Welcome, Lily!

Photo courtesy of Sharyn Peavey Photography


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

Open-Ended Programming in our All-Weather Playscape.

After a successful opening in March 2014, The Playscape remains a daily favorite destination among visitors of varying ages. Its towering indoor playground structures and blue blocks of many shapes and sizes provide for multiple open-ended play scenarios as well as guided programs. Open-ended play is exactly as it sounds: the concept is open; there are no rules. For children at all stages of development, the opportunity to make their own rules in play scenarios essential to honing certain skills. It allows for learning through trial and error, reasoning, teamwork and engineering. While structured toys like puzzles have only one outcome, open-ended toys such as the blue blocks in The Playscape can become anything. The only limit is the imagination.

Structures and large blue blocks provide the foundation for endless opportunities.
Structures and large blue blocks provide the foundation for endless opportunities.

Thanks to the open concept of The Playscape, our educators and volunteers can lead daily activities that challenge our young visitors to make bold choices, work and imagine together to reach a goal that changes with every iteration of the program. Programs like the Quicksand Challenge or Giant Building Challenge first introduced the concepts of working together to engineer a solution for a problem – in these cases, to help a group of animals cross quicksand or overcome another obstacle. One of our weekly Tiny Tots programs this spring presented The Playscape to our youngest visitors with Amazing Mazes, introducing 18-36-month-olds to the mazelike structures the exhibit provides.

Building challenges continue in our Young Engineers programming: children have the opportunity to create a car, bridge (that you can really walk across!) or even a creature out of the blue blocks based on prompts and suggestions from our educators. Children also enjoy creating buildings out of the blocks, especially when they get to help out a puppet friend in need in the program Monster Needs a Home.

A visitor helps Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short's puppet friend find a bed in The Playscape.
A visitor helps Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short’s puppet friend find a bed in The Playscape.

The giant wooden structures in The Playscape can also become perfect puppet stages or any kind of building or vessel a child may need in a game. The open space has also provided a perfect place to play Circus Games: two of our youth staff educators have been teaching basic circus skills like balancing and juggling to visitors of all ages during weekly July programs. Children and adults alike will try to balance clubs (or blue blocks!) and juggle circus balls… or, even better, the colorful ones from the ball pit!

The wonderful thing about The Playscape is that it can be whatever the visitor wants it to be. With great thanks to The Playscape’s donors and sponsors, Unum; Let’s Go!; WCSH6 and CedarWorks, this unique and truly magical exhibit has established itself as a place for children of all ages to make new discoveries, play, create and learn.

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Update: Pop-Up Playscapes video is here!

Remember those warm summer days when we could play outside for hours without worrying about frostbite? The warm weather may have left us for a bit, but creativity carries on! No Umbrella Media’s mini-documentary on this summer’s Pop Up Playscapes events is now complete. Get a recap of the events, the inspiration behind them, and even a few tips for how to create your own pop-up playscape – indoors or out!

Answering Unanswered Questions on the Greenhouse Blog

Meet Rosanne!Most days I’m at the Children’s Museum & Theatre, I wish I had the power to pause time.  The clocks would stick, the crabs would halt mid-scuttle, and the rumbling space shuttle would delay its ignition.  And while the Museum stood still, I would fly down to the library and research the query of a three year old.  Because they ask some pretty incredible questions!

But when we’re sitting in the magical darkness of the Camera Obscura room and our discussion takes a turn towards the tangential and then a skip and a leap into Never Neverland, some questions are left unanswered.  Like this doozy from last week: If you stood on your head enough, could you train your brain to see right-side-up when you’re up-side-down? Hmm.  Sometimes the clock is ticking or attention is faltering, but much of the time, I’m simply not sure of the answer.

In teaching such imaginative and curious minds, I’ve come to realize that I essentially know nothing.  You could fill fire trucks and forests and whales and volcanoes with the things I don’t know. And while I’m perfectly happy to admit that, I always rush home a little faster those days to sherlock some answers.

Which brings us to the point of this introduction, a blog. A blog, you say? How fun! Adventures from  a Museum Greenhouse was created as an outlet to explore, to ponder, to teach and to learn.  A slight bit a way to grow my smarts and a bigger bit a way to answer the questions I couldn’t, this blog was born and blossoms from the minds of our visitors.  Because their imagination and creativity impress me every time I come to work, and I’ll happily let their questions follow me as I leave.

Rosanne started at the Museum & Theatre as a greenhouse education intern and recently joined our staff as a Visitor Guide. Learn more about Rosanne and the rest of our staff here.

We Won! Our Cultural Policies Received the 2012 MetLife Promising Practice Award

The community comes together at a celebration of India.

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine received the MetLife Foundation Promising Practice Award and a $10,000 grant in recognition of the Museum & Theatre’s innovative cultural policies. The award was presented on Thursday, May 10 at Interactivity 2012, the Association of Children’s Museums’ international conference, held this year in Portland, Oregon. The Museum & Theatre was among four children’s museums selected from an international pool of applicants to receive the honor.

