Welcome, Lily!

 

I am honored to be the newest member of the Education Team at the Children’s Museum and Theatre. I grew up playing and attending theatre productions here, so it’s inspiring to join the amazing group of people who make this organization truly magical.

I first became interested in museum education when I volunteered at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine during college. I realized how much children learn from the interactive exhibits and programs at the museum; it was particularly exciting to see the thousands and thousands of children who play, learn, and explore at the museum and theatre each year. I was ‘hooked’ after my summer of face-painting, story reading, and camera obscura operating.

My newfound interest in museum engagement inspired me to focus on museum studies and education classes throughout the rest of college, visit over eighty museums during my study abroad experiences in France and England, and volunteer at several art education programs for children and youth.

Most recently, I worked in a one room co-op schoolhouse and a small children’s museum, both in rural Northeast Tennessee. Teaching in a one room schoolhouse was an amazing chance to collaborate with a small number of individuals to create learning opportunities for my students and to experience our educational system in a different part of the country. Working at a children’s museum in rural Tennessee showed me that play-based, youth-centered organizations can create positive change in a community and that children are hungry to learn and explore the world around them.

When I’m not playing at the Children’s Museum and Theatre, I am usually busy organizing an art and social justice camp in Transylvania, Romania or helping to promote our new crowdfunding website that supports community development projects in Transylvanian villages. You may also find me planning farm camps for some of Maine’s youngest farmers, riding and competing my horse, or playing my violin.

Next time you and your family are at the museum and theatre, come say hello. I’m excited to meet you!

-Lily O’Brien

Show and Tell Gallery showcases biggest collection yet!

Louisa creates a sign for the fourth annual Show and Tell Gallery.

More than 40 artists ages 5 to 17 from as far away as Caribou and Limestone submitted work for the 2013 Show and Tell Gallery, a collection of work by youth on the autism spectrum. Each April since 2009, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine has collected art work by young people with autism spectrum disorder and hangs the show for Autism Awareness Month. The show will be on display in the Museum & Theatre’s Stairwell Gallery through August 2013.

Artist Olivia Frankl created this remarkable reproduction of a Monet.

This year’s gallery includes more than 60 pieces, ranging from fanciful pipe cleaner dragons to striking photographs to a remarkably faithful replica of Monet’s The Boat at Giverny. Many students submitted work with encouragement from art teachers and special education professionals who recognized both their students’ talent and the value of an opportunity to share their creativity.

“Some children on the spectrum struggle with communication and may not speak to peers or

“Worry Not Dolls” by artist Kayla Campbell illustrates the creative use of mixed media you’ll see throughout the gallery.

teachers about their achievements,” says Louisa Donelson, the educator at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine who founded the gallery and responsible for its curation. “The Show and Tell Gallery gives them an opportunity to take pride in their work. Their teachers, families and even classmates come to see it. It helps the whole community recognize how much kids on the spectrum are capable of, and how many Maine families are affected by spectrum disorders.”

Support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine and Walmart funds both the Show and Tell Gallery and Play Our Way, a series of free,

Louisa (bottom center) accepts Maine Autism Alliance’s Step Up! for Autism Award on behalf of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine.

private playtimes for children on the autism spectrum and their families. This funding also supports a series of small art workshops led by Donelson for youth on the autism spectrum. (Space is still available in spring workshops; interested families can email louisa@kitetails.org for information.)

Last Wednesday (April 3rd), the Maine Autism Alliance awarded the Museum & Theatre one of its first Step Up for Autism awards, recognizing the Show and Tell Gallery, Donelson’s art workshops, and the Play Our Way Playtimes as vital resources for Maine’s autism community.

Introducing… New Camps!

Garden campers

Jamie's campers show off their freshly planted seeds at last year's Garden Camp. (We'd show you a picture of Magical Myths or Ready, Set, Play camp... but they haven't happened yet!)

