Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Celebrate Stories!

Spring is here, everyone!
At Please Touch, spring marks the beginning of the two-month "Celebrate Stories" series in April and May, which are filled with interactive storytelling and programs that capture the magic of favorite children's books!

I spoke with my buddy Brian Rafter, Literacy Coordinator at Please Touch Museum, to get a better idea of why the museum celebrates stories every year.

Pinky: How does "Celebrate Stories" fit into the museum’s learning through play philosophy?
Brian: The museum's mission of enriching the lives of children reaches beyond providing learning opportunities through play— we want to help children build their reading skills and help families understand the importance of reading and playing together at a young age. We believe discovering a love of reading starts at a very young age. By providing literacy-themed activities at the museum, like our daily story times, we hope kids will enjoy taking part in the activities, while encouraging parents to take our ideas home with them and read to their children. It's all a part of our child-adult interactive learning experience and why we feel the museum experience is just as valuable to the adult as it is to the child.

Pinky: How do you select the books for storytimes?
Brian: Well, we try to make storytimes at Please Touch a special experience for children. Our favorite books are ones that cannot only tell a great story, but also encourage participation and interactive play. There are lots of different ways to make storytimes interactive, such as asking questions about what has already been read, or making predictions about what will happen, or even describing pictures or characters in the books. The stories also provide numerous opportunities for dramatic and imaginative play. These participatory and interactive elements help children develop their language and critical thinking skills, as well as their imaginations. Reading at the museum is just another way to play!

Pinky: What activities and special events are part of "Celebrate Stories?"
Brian: Now that the museum has expanded, we have also expanded our Celebrate Stories programming. New this year are daily interactive toddler story times, and the "Celebrate Authors" series, which celebrates the birthdays of beloved children's authors, from Dr. Seuss to Eric Carle. On each author's birthday, the museum offers special story times featuring the author’s books, along with themed art activities in the museum’s Program Room. By celebrating these famous authors, we hope children and their parents learn to appreciate books and the authors’ work.

Pinky: Wow! Sounds like so much FUN! Will Storybook Ball be back this year?
Brian: Yes! As a matter of fact, this year marks the first Storybook Ball family fundraiser, which will be held May 9 at Please Touch Museum. As always, families are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite storybook characters. The event is a great way to bring the books children read at home to life, all while developing their love of reading and encouraging creativity through pretend play! Funds raised from this year's event will support the museum's community programs.

For more Storybook Ball info, please contact Laura at lstanley@pleasetouchmuseum.org

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pinky's Picks

Hi everyone! Have you ever been in Please Touch Museum's Kids Store? It's one of my favorite places inside the museum. It is full of educational toys, new and classic children's books, games, puzzles and other items that inspire natural wonder and creative play for babies, toddlers and kids of all ages.

I just saw my good friend Tucker Hager, Director of Retail Operations, and he told me all about the Kids Store and what’s available inside. I never knew so much work and thought went into the Kids Store! Here's what he had to say:

"Here at Please Touch Museum, playtime doesn't have to end after your visit to the museum. As a learning institution, we really hope that our visitors can recreate the natural wonder and creative play that their children experience at the museum, when they return home.

As part of Please Touch Museum's non-profit status, it is essential that all the items in the store relate to the museum’s exhibits and learning through play philosophy. For example, many of the supplies for our process-oriented activities in the program room can be found in the store along with an extensive car selection which relates to our Roadside Attractions exhibit. We have a variety of costumes in the store which are wonderful for dress-up at home and encourage creativity through pretend play. Also, the classic children's games are great ways for families to spend time together at home and create fun memories together.

The Kids Store has been a visitors favorite ever since it opened at the museum's old home on 21st Street, and we are really excited about our new, bigger store and the opportunities we have as one of the only education-based stores in the region. We really hope everyone stops in when they visit and explores for themselves.”

Thanks Tucker! I’ll be sure to stop by more often!

