, and Children’s Author of the Year from the British Book Awards in 1990. The themes in Dahl’s books are so dark, they’re funny. The witches are so terrible, they’re loveable. The plots are so preposterous, they can’t be serious, and they aren’t, at all. That’s Dahl’s magic as a storyteller. He pushes the boundaries of his make-believe world to its furthest corners, and then keeps pushing. His imagination goes to dark and wild places, and he invites the young reader with him and counts on them to know what is fantasy. Today we are asking the same of you, our audience. Join us for this wild and awful annual convention of witches and know that it’s just pretend.

My favorite part of Roald Dahl’s books are his heroes. Always unlikely, they may seem weak at first. They are usually children who use courage and cleverness to become strong. In our play, it’s a small-boy-turned-mouse that receives the call to adventure. (It would be impossible to find a smaller hero!) If the witchy plot wasn’t so awful, it wouldn’t be necessary for the boy-mouse to save the children at all. This is a story that begs the audience not to take it too seriously, but to find inspiration in the acts of courage and magical ways that the even small heroes can save the world.

Lights, Camera, Color: In the reimagined Camera Obscura exhibit, 10th Century Technology Meets 21st Century Kids

CO-tableThe technology behind the Camera Obscura – the reflection of light into a dark space, creating a projected image – is more than 1,000 years old. How do you make that feel new in 2013 for kids who are accustomed to high-tech screens that fit in their pockets? That was the challenge the we faced when creating Lights, Camera, Color: Exploring the Camera Obscura, a reinvented exhibit on the Museum’s third floor.

The year is 1020.

There are about 300 million people on earth. The city of Portland, Maine won’t be established for another seven centuries. Recent innovations include locks (allowing the creation of canals) and fire arrows. The Middle East is in a golden age of scientific achievement, with scientists making notable progress in the fields of medicine, astronomy and physics. The scientist Alhazen (also known as Ibn al-Haytham) has made an important discovery about how people see.

Depiction of a camera obscura used for recreation. Paul Sandby, Roslin Castle, Midlothian, ca. 1780, Gouache on medium laid paper, mounted on board, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collection.

Depiction of a camera obscura used for recreation. Paul Sandby, Roslin Castle, Midlothian, ca. 1780, Gouache on medium laid paper, mounted on board, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collection.

Until 1000 A.D., people believed that eyes sent out rays of light, and those rays formed a picture. They believed that the picture disappeared when eyes were closed because eyelids blocked the light from shooting out. After many experiments with light, Alhazen correctly theorized that eyes work the other way around, receiving light to create an image. His work offered the first clear description and early analysis of the device that came to be known as a camera obscura (latin for dark chamber): a box with a small hole
into which reflected light rays pass to create an image of what is outside. He used the camera obscura throughout his lifelong study of optics; his work corrected several antiquated theories and predated many Western optics discoveries by hundreds of years.

The camera obscura played a vital role in art and photography for centuries to come. During the Renaissance, the camera obscura helped artists understand the concept of perspective, taking painting from the flat compositions of the Middle Ages to the more lifelike, three-dimensional images we see after the 1400s. In the 16th and 17th centuries, using portable, tented camera obscuras for sketching became popular for both artists and hobbyists.

Starting in the 1700s, many scientists were working simultaneously to find a way to make the images projected by the camera obscura permanent. Their experiments with light project and silver salts, iodide and nitrate led to photography as we know it. Louis Daguerre’s “Daguerrotypes” are perhaps the most well-known form of early photography although amateur scientist William Talbot’s obscure “Talbotypes” were perhaps a more direct precursor to modern film photography.

Throughout history, the camera obscura has played an important role as artists and scientists sought to record and understand the world around us.

The year is 1994.

The original Focus Room. Photo by Claudia Dricot.

The original Focus Room. Photo by Claudia Dricot.

About 5.6 billion people live on earth, and about 1.25 million of them live in the state of Maine. Less than 20% of the US population has a cell phone; only 14% of Americans report that they use the internet. In Portland, the Sea Dogs are playing their very first season, and the Pirates are about to play their second. The Children’s Museum of Maine has been at its Free Street location for one year, with exhibits on the first floor (the second floor is mostly undeveloped) attracting more than 120,000 visitors. This year, the Museum is opening a brand new exhibit: the Camera Obscura.