This year’s theme was the important role of children’s museums in nurturing global citizens. The Museum & Theatre was recognized for its unique policies guiding the development and delivery of cultural programs. These policies include the requirement that cultural programs must be developed with input from a community partner who is of the culture the program seeks to explore.

Suzanne Olson (the Museum & Theatre's Executive Director) pictured with Rohit Burman (Director, MetLife Foundation) at the 2012 Association of Children's Museums conference in Portland, Oregon.

“These policies challenge us to create personal, experience-based programs that span cultures from around the globe but are also sourced within our local community,” says Olson. “Our educators facilitate programs as conversations. We don’t give authoritative presentations that attempt to define or speak for an entire culture. This creates a safe space for children and adults to converse about their place in the world and explore the connections they have with others.”

Other 2012 Promising Practice Award recipients were the Treehouse Museum for Children in Ogden, Utah; the Explore & More Children’s Museum in Aurora, New York; and the Magic Bean House Children’s Museum in Beijing, China.

I’m Ryan – Be One of My Campers!

About Ryan:

BS Wildlife Science, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) (Syracuse, NY)
MPS Natural Resource and Recreation Management, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) (Syracuse, NY)
From the time he was a young boy in his native state of New York (the upstate part!), Ryan has been captivated by the outdoors and all things science. Ryan has a variety of experience working with youth in science-related programs as a volunteer educator for the NYS Parks Department and as a science educator with his college. He sees science education as a way to engage youth in their natural surroundings and aims to make science something fun and enjoyable.

About Ryan’s Camps (in his own words):

I’ve always been interested in the pioneer lifestyle especially the ruggedness, creativity and resourcefulness associated with it and thought doing a camp about it would be super fun. In Pioneer Camp, we’ll use our hands to craft fun toys of the time and I’ll get my guitar out to pick some old time pioneer tunes, among other activities.

I am really excited for Backyard Naturalist Camp! Summer is an awesome time to be outside, plus I love sharing my excitement for nature and assortment of facts and tidbits with others. We will explore our backyard museum ecosystem and think about how we can all enhance our own backyards to attract more wildlife.

Talk to Ryan:

Curious about Ryan’s camps? Contact Ryan at 828-1234 x229 or email him at ryan@kitetails.org.

If you don’t have any questions and are ready to register, you can do it online here or call Shana at 828-1234 x232.

I’m Reba – Be One of My Campers!

About Reba:

BA Theatre Arts, Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA)
MA Theatre Education, Emerson College (Boston, MA) (expected 2013)
Reba spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, where she facilitated a clowning troupe and helped them teach theatre workshops for youth all over the south-west region of the country. Aside from directing five mainstage productions per year at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Reba is an active member of Portland’s thriving theatre community. Reba uses theatre to teach anything and anything to teach theatre, loves making art with young actors, and loves watching young people find their spark!

About Reba’s Camps (in her own words):

I was teaching a Teensy Weensy acting class for 3-to-5-year-olds last fall when a 4-year-old actress with a glint in her eye leaned over and whispered, “Peter Pan’s my boyfriend” in my ear.  Without hesitation, I told her that I knew Captain Hook personally and that he’s much nicer than he seems in the book or movies. In Camp Never Neverland, I’m looking forward to reading selections of Peter Pan to my campers, role playing Wendy Darling telling stories to the lost boys.  After that, we’ll act it out, with a museum full of exhibits at our disposal, including a pirate ship outside! The story of Peter Pan has inspired so many children to make believe and pretend that they can fly or go to Neverland, it’s the perfect theme for a drama-based summer camp.

When I was about six years old, I discovered the game of Clue.  I had my mother’s old boardgame from the 1960s.   I loved the intrigue and the mystery, but I would only play with people that were willing to play their characters.  (Apparently, even as a little girl I was a theatre director!) Professor Plum had to be a little nerdy, Mrs. Peacock was very nice and spoke like Ms. Piggy, Miss Scarlet was… Miss Scarlet. By the winter I was seven, playing Clue required dress up clothes and every corner of our house. I think playing Clue inspired me to try out for my first play! As a theatre teacher and educator, I’ve discovered many improvisational theatre games that have to do with playing parts and solving a mystery.  These games quickly become a favorite of young actors in our mainstage productions, which is why I created Detective Camp.  Every day we’ll be finding clues, playing characters and solving mysteries all over the museum! (Please don’t worry about the theme – our culprits will be stick to small misdemeanors and petty crimes.  There will be no murder in our detective camp this summer!)

Talk to Reba:

Curious about Reba’s camps? Contact Reba at 828-1234 x247 or email her at reba@kitetails.org.

If you don’t have any questions and are ready to register, you can do it online here or call Shana at 828-1234 x232.

I’m Jamie – Be One of My Campers!