Spring in Maine can be tough. As my umbrella turned inside-out on my walk to work the other day, I wistfully remembered the flip-flop weather bestowed upon us just a week ago. But April showers bring May flowers, and here at the Museum & Theatre, May flowers bring… Summer Camps!

Our Education team is so excited about all the programs we do that we can’t help but plan things months and months in advance. In fact, that’s what gets us through the icy winter months: thoughts of camp — exploring new ideas, projects and activities during the most energetic time of year. Every one of us has some pretty thrilling projects up our sleeves, but I’m just going to talk about mine.

Magical Myths: Fairies, Gnomes and Creatures is a morning camp just for 4 and 5 year olds. Knowing that this is a group with limitless imagination, I decided to create a week-long camp catering to storytelling, costume creation, and lots of time to pretend. I remember spending countless hours as a six-year-old living in a “fox den” with my best buddy, Alex – or maybe building fairy houses in the woods, knowing that when I left, there would be a veritable fairy fiesta in my absence. We’re going to learn about mythological creatures from all over the world – from imagining the perspective of the world from the Zulu abatwa (tiny people who ride on the backs of ants) to watching an ancient Chinese star show featuring the Azure Dragon of the East. We’ll explore our imaginations with masks, wings, wands and just about anything in-between – and even have a chance to try dancing with the Blue Fairy from our summer Theatre production, Pinocchio! I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it.

For preschoolers who can’t keep from wiggling, I’ve created Ready, Set, Play: Rock and Romp! In my time working at the Museum & Theatre, I’ve noticed something about preschoolers: they like to move around. (Have you noticed this?) We’ll learn all kinds of games kids play in other countries – from Japanese Tag to Hide-and-Seek from Saudi Arabia. We’ll also experiment with music making in relation to play – and play in relation to music making! Anyone who has taken up an instrument knows that the fun lies in seeing where the music takes you – and in playing with others. We’ll do all of this and more as we hear from guest musicians, learn songs, and play games all week long.

So, um, is it summer yet?

One more thing! Did you know that we have a special “BOGO” special on camps through May 1st? You can buy one camp at regular price, and get a second (for the same child or a sibling) for half price. You can click here to get all the details, or get in touch with Shana (828-1234 x232 or shana@kitetails.org), who can help you find the best camps for your kids:  www.kitetails.org/camps

Let your child take the stage!

Whether your child is a natural actor or a wallflower, creative play and theatre activities will inspire your whole family to play together.  The benefits of introducing your child to dramatic play at an early age are numerous.  Dramatic play improves cognitive development, social skills, communication, motor skills and emotional development. Young children have vibrant and  active imaginations;  do you play a role in your child’s imagination games?  You can!

Begin with your favorite book.  Read it out loud a few times over the period of a week to get a feel for the story.  Younger children will learn key dialogue moments just from repetition.  Older kids might enjoy the task of adapting the story, and writing out the dialogue.  Ask the question, how can we act this out?  Brainstorm ideas together.

The next step is to act it out.  Pick characters.  Parents should definitely play roles too. If there are too many characters, have each actor play multiple roles.  If there aren’t enough characters in the story for your family, add some more.  Theatre teaches us to be team players and problem solvers.  How can everyone take part in the story?  Make sure to listen to your child’s ideas, and try them out.  You may have a budding director on your hands. Rehearse your story a few times.  Like anything else, the sillier you are by changing your voice, exaggerating your movements, the freer and exaggerated your child will be.  Theatre can teach us communication skills.  Ask questions like, “How can you use your voice to tell the audience about your character?” “How can we use your body to tell the audience what happened next?”

Now for the flourishes; dig though your closet to find something that signifies the character.  You don’t need to go overboard, use common items you can find around the house!  Set the stage.  How can you transform your living room rug into a duck pond?  You could even invite your friends and extended family to come watch the play in your living room!  Make posters and tickets!  Imagine how confident your child would be after putting on their own show for family, friends or neighbors.  After bowing to that applause they’re sure to be a few inches taller!