Frederic L. Thompson – chair of the capital campaign that raised of $2.5 million for the Museum’s new location – secured a donation from Kodak to build a periscopic camera obscura on the Museum’s third floor, taking advantage of the cupola that tops the historic building. While a simple camera obscura can be created with a box and a pin, Thompson had a vision for a more complex device that would provide a more memorable visual experience. Though our camera obscura still uses natural light alone to create the image, a 12 inch lens inside the cupola helps project a more focused image, and a 20 inch mirror rotates mechanically, offering a 360-degree view.

A feature in the Boston Globe in 2008.

A feature in the Boston Globe in 2008.

Depending on light and weather conditions, visitors can observe everything from a flock of seagulls flying over Congress Square to the top of Mount Washington, nearly 100 miles away. A camera obscura of this scope and quality is rare – similar examples can be found in San Francisco, Edinburgh and a handful of other cities – and the exhibit drew the appreciation of Camera Obscura enthusiasts, art historians, photographers and travel writers (the exhibit has been featured in AAA Magazine and the Boston Globe).

The room just outside the camera obscura (called the Focus Room) offered a few hands-on optics exercises and a wealth of historic context for the camera obscura, from Alhazen to the light shows of the early 20th century. However, because of the delicate equipment that moves the rotating mirror, the exhibit’s central component was available only by guided tour, which generally took place twice daily. While popular with older children and parents, some families with younger children – due to short attention spans or challenges of navigating up to the third floor – visited the Museum for years without taking advantage of the hidden gem at the top of the stairs.

The year is 2013.

There are over 7 billion people on earth and 1.3 million call Maine home. 91% of US adults now have cell phones (as do 78% of kids over 12). More than half of those are smartphones, meaning most Americans have internet access in their pockets (85% use the internet in some form). In Portland, locals are enjoying the city’s trendy status thanks to the many accolades it’s received in recent years, from being named America’s Foodiest Small Town to having one of the 12 best children’s museums in the US. The Children’s Museum of Maine is now the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, and it’s celebrating two decades at its Free Street location – as well as a new chapter in the story of one of its most distinctive exhibits.

An early sketch that included the shadow wall (top) and the completed shadow wall in use.

An early sketch that included the shadow wall (top) and the completed shadow wall in use.

Knowing that the Camera Obscura was one of the Museum & Theatre’s most versatile exhibits, staff has long been motivated to bring more people to the third floor to see it. By the fall of 2012, the exhibits and education staff had developed some ideas for renovations that could excite younger visitors and inspire the Museum & Theatre’s core audience to learn more about optics and light. The staff again approached Fred Thompson, this time via the Rines/Thompson Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, with a proposal. In early 2013, the Fund funded the Museum & Theatre’s proposal to renovate the exhibits, expanding upon the existing educational content, adding and updating interactive components and getting more visitors – especially young visitors – in the door. The goal: make a 1,000-year-old technology appealing to children growing up in the digital age.

The key to attracting young visitors: accessibility. Logistically, that meant modifying the actual Camera Obscura itself; previously open only during guided tours, the Camera Obscura is now open throughout the day; Museum visitors can get a
peek at Portland from a room with no windows any time they like. To preserve the exhibit and ensure that it will be here for years to come, the rotation controls are locked except during guided tours (still given daily). The projection is far from static, though – the cityscape is constantly alive with activity along Congress Street and beyond. Depending on light and where the lens is directed, visitors can observe everything from a flock of seagulls flying over Congress Square to the top of Mount Washington, nearly 100 miles away.

An early prototype of the tented camera obscura used in observations.

An early prototype of the tented camera obscura used in observations.

Accessibility is a psychological and developmental challenge as well, so the two-room exhibit is now filled with bright, new, kid-friendly components. The component that inspires the most dancing, wiggling and giggling is the shadow wall: a bright white wall in a dark room with adjustable colored lights where children can play with their shadow and layer the light to create new colors. The exhibit also features a light table surrounded by low stools attracts toddlers eager to stack blocks with sheer color inserts to play with projection. New model camerae obscurae throughout the exhibit invite visitors to experiment with focus and find the parallels between the inner workings of the eye and the camera.