About Jamie:

BFA Painting, Maryland Institute, College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
MA Cultural Sustainability, Goucher College (Towson, MD) (expected 2013)
Combining her love of world cultures, community and sustainable food is one of Jamie’s favorite things about working at the Children’s Museum & Theatre. In her career as an educator, Jamie incorporates the lens of an artist into facilitating creative, play-based learning across disciplines. Previously she has worked as an educator privately and at various organizations, including Interlochen Center for the Arts. She is also an exhibiting artist.

About Jamie’s Camps (in her own words):

February in Maine might mean snow days and single digit temperatures, but at the Museum & Theatre it means: summer camp planning! For the last few weeks, I’ve been sitting at my desk, daydreaming about balmy July mornings and all kinds of hands-on activities to explore with campers. I’m particularly excited about this year, as I’m running two brand-new camps with a really interdisciplinary spin – something we love to encourage around here. I mean, why focus on one subject when you can learn about lots of things at once?

My first camp, running July 9th-13th, is called Art, Numbers & Nature. As someone who’s always found the great outdoors a source of inspiration for both my artistic and intellectual contemplations, I’m looking forward to getting my campers fired up about things like the golden ratio, geometric dimensions of honeycomb, and the way tree branches grow. Even though we’re located in an urban setting, there’s way more than enough around us to explore scientific, mathematical, and artistic concepts through things as small as leaves in our backyard garden – or as large as the clouds we can see out the window. Children are naturals at finding connections between the unexpected, and that’s just what I’m going to encourage in this camp. Can you imagine the art projects that’ll ensue?

My second camp is also interdisciplinary, but is really going to appeal to those who love the big screen. Mini Moviemakers, running July 30th-August 3rd, will give campers a chance to see for themselves how movies are made – by giving them a chance to make their own movies. We’ll explore aesthetic concepts like composition, lighting, sound and color while also discussing plotlines of a story, conceptualizing sequences, and discovering the mathematics of editing. Not to mention the flutter of excitement when your artistic product is viewed by the world for the first time! On the last day of camp we’ll have a special movie screening for family members. This will be a hoot, as you can imagine. We’ll make sure to supply the popcorn.

So – it may be eleven degrees outside, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about summer. If you’ve got questions about my camps, please send me an email – I’d love to hear from you!

Talk to Jamie:

Curious about Jamie’s camps? Contact Jamie at 828-1234 x241 or email her at jamie@kitetails.org.

If you don’t have any questions and are ready to register, you can do it online here or call Shana at 828-1234 x232.

I’m Louisa – Be One of My Campers!

About Louisa:

BFA Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
A schooled painter and active member of Portland’s art community, Louisa instills a sense of aesthetics and creativity into all of her work as an educator. Her previous education work spans the country and includes the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco as well as work with at-risk youth in California, New Hampshire and Maine. Louisa’s deep curiosity about the world – from modern art to rocks and gems – informs her interdisciplinary approach to education with children of all ages.

About Louisa’s Camps (in her own words):

In my years of facilitating art with kids I’ve noticed the thing that can frustrate and hold us back from making really fantastic 3-d structures is a lack of creative connections or ways to make things ‘stick.’ In Magical Builders camp we’re going to focus on the non-glue connections that will open up a myriad of possibilities for future artistic building. One of the biggest challenges I faced during art school was building a cardboard chair using one 48” x 80″ inch sheet of cardboard and no adhesive. Since that assignment, I’ve been fascinated with alternative connections and am excited to share some of my findings with the campers. The project I look forward to most will entail some very large cardboard structures.

Art doesn’t need to be a quiet and introspective activity that’s fate is hanging on a wall or refrigerator; it can actually be quite the opposite. In Messy Masterpieces camp, I’m excited to harness campers’ physical energy with some really great process-based art. I feel privileged to work in a facility that can handle a mess and functions to provide children with an outlet to use their energy, work as a team and create a unique piece of art.

Talk to Louisa:

Curious about Louisa’s camps? Contact Louisa at 828-1234 x227 or email her at louisa@kitetails.org.

If you don’t have any questions and are ready to register, you can do it online here or call Shana at 828-1234 x232.

The First Week of Camp – Gone Already?!

The first week of summer camp here at the Museum & Theatre was full of wild fun! Louisa and Meghan guided Science Safari campers as they delved into different animal themed adventures everyday; from the plains of Africa to dinosaur facts and fossils. Activities included meeting live owls and other animals, and an amazing 3-D nature photography show, complete with those crazy glasses! I got the giggles looking at these photos – this group had quite a week!


If you are looking for summer fun for your 4 or 5 year old, we have a lot of options!  In August there will be another exciting science camp – Amazing Animal Journeys with Hannah. For young ones who may have been nibbled by the drama bug, Reba will lead a camp called Under the Deep Blue Sea, which will call for lots of pretending and even special parts to play in our production of Pinocchio. Kids with a taste for adventure (or for tasty treats!) might enjoy going Around the World with Louisa – these campers will cook, craft, play and meet special guests who will help them explore global cultures. 

See www.kitetails.org/exhibits-and-programs/camps/ for registration information. Adventure awaits!