Structuring Ideas

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  and second posts.

As an upper-level college student, I am often faced with the dilemma of narrowing down a very broad topic into a very detailed thesis.  As you might know, writing papers is all about structure, and you can’t build a strong argument on a shaky thesis. This challenge frequently leaves me staring at my textbooks for hours trying to figure out how to take a grand idea and turn it into something practical. So, I understood the strife of our students this Tuesday as they tried to narrow down and combine their interests and concerns into a manageable service learning project.

We started off with a worksheet which posed the challenge to create a service learning project by combining an interest and a community issue. I personally think the greatest difficulty in creating a project is finding the means of combining both ideas into something that can actually function. For example, it’s easy to say you want to combine your interest in dance with your interest in cultural education, but then little details get in the way, like, how are you going to talk to kids about culture and keep their attention? Are you going to have them participate in the dance, or are you going to perform for them? What dance will you perform and why is it significant? These questions can cause cracks in the foundations of projects, and sometimes they are hard to patch up, but these kids worked through them like champs!

 They have come up with a lot of brilliant ideas. For example, one of our students is concerned with teaching kids about where their food comes from. In other words, she wants to show kids that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store. She is thinking about doing a program in our new greenhouse in order to teach kids about this topic! Isn’t that awesome? There are lots of other great ideas that include topics such as the history of technology, dance, culture, food, art, and giving kids some time to dream. Be sure to check back for individual student interviews, which will allow you to get to know these kids and a little about their projects!

Playing Grown-Up

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.

                It’s been a busy week at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. With the Explore India event, and the new program surrounding celebration of Mawlid (did you get to meet some of our students? They were helping at both events!) we haven’t had much time to sit down, organize our thoughts, and answer some questions. That being said, sometimes the big questions come up in hindsight. The other day, we began to realize that we had one big question to answer as we proceed with the Youth Imagine Project: why the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine? Why should we get to create and host this amazing program, with a group of kids that is well beyond our normal age bracket? We began to think of our mission statement – that the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is very focused on facilitating discovery and imagination through exploration and play. How could this mission statement be related to the Youth Imagine Project?

                Honestly, it comes down to two words in that mission statement: discovery and play.  The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine offers a safe space for all families and children. It’s that very atmosphere offers a unique opportunity for students to play at being grown up; that is, discover themselves and their interests while being able to make mistakes and try new things. So, I guess the Youth Imagine Project is a lot like dressing up as a firefighter in the Fire Truck exhibit, only these kids are trying on certain careers, passions and personas.

                When you really think about it, play time is a time to try something new without fear of judgment. There are no such things as mistakes during play, only opportunities for improvisation and learning. We hope to bring this mission and attitude to every meeting with these kids.  While it’s important to gain professional skills, it’s just as important to know what makes you tick. We hope that by developing their own service-learning projects, students will be able to try out a potential interest that could become an important aspect of their life… or not.  Sometimes it’s just as valuable to know what doesn’t work for you.  So, in short, what we really want to do is offer these kids some time to discover themselves through play, while giving them a few mental toys to use along the way.