During the development process, each component was prototyped and observed
in action. Although prototypes may appear rough around the edges, they provide important insights into how an exhibit will appeal to children at different developmental stages and whether it will work at all. Some experiments were taken out of the plan when staff observed that they did not hold children’s interest or inspire them to make connections; other new elements were inspired by offhand remarks or unexpected responses to prototypes during the observation period. Chris Sullivan, the Museum & Theatre’s Director of Exhibits, worked with staff to develop a series of prototype exhibit components; staff observed visitors interacting with the prototypes and used those observations to inform the final exhibit – although Sullivan is hesitant to use the word “final.”

Experimenting with a model camera obscura in the new exhibit.

Experimenting with a model camera obscura in the new exhibit.

“Our exhibits are always growing and evolving,” Chris says. “Visitors are learning from the exhibits, but we learn from our visitors, too.” The prototyping spiral – a series of exercises in design, testing, analysis and redesign – is an increasingly popular in the museum field, particularly children’s museums and science centers, which thrive on durable, hands-on exhibits that inspire open-ended learning.

At the opening celebration on October 16, the revitalized exhibit seemed to have
met its goal, mesmerizing toddlers and preschoolers (along with a few big kids
visiting from out of town) who darted happily between the shadow wall, the light
table and the camera obscura itself. Those seeking a more historical perspective – typically parents – picked up copies of the new background take-home brochure that details the history of the camera obscura phenomenon.

(Left to right): Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan, former Board chair and ex- hibit founder Frederic L. Thompson and Executive Director Suzanne Olson at the opening celebration on October 16, 2013.

(Left to right): Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan, former Board chair and ex- hibit founder Frederic L. Thompson and Executive Director Suzanne Olson at the opening celebration on October 16, 2013.

We will continue to offer guided tours of the Camera Obscura; tours offer a more in-depth history of the phenomenon and include a demonstration of the periscopic Camera Obscura’s rotating view of Portland and beyond. Tours are free with general museum admission and are also available separately for $4 per person. Call 207-828-1234 x231 or visit our calendar of events for scheduled tours.

For more images of the new exhibit Lights, Camera, Color: Exploring the Camera Obscura, visit www.kitetails.org.

Update: Playscape will pop-up once again on August 31st!

Earlier this summer, we posted about our first Pop-Up Playscape event, which was a huge hit! Nearly 100 kids and adults came out to create an amazing box city with countless creative twists. Lots of people took notice! The event was featured in The Forecaster, on WCSH6, and it’s even been highlighted on the home page of the Maine Community Foundation (support for this project came from their Cumberland County Fund).

Here's where to find us on Saturday, 8/31 from 12-6.

Here’s where to find us on Saturday, 8/31 from 12-6.

There’s one more chance to get in on the fun! We’ll be on the Eastern Promenade on Saturday, August 31st. Want to know a little more before you go – like why this project is great for developing young minds? I’ve put together some background info about open-ended play, as well as some insider tips for the day of the event. No time to read ahead? No problem! Just arrive with an open mind and some willing builders, and the rest will fall into place. We’ll see you there! (Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook and share it with your friends!)

What is “open-ended” or “child directed” play?

Stated simply, it just means going with the flow. There is no pressure or rules to follow. The point is not to produce a specific finished product. It’s all about free play and exploration — the opportunity to invent and discover.

Kids led the way at our first Pop-Up Playscape event on 7/22.

Kids led the way at our first Pop-Up Playscape event on 7/22.

What are “loose parts”?

Loose parts (like boxes, sticks and stones, bottle caps or other recycled materials) are objects that are easily moved and used for play, games and art. They can be carried, rolled, lifted, piled, or combined to create different types of structures and experiences.

Why are we playing with loose parts and letting the children drive?

To encourage healthy development and build life important life skills! Play and art-making contribute to growth and development because they encourage children to test, explore and discover in a safe space. This type of play requires children to manipulate their environment and experiment with different materials in order to learn. They figure things out for themselves! Stationary materials or a set of rules can restrict the ways children can manipulate the environment, thereby restricting opportunities for creativity, problem-solving or taking healthy risks. Environments like Pop-Up Playscapes aim to be rich in loose parts and allow for extensive manipulation of the environment and experimentation that can lead to innovation. Plus, when kids have a chance to make something amazing on their own without being “right” or “wrong,” they build self-esteem.

