The Market has a new look!

If you’ve been in our Market lately, you’ve probably noticed some changes – new colors, new signs, new food! Beginning this month, Whole Foods Market is sponsoring The Market, and they have lots of great plans for making this Museum favorite feel brand new! While all the changes won’t be done until the beginning of October, over the next few months you’ll begin to see the space transform (but don’t worry, it will still be open for play!).

The focus of this renovation is on healthy New England foods – many of the products you’ll find in The Market are brands made right here in Maine! While you can still shop for products and bring them to the register, the exhibit will also have recipes and puzzles (what do you need to make spaghetti?) that will turn choosing items into a fun game. Figuring out which foods go into healthy meals adds an additional interactive element to The Market and will give families an opportunity to take home what they learned from this game and discuss it during mealtimes!

In addition to healthy eating habits, The Market will also be a space to discover multicultural foods. Local fruits and vegetables will be the focus in the renovated produce section, with signage as to where you can find this particular tomato or that ear of corn. Breads from across the globe will be featured in the bakery and ingredients needed to make many multicultural dishes will be on the new shelves and inside the new refrigerator.

The blackboards and food graphics will be familiar to regular Whole Foods Market shoppers. The blackboards are another great way to convey the emphasis on local and healthy foods as the messages will change throughout the year. Aprons and baskets will still be available for all the little shoppers! We’ve already added a feature the parents will be excited about: a bench in The Market which serves as a little rest area. As we all know, The Market (like any grocery store) can get pretty crowded!

I am really excited about these new changes and updates to The Market. It will be fun to see them happen throughout the summer. I am sad that my AmeriCorps term will end before The Market will be fully complete, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the blog for updates and the final product!

Bee Cam!

I think besides the Dress Up Theatre, the Ranger Station is my favorite place in the Museum & Theatre. I love going in there to watch the turtles swim around and to search for the queen bee. Bees are a little harder to watch than turtles, though, because they move so fast. But now you can see the bees up close and personal with our new bee camera. If you haven’t visited our beehive or you’d like to see what they’ve been up to since you left, here is a quick video I shot:

The bees are only here in the spring and summer months! Don’t miss the chance to search for that ever elusive queen bee (hint: she has a white dot on her back!).

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!

Nigerian Yam Chips!

I get to explore a different country each month for my snack-sampling program, Cultural Cuisine. Nigeria is our featured culture for June – we’re changing up We Are Maine to include Nigerian drums, costumes, masks, groceries, and more! Be sure to check out the changes, as well as family pictures of the Mokemes, our We Are Maine family with roots in Nigeria. You may or may not know that yams are kind of a big deal in Nigeria! Every fall most Nigerian cultures have a Yam Festival, celebrating the bounty of the growing season and all to be thankful for. (Sound a little like Thanksgiving?) North American yams are significantly different than yams found in Africa, but the following is a fun recipe to incorporate yams into your daily snack. Yams are chock-full of fiber and vitamin A, so they’re kind of like potato chips — but way healthier! Click here for a full list of our programs about Nigeria.

Yam Chips While our yams are not the same as those in Africa, you can still make this tasty snack that is similar to what kids might make in Nigeria!

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
1 yam, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
Coarse salt


Peel sweet potatoes and yam. Slice the peeled sweet potatoes thinly. Place in bowl and coat with oil and salt. Arrange slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment or sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes on one side. Flip chips. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool before serving.

Visit our We Are Maine Nigerian table to learn about food, spices, family life and more!

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!

Sneak a peek at Smart Art!

It’s hard to believe that all these bits and pieces will soon be one big interactive exhibit. Talk about transformations!

I love the final weeks before a new exhibit opens – they’re busy and exciting for everyone on staff. Educators are planning new programs that will help introduce visitors to the new exhibit. The front line staff and those of us in the marketing department are learning all we can about the exhibit so we’ll be able to spread the word to members, visitors and the community. But it’s the exhibits and operations department who are especially busy – in just a few short weeks, they have to remove all traces of the departing exhibit and install all dozens of brand new components!

The incoming exhibit, Smart Art, will be open to the public this Friday, May 21st. This is the fifth exhibit in a very special series, the Environmental Exhibits Collaborative, or EEC (you may remember Turtle Travels, Treehouses, Attack of the Bloodsuckers, or Dinotracks – they were all a part of this collaborative, too). Our staff worked with a group of museums in New England and Canada to develop and build these exhibits; over the past five years, the exhibits have toured through all of our museums.

These little charmers will soon be butterflies in our butterfly garden. We’ll say we knew them when!

EEC exhibits have always been a lot of fun for us and our visitors, and I was especially excited to hear about some of the ways that Smart Art’s visit to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine will be unique. We’ve chosen a local artist in residence, Galen Richmond, who will create musical art and work with our visitors. We’re also adding a butterfly garden to highlight the exhibit’s theme, transformation.

If you are a member or a volunteer, you’re invited to an exhibit opening on Thursday, May 20th from 5:30-7pm. We’ll have food, activities, special guests and good company. It’s a free event for the whole family! RSVP to Kathryn at  (And of course, if you become a member by Thursday, you’re invited, too! Click here for membership information.)

Istar is swimming away!

Istar has called the Museum & Theatre home since January, but she’s ready to swim away to make room for our next exhibit, Smart Art. This weekend is the last time Istar will be lowered so you can go inside her and learn about humpback whales. On Saturday, May 1 we’ll be having Whale Time at 10:30am and 2pm. If you’d like to say goodbye to Istar on Sunday, May 2, call the front desk for specific times.

Our visitors couldn’t get enough of Whale Time!

Member families will be the last ones to enjoy What About Whales during Members’ Monday on May 3. The exhibit will be closed starting Tuesday, May 4.

We’ll miss Istar, but we’re really excited about Smart Art—a truly interactive exhibit where you can make robots dance, help a plant to grow and more! You can read more about Smart Art in our latest Kitetails newsletter.

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!

Dinosaurs make way for Whales!

Anyone who has visited us in the last week can tell that something BIG is coming to our Big Gallery! The Dinotracks! exhibit is officially extinct, and the Exhibits team has been working behind the scenes for months to prepare our next original exhibit, What About Whales?

This week, that work has moved from the design shop to the first floor as this exhibit takes shape. Dozens of games, signs, props, electronics and other components are being installed. Take a peek at a few photos of the exhibit in progress, and see if you can guess which piece is which!  See the comments for answers.

1. Vertebrae from a whale’s back          2. Baleen from a real whale

3.  Dock for whale watching      4.  Build-a-Whale game

Our members will be the first to explore the whole exhibit at a private opening event on Thursday evening (reason #548 to become a member!). What About Whales? will open to the public on Friday, January 22nd at 10am.