Introducing…Where Science Meets Art

Body maps

The interaction between art and science is a multifarious one, and seemingly most fluid in the minds of youth. The idea of visualizing imagined worlds is often the first step in an artistic or scientific process. The labors of both fields rely heavily on interpretation of the natural world; observation, interpretation and rendering nature.

Perfect Perspective Drawings

In recognition and celebration of this, the Museum & Theatre is excited to introduce a series of programs titled “Where Science Meets Art.” These Saturday activities will explore the symbiotic relationship of these fields.

Paint Lab

The program is not so much about using art as an illustrative tool for scientific concepts, but more so the exploration of method, materials and themes.

There appears to be a point when society, or age, or maybe just language begins to separate the innate connections and similarities of the artistic and scientific themes. Here at the Museum we would like to celebrate these universal parallels.

Shadow Fun!

Join us Saturdays at 12:30pm for programs such as Body Maps, What’s in a Fingerprint? Paint Lab, Gravity Painting, Perfect Perspective Drawing, Art Forms In Nature and Chromatography.

Sneak peek at Cinderella and The Emperor’s New Clothes: Sets!

If you’ve visited the Dress Up Theatre in the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that the familiar square stage has been replaced by some new sets and platforms of all shapes and sizes.  Chris Fitze, Exhibits and Operations Associate, and Shawn Cole, Exhibits and Operations Intern, have created these pieces for the upcoming productions of Cinderella and The Emperor’s New Clothes, running in February and March. (Get your tickets here!)

In addition to working on Exhibits and Operations at the Museum & Theatre, Chris Fitze has done behind-the-scenes work for local theatres. He’s been involved in the design, construction or installation of the sets for every onsite production since the Children’s Theatre merged with the Children’s Museum. I asked him a few questions about how these versatile sets are created, and he gave me some very enlightening answers!

Who comes up with the idea for the set?  Is it the playwright?  The director?  The people who build it?

Friday, 2/5: Chris and Reba (Theatre Artistic Director) try out the turntable that supports the rotating throne.

It’s a little of all three. Every playwright that writes a play has a setting in mind. Even if it’s a general as “the woods” or “in a house,” the playwright needs to know where the characters are, so she can know how they will interact in with their environment. Some playwrights will be very specific and even include a detailed drawing of the set!

The director, having read the play, will also come up with ideas for the set. Some directors may want to pick a different era that the play takes place in. Or they may want to use a particular style. At the Children’s Museum & Theatre, we meet early on with the director (usually before the play is even cast!) to talk about set design.

The people who build the set here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre have much more say in the overall design than at other theaters. Partly because the set needs to be built in such a way that it will hold up to the rigors of day-to-day activity at the Museum & Theatre, and partly because the people building the set probably helped to design it! Continue reading

Taking it home: Painting to Music

This is an activity we love doing here at the Museum & Theatre. Painting to Music teaches kids about lines, painting and tempos. It’s great to see how the paintings change when we switch from a fast song to a slow song. Try it at home with different kinds of music, paints and brushes.

Materials:

  • Paint
  • Paper
  • Brushes, big and small
  • CD player or radio

Look around you, there are lines everywhere! Not all lines are the same. Some lines are fast and others slow, some feel quiet and some feel loud. Some are big and bold, others small and delicate. Like people, lines can have feeling or mood!

Today you can explore this by painting lines. To get you into this mode, you’ll be painting to music! The types of lines you make should depend on the type of sounds you’re hearing. The music is the boss right now, so listen carefully and paint what the music feels like. Maybe it’s fast and loud music so the lines will be bold and plentiful. What if it’s soft and quiet music, will your lines be the same? Think about how fast you move your hand. Think about color. Bright and happy or gray and sad?  Try listening to different types of songs or radio stations. What kind of lines can you create?

Vocabulary:

  • Line directions- Horizontal, Vertical, Diagonal
  • Line “families”- Straight, Curved, Angled
  • Line width- Thick, Thin
  • Line Length- Short, Long, Dashed, Dotted