Continue reading

Meet Sandy, Our Town’s Child Inventor

coming soonA new exhibit is opening in Our Town this spring, but plans have been underway for more than a year. Get the inside scoop on how an idea becomes an exhibit from Chris Sullivan, our Director of Exhibits and Operations.

Fairchild Semiconductor dedicates its philanthropic efforts to early childhood science education for many reasons, one of them very practical: they need engineers! They are eager to hire Maine engineers, which means they need Maine kids to get excited about math and science early so they’ll pursue higher education and careers in the field of engineering. They have supported the Museum & Theatre’s science programming for years. In November 2010, we began discussions with their philanthropy committee regarding a new exhibit: a hands-on engineering exhibit that would reach children outside of the classroom, placing engineering in the context of imaginative play.

fairchildarticlequote-jimPhase One: Engineering Crash Course

Before we could find a way to introduce engineering concepts to children, we had to understand them ourselves. When our work began, we had no idea what semiconductors are, how integrated circuits work or why there are eight bits in a byte. A committee of Fairchild staff members – volunteers from departments across the company – was assembled to help us. With their guidance, we toured of Fairchild’s testing, development and fabrication facilities, engaged in hands-on experimentation, saw how silicone is grown, and learned about the chemical and physical processes that transform it into a chip. We learned that even one task requires the work of many different types of engineers. For example, if Fairchild is creating a chip that allows high definition movies to play from a cell phone without increasing the phone’s size, someone will need to design a new chemical process to create the smaller chip, and someone else will coordinate where the new machines will be placed for smooth production. Then, even after the chip is made, other engineers will continue to test and experiment with it to see what other uses it might have. Soon we had a new appreciation for the cutting edge work these individuals are doing and how many different types of thinkers are required to do it effectively: electrical engineers, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, machine operators and technicians.

Our own understanding of engineering grew quickly, but our ultimate goal still seemed daunting: how could we make this comprehensible and interesting for children? The answer came from the engineers themselves. When asked what had interested them as children, they had all loved solving problems. Whether they were solving equations or dismantling the family television set, they’d been curious about how things worked. Now, as engineers (whether they use a computer or a wrench), they apply that natural curiosity and creativity, along with math and science skills, to discover and define how things work.

Our staff attended a demonstration by the South Portland Robotics Team and left amazed and inspired. The final exhibit will have a robotics component.

Our staff attended a demonstration by the South Portland Robotics Team and left amazed and inspired. The final exhibit will have a robotics component.

We had found our starting point, the essence of engineering itself: problem-solving. When presented as an opportunity to experiment, rather than a science test, engineering naturally appeals to children’s creativity.

Phase Two: Causing Problems

Sparking children’s curiosity is a natural fit for our work, so we were excited to get started. The challenge: today’s technology is so pervasive and integral to daily life that children may be less likely to question or investigate it than they were in decades past. More sophisticated technology also presents fewer opportunities for experimentation. (How would you go about taking apart an iPod, or a DVD player mounted in the back of a car seat?)

We were determined to create opportunities for experimentation – to give children problems to solve. To make these problems inviting and integrate them into Our Town (itself a well-used, curiosity-inspiring area), we created Sandy Fairchild, Child Inventer. Her laboratory, which will be installed in the former vet clinic space, will feature several hands-on experiments designed to assist Sandy’s Our Town neighbors with practical problems. Children will apply science, math, spatial reasoning and technology skills to devise creative, open-ended solutions. Our collaboration with Fairchild gives us a team of engineers who are ready to help us implement the technological aspects of the exhibit.

Before going forward with fabrication plans for a circuit board (top), we try out a low-tech prototype (bottom).

Before going forward with fabrication plans for a circuit board (top), we try out a low-tech prototype (bottom).

We’re now in the midst of designing interactive components to fill the space. We start with intensive prototyping work. These prototypes are low-tech and designed to gauge children’s response to the component’s concept. Have you ever been to Museum and seen a staff member inside a cardboard box, acting like a computer? Were there others nearby, jotting down notes? You helped us develop an exhibit! Observing your child at play helps us determine our next steps. Prototyping involves a lot of research, brainstorming, false starts, critical dialogue and plenty of trial and error. These prototypes are rough, but they help us anticipate and resolve some technical kinks and discover the concepts and challenges that keep young visitors engaged.