Here are some great educational items available in the Kids Store:


A Journey from the River to the Treetops
Joe Fullman

Now and Ben
The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin
Gene Barretts

Good Night Philadelphia
Adam Gamble & Cooper Kelly

A is for America
An American Alphabet
Author- Devin Scillian
Illustrator- Pam Carroll

D is for Drinking Gourd
An African American Alphabet
Author- Nancy Sanders
Illustrator- E.B. Lewis

P is for Pinata
A Mexican Alphabet
Author- Tony Johnston
Illustrator- John Parra

Puzzles by Melissa and Doug (ages 3-5)

Alphabet Train Floor Puzzle
Construction Floor Puzzle

Games (ages 5 and up)

I Spy Memory Game
A game of picture riddles

Quick Chess
The easiest way to learn chess

You can shop online at http://www.shoppleasetouchmuseum.org/

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Artists in Residence

As part of this month’s Art All Around Us theme, the museum is hosting some very special guests who are working on a fabulous art project— and everyone can help! Members of the Philly Dumpster Divers are the Artists in Residence at Please Touch Museum now through March 30!

“Recycling is Amazing” is a room-size sculpture made entirely from Styrofoam packing pieces created by the Dumpster Divers, with the help of museum visitors. Along the way, kids will get the chance to learn about recycling and what great things you can make from ordinary objects and materials, like Styrofoam.

I talked to the museum’s Senior Exhibits Designer, Lorna Kent (pic), about the Artist in Residence program and here’s what she had to say:

Pinky: Hi Lorna! So, what is the Artist in Residence program?

Lorna: Making art is really fun and so we thought it would be a great idea to invite artists, to come to the museum and spend time with us so that we could all make art together! While they are here, the Artists in Residence will show visitors some really cool and unique art work that anyone can make at the museum or at home.

Pinky: What kind of project are the Dumpster Divers working on this month?

Lorna: Right now we are making sculptures out of recycled Styrofoam and glue. The artists spent time collecting all the Styrofoam they could find and are now helping children and grownups to make amazing cityscapes. It is really fun to find things that nobody seems to want anymore and turn them into cool collectable art.

Pinky: So this is something families can do at home, too?

Lorna: Sure is! One of the best things about the Artists in Residence program is that their activities can extend beyond the museum and into the visitors’ homes. There are a lot of items that people throw away that can be recycled and reused for fun art purposes. For example, Styrofoam is a great material to use to build cities or other objects. You could also try to find new and creative ways to use Styrofoam. Let your imagination run wild!

Thanks, Lorna! I can’t wait to get home and see what kind of art I can make.

The Dumpster Divers will be here Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, during March from 1 – 4 PM in the Program Room.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Art is All Around Us!

Hi everybody! March at Please Touch Museum is Art All Around Us month, when kids get to learn all about art. And what better place to experience art than in the museum’s Program Room.

I went to the Program Room today and there were all kinds of fun activities that let you create your own art projects. My favorite activity was “Learning through Light.” There was a projector that lit up the wall and you could use different shapes and colors to make the light change, or even make shadow puppets. I learned how to make a snail! There was also a table where you could make any art project you could think of, using all kinds of art supplies, from paper and markers, to buttons and thread. There were lots of kids making so many beautiful creations.

After I finished my project, I sat down for a little while to play with some of the puzzles and read some of the amazing books about art. I saw pictures of some pretty famous paintings that I had never seen before.

After I left the Program Room, I talked to my friend Mark Dilks, Arts Coordinator at Please Touch Museum, about some of the activities.

Pinky: Why is art important for kids?
Mark: Art encourages individual creativity and freedom of expression, as well as helping to develop problem solving skills. Experimenting with a variety of materials to see how they fit together helps to develop math and science skills such as basic geometry. At Please Touch, we encourage process-oriented art over product-oriented art (i.e. drawing your own picture on paper over coloring sheets) because we believe every child’s individual direction and expression can create their own exciting outcome.

