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!

Snowflakes and Thought Drops

Normally, as a college student, I welcome any snow day so that I can forget my academic responsibilities, remain in my pajamas, drink hot cocoa, and just enjoy a day’s worth of relaxation. Not so this winter. As the Community Engagement Intern, I found myself wishing that the snow would stop showing up on Tuesdays so that we could get the Youth Imagine Project up and running.

The Youth Imagine Project is an exciting new program which works with immigrant high school students from Portland High School to develop their own service-learning project within the museum, while simultaneously offering them professional development workshops to help them gain skills for college and the workforce. It’s exciting not only because we are working with a new age bracket of students, but also because…well…these kids are awesome and have so many ideas to share with the Children’s Museum and Theatre staff and visitors!

You can imagine our excitement when the snowstorms stayed at bay, and our group of students was able to show up for a brainstorming session. Our kids came up with so many great ideas (what I sometimes like to call, in the spirit of weather metaphors, “thought drops”)! They are taking so many awesome avenues in their projects, including psychology, technology, tradition & culture, gardening, music, and drama.  Many of them expressed interest in running education programs with our visitors, while others are thinking of other ways to use their skills and interests.

We can’t wait until next week when we freeze these thought drops into more solid project ideas! I’ll be writing posts weekly, so stay tuned for further developments!

An amazing day of caring and sharing!

I bet when these volunteers signed on for the Day of Caring, they had no idea they’d be toppling the Taj Mahal!

I’ve always known that the United Way is a great organization doing wonderful work around the world, but seeing their impact locally – right in our backyard – serves as a pretty amazing reminder of how much impact people can have when they unite. Last Thursday, more than 1,000 volunteers donated a day’s work to 60 non-profits in Greater Portland.  More than 20 of those volunteers came to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, where they had a big impact on the back yard.  On your next visit, notice the freshened up pirate ship and picnic tables – and the absence of a certain wonder of the world! (The Taj Mahal wasn’t built for long-term outdoor use, so our volunteers helped to dismantle and remove it – tata, Taj Mahal!)

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at the United Way offices, there was still more volunteering! Kathryn Miller (dedicated Marketing and PR Assistant) and I met with seven of Greater Portland’s top professionals with expertise in the fields of marketing, branding and public relations. These volunteers offered Kathryn and I a lot of very helpful guidance for sharing our message with the community, providing stronger service to our members and theatre-goers, and advancing our mission.

A big round of applause to the United Way and all their volunteers for making the Day of Caring happen! Read more about it in the Press Herald here.

Home Front Egg Hunt!


Operation home front - group photo
The Easter egg hunters gathered for a group photo out front to display their treasures.

On Saturday evening, I had the privilege of tagging along for a very special event: Operation Home Front’s annual Easter egg hunt for military families, which they held here at the Museum. A group of dedicated volunteers hid treasure-filled eggs in countless nooks and crannies (can you imagine how many hiding places there are here?!). The kids (many in bright Easter dresses) were let loose to explore and search for eggs, and soon every child’s basket was brimful. The children also received beautiful baskets, and the families enjoyed snacks and drinks from donors like Cabot Cheese and Capt’n Eli’s. They also had time to explore and play – many families were particularly taken with the giant globe in the We Are Maine exhibit, where they were excited to point out all the different places they’ve lived, and to find the places where their dads and moms are stationed now.

Easter baskets
Easter baskets full - time to play!

Donna Chapman (Chapter President of Operation Home Front) and her volunteers did an amazing job making this event special for every family who attended. We feel honored that they choose to host this event at the Museum & Theatre, and we’re glad everyone had fun!

Donna tells me that April is Military Child Month – to learn more about how you can support military families during this month and all year long, visit the Operation Home Front website at

Non-profit groups get a discounted rate for facility rentals – please contact Shana at 828-1234 x232 or if you’d like to learn more about holding an event like this!

Spotlight on Waynflete High School Volunteers

While I love my role as an Educator, I also love my Volunteer Coordinator duties and seeing amazing projects happen thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers who help out in a variety of ways. Yesterday was especially exciting as we had a group of sophomores from Waynflete High School join us for a morning filled with yellow and blue paint! The hard-working group transformed our somewhat neglected staff kitchen and lounge area into a beautiful, inviting space. A HUGE thanks to this fantastic group!

Here are some before and after pictures of our kitchen and lounge:

Before: these walls could use some color!

Continue reading “Spotlight on Waynflete High School Volunteers”