Phase Three: Nuts & Bolts & Beyond

As our prototyping phase draws to a close, we enter the fabrication stage when we create and install the pieces that will become Sandy’s laboratory. Informed by our prototype observations, we’ll finalize our design plans, keeping in mind factors like visual appeal, safety and durability. We determine which pieces can be fabricated by our own staff and work with external designers and fabricators for some of our more complex components. For Sandy’s experiments, we’ll be working closely with engineers at Fairchild to ensure that the technology we use is safe and will stand up to heavy use from visitors of all ages. We also spend this time researching and writing text for the exhibit signs that will enhance the visitor experience. Soon, Sandy’s lab will be open for hands-on exploration of robotics, communications technology, circuitry and more.

fairchildarticlequote-jennThe exhibit is expected to open in late spring of 2012, nearly 18 months after our process began. (Stay subscribed to our email list for the opening announcement.) Sandy is an active inventor, so we’ll continue to work with Fairchild to develop and introduce new experiments periodically. We’re excited to offer our visitors a new way to play and explore, and we’re even more excited to think about the bigger implications of Sandy’s arrival. How many bright engineering minds will this exhibit inspire? What technologies will they invent? How will those inventions change the world? How big an impact can one small exhibit have? We can’t wait to find out!

Questions? Feedback? Contact Chris Sullivan at chris@kitetails.org.

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!

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.

Have you thanked your pet today?

Animals bring so much joy to our lives that it’s so important to take some time to celebrate them, and to say thank you! During Be Kind to Animals Week, the first week in May (May 2 through the 7), we hope you’ll join us here at the Museum & Theatre to learn more about how to be kind to our animal friends. I’ve arranged a week of extra visits by live animals and humane educators who can teach you how to understand the subtle messages pets and wild animals send us. This event was inspired by conversations with humane educator Lona Ham of the Animal Welfare Society and humane educator Kathleen Fobear of the Animal Refuge League (check out the Linkage Project to learn more). 

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” 

~Sirius Black in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Although “inferior” is not the word I’d personally choose to describe any kind of animal (insects, for example, are vastly more abundant and arguably more powerful than humans), this is one of my favorite quotes from a very quotable series of books. What Sirus is trying to say is that a good man will treat those who are voiceless, targeted, or lacking some sort of power, with just as much kindness and respect as he treats somebody he hopes will help him. “Voiceless” is often the word used to describe pets and very young children just learning to communicate with words. I’m much more likely to trust a woman who’s kind to earthworms, hamsters, or puppies than one who will brush aside or even hurt a creature that’s smaller or slower than she is. This doesn’t mean I don’t swat mosquitoes… that’s self-defense, after all. It does mean that I pay a lot of attention to how people, both kids and adults, treat the animals in their lives.

Animals have messages to send us, and our awesome community partners can help you learn how to decode them. We are so lucky to have regular visitors from the Animal Refuge League (ARL) and the Animal Welfare Society (AWS). Their programs are a great way to introduce young child to furry (or sometimes scaly!) pets. The ARL and AWS have moved their visits to earlier in the month to coincide with Be Kind to Animals Week, but usually they visit on the third Thursday and Saturday of each month, respectively (check out our calendar for upcoming visits from ARL and AWS). Our ongoing schedule includes regular programs featuring Maine’s own David Sparks, who helps many families relocate skunks, bats, flying squirrels or other creatures who take up residence in their homes. During vacation weeks and occasionally throughout the year, David comes for a Sparks Ark Special Show – your ticket ($2 for members) guarantees a seat and helps cover the cost of this awesome show. Be Kind to Animals Week will feature David’s other program, Animal Friends with David Sparks, which allows for an up-close and personal visit with a single animal. (Last time we met two adorable baby pygymy goats!). 

A big thank you goes out to Kathleen Fobear of the Animal Refuge League of Westbrook for joining us for extra visits during this special week! Join us for How to Hear Your Pet “Talk” on Thursday with the Animal Refuge League and Saturday with the Animal Welfare Society. Or you can help make toys for pets at the Animal Refuge League’s shelter (and meet a real, live pet too!) on Tuesday during Animal Fun. During Be Kind to Animals Week you’re also invited to bring in a picture or photo of your pet or a wild animal you love, and attach it to a thank you letter you can write while you’re here! We’ll choose some of these letters to get post in the Vet Clinic exhibit. On Friday and Saturday you can make a sweet sticky bird feeder to take home and hang up to attract wild animal friends a treat. And don’t forget to sign up for Animal Yoga with Jamie if you’re here Tuesday morning! 