Pinky: Why did you pick these activities for Art All Around Us month?
Mark: The open-ended art play table is an area where visitors can be as creative as they like with a wide variety of art supplies. It is based on the Montessori idea of having the “artist” help themselves to the materials, as well as cleaning them up. This concept allows them to choose whatever materials they like and to use them in interesting ways. We’re also doing the “Learning through Light” activity, which enables our visitor to us the space in the Program Room in a new way. This incorporates the Reggio Meilia philosophy that children learn through manipulating the space they are in, not merely the objects in that space. Light is an interesting way to do this. Light is also a great way to teach color theory and basic concepts of science and observation.

Pinky: Are there any art projects families can do at home together?
Mark: A great way to make art at home is to reuse things like cardboard, Styrofoam, and other discarded materials. All of these materials can have new uses in art projects. This practice encourages reusing and recycling in addition to allowing your children to see objects in new ways. They can see how different objects can be recombined to make new objects.

Thanks Mark! I can’t wait to go home and look for interesting things to reuse, reshape and recycle for my art projects.

Visit http://www.pleasetouchmuseum.org/pdf/YoungChildArt4.pdf for helpful tips on art supplies for your child!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Performance Play Spaces

This Thursday (March 5), “There's Something Under My Bed” opens on the Playhouse stage!

And that’s the perfect time to share my recent interview with Please Touch Museum’s Theater Experience Manager and Playhouse performer, David Hutchman, who told me all about why the performing arts are important to young children and what goes into creating shows for the Please Touch stage. Plus, I got the scoop on how to make a fun performance space in your own home!

Pinky: What opportunities do the performing arts offer young children?

David: The performing arts are a great way for kids to learn and grow, all while having fun. The performing arts foster imagination, creativity, self-expression, and self-confidence. Even with space restrictions, there are simple ways to make room for performance play.

Pinky: So what’s the goal of performance play?

David: The goal of performance play is not to train children to be dancers, actors or musicians. Instead, focus on creating an atmosphere for your child to explore the performing arts.

Pinky: What goes into the theater productions at Please Touch Playhouse?

David: The idea for a new show can come from any number of places. A show can be based on an exhibit in the museum (e.g. “The Building Show”)), it can be from a book, (e.g. “North Wind” from the book At The Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald) or it might even be a topic that our Education Director thinks is really important to the kids (e.g. “Eat Like A Pirate”—a healthy food choice show.)

Wherever the idea comes from, you always have to remember that all our shows, except “Scat Cat” are solo performer shows. So, as you’re thinking up the new show you have to figure a way for one person to do all the puppets and voices and storytelling and everything all by themselves.

Pinky: So let’s take the theater experience home! How can parents set the stage for their child?

David: Creating a performance space in the comfort of your own home is easy! Pull the sofa away from the wall to make a puppet stage. A porch can be a stage, or simply create a stage using masking tape or a chalk line on a sidewalk. Decorate an old sheet and hang it on the wall as a backdrop, or hang a colorful shower curtain on the basement pipes to serve as a curtain. To create ambiance, have music available. Put a black light or colored bulbs in the fixtures, or use a flashlight as a spotlight. Just remember to make sure furniture corners, electric cords and other hazards are out of the way.

Pinky: How about props?

David: Tambourines and shakers are great instruments for little hands. Find some toy instruments or make a small flat cardboard guitar for your child to decorate and “play”. Use a soup spoon as a microphone, and make a drum set out of pots and pans or Tupperware. Make puppets from socks or poster board shapes taped to a handle. Generally speaking, encourage substitution — a plastic bowl can be a hat; a skirt can be a cape.

Pinky: Now that the stage and props are ready, it’s time to get the show started!

David: That’s right! Once the space and props are ready, most kids will dive right in. If your child isn’t sure where to start, provide a few suggestions based on her interests. For example, the child could: make up a dance to music, put on a rock concert, act out a folk tale, family event, or a sports victory, tell jokes, or sing songs. Allow your child time to play solo, or participate as a willing actor or member of the band. Encourage siblings and playmates to take turns as the director or the “star.”

Have fun and break a leg! (figuratively, of course)

We're all about learning through play.

Join Pinky, one of Please Touch Museum's resident puppets, on an inside look into all the fun, educational things happening at Philly's Children's Museum. This blog is not just about what we do at the museum, but about the educational philosophy behind why we do what we do.