Visit the Calendar of Events for a complete list of our Be Kind to Animals Week programming.

For more information about our partners and presenters, visit them on the web:

American Humane Association

Animal Welfare Society

Animal Refuge League

Sparks Ark

We’re Going Through Some Changes!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

Last week Jamie and I sat down and really discussed how we can make the Youth Imagine Project more accessible and convenient for both us, the administrators of the project, and for our students. We also wondered how we could streamline the drafting process of student projects, and make it more structured.  So, two lattes and a lunch break later, Jamie and I feel we have come up with a few new adjustments that will make this project even better for both students and the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine!

1)      Location, Location, Location

We have found one of the biggest troubles we are having with this project is the location. While the Children’s Museum & Theatre is awesome for playtime, there is very little space for a group of 10-12 teenagers and two adults to sit down and actually discuss new ideas. Thus, we are hoping to move our meetings to Portland High School. The Program will still run at the same time, but it will be easier for our students because they will only have to walk down the hall to meet with us, instead of having to walk a few blocks. Also, PHS has a lot more space for us to meet in!

2)      Structure

We’ve found that the actual projects that the students are creating need a little more structure than we had initially planned. While our students are brilliant, they need a little more guidance than a blank page. We are now hoping to structure their projects around cultural programs that can be done with visitors at the Museum. So many of our students have expressed interest in sharing their culture with others that we feel this will be a good fit for both the students and for us, as we are trying to create more culture focused programs.

This has been a learning process for sure, but we are so glad that our students have been patient with us and are so brilliant! They always bring something new and awesome to the program to share with us, and we hope that these changes will benefit them! Stay tuned for new updates next week!

Lesson Plans

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

An aspect of the Youth Imagine Project is giving students professional skills that will help them achieve success, no matter what path they may choose to take in life. This Tuesday, Rahma and I drafted a rough draft of a lesson plan for her Where Does Your Food Come From? program. A lesson plan details the objective of your program, the materials needed and the script for the program that tells the reader things that they can say and do with the visitors. Basically, a lesson plan is a description of your project that can be used by others who want to do your program themselves.

Lesson plans are usually used by educators, and some of the things you learn by writing one, such as the format and content needed, are specific to the task.  However, some of the skills that come with learning how to write one can be used in almost any discipline. Writing a lesson plan means learning how to write clearly and concisely, which is valued in any discipline that requires communication.  Writing clearly is one of those things that appear easy, but once you start doing it you learn it is harder than it sounds. Clear writing includes correct spelling, grammar, and appropriate vocabulary. Can you think of a time someone didn’t communicate clearly? Wasn’t it confusing?

Next week, Rahma and I will work together to edit her lesson plan so that it is as clear as possible. In general, writing is a process, and creating a lesson plan is no different. Check in next week for more exciting updates!

What’s in the Greenhouse?!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her first post here.

Have you peeked out into our backyard lately? Have you noticed a new addition? We have a greenhouse now! Isn’t that exciting? We have started planting lots of new fruits and vegetables for our garden, but how will you know what is what? I mean really, how many people know the name of every type of vegetable and fruit (and trust me, we picked some awesomely unusual ones!) and know exactly what it looks like? I’m betting not many!

This is where one of our Youth Imagine students, Elfriede, steps in. She is thinking about painting a picture of all of the different plants in our greenhouse, including kale, carrots, melons, broccoli and so much more! Along with the image, she will also label each plant with its name, the amount of time it takes to grow, and also the vitamins that you can get from eating it. We aren’t exactly sure where this painting will go just yet, but you can be sure it will be located within sprouting distance of the greenhouse so you can reference it.

It will still be a little while before the greenhouse is all set for our visitors. Soon, the plants will all be in their raised beds, and children will be free to explore it and participate in a variety of programs that are being designed specifically for the greenhouse. (Plus, it’s still chilly out, so it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to play in it right now!) When you do get a chance to poke around in it, make sure to keep an eye out for Elfriede’s painting!