Monday, July 27, 2009

Meet my new friends!

Hi everyone!
Today I'd like to share anther visitor experience with you. This one involves a fun-loving grandmother and her two granddaughters, ages 10 and 11. Even thought the two girls are a little over the general age range of our visitors, they had a blast at Please Touch Museum! Read on to hear about their trip to the Children's Museum…

"A grandmother to two girls, both of whom are well over the age group that normally visits Please Touch, I was worried that my girls wouldn't find any interest in the exhibits and would end the trip complaining of boredom. Regardless, Please Touch Museum was added to our summer fun itinerary and boy, did the girls have a ball!

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a large figure of a torch resembling that of the Statue of Liberty, but composed of recycled material and bursting with vibrant color! A wonderful start to our visit since our previous stop had been New York City.

After marveling over the unique piece of art, the options of where to go next were endless and the decision a difficult one. My girls found themselves attracted to the River Adventures exhibit and unraveled their curiosity while playing with one another. But, a real favorite was the Alice in Wonderland maze with its mirrors, shrinking room and dream-like atmosphere. Next thing I knew, they were off to the beautiful carousel riding cat figurines with smiles that ran ear to ear.

Once finished with the one side of the museum, it was time to venture off into the other wing where the girls found Roadside Attractions, the Program Room and Flight Fantasy. The girls agreed that Flight Fantasy was great fun and tried everything in the room; even I tried my luck at the hamster wheel!

In the midst of our fun, we lost track of the time and never made it to the grocery store portion of the museum. "Oh well, guess we will have to come back again next year!" the girls said.

That was music to my ears!

Finding activities that are age appropriate for 10 and 11-year olds is not an easy task, but after experiencing all that Please Touch has to offer, I definitely recommend visiting with pre-teens. The exhibits are versatile and pull at the imagination— something that's fun at every age. See you again next year!"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Artist's Birthday!

Hey everyone! Recently I sat down with Mark Dilks, Arts Coordinator at Please Touch Museum, to talk about another Artist's Birthday:

Hey Mark! Please Touch Museum celebrated Alexander Calder’s birthday yesterday. Can you tell me more about him?

Mark: I would love to, Pinky! Alexander Calder was born in the year 1898, in Lawson, Pennsylvania, now part of Philadelphia. His mother was a painter and his father was a sculpture. Even though both of his parents were artists, Alexander first went to school for engineering. In 1923, shortly after he awoke to see a rising sun and a full moon in the sky at the same time, he moved to New York and enrolled in the Arts Students League. Three years later, he moved to Paris where he started to make sculptures out of wood and wire. Wire fascinated him and he continued to explore the 3-Dimensional line for the rest of his artistic career.

Pinky: What materials can I use to try this at home?

Mark: You can explore this technique at home by bending pipe cleaners, Wikistix® or Bendaroos® into shapes. You can use Styrofoam or a putty, play dough would work fine, as a base for the line sculpture.

Pinky: That sounds really neat! What other types of sculptures did Calder make?

Mark: In 1932, Calder made his first kinetic (moving) sculptures which his friend Marcel Duchamp called “mobiles.” What is a mobile? Jeann-Paul Sartre put it like this, “a ‘mobile,’ one might say, is a little private celebration, an object defined by its movement and having no other existence. The object is thus always half way between the servility of a statue and the independence of natural events; each of its evolutions is the inspiration of a moment.”

Pinky: Can families make kinetic sculptures at home too?

Mark: Sure can! You can use regular house hold items to make your own mobiles. To make a hanging mobile, suspend a coat hanger and, using string, wire, pipe cleaners, etc. attach and, or hang other objects from the coat hanger. Observe how adding elements to the coat hanger changes its balance, the way it hangs. Mobiles are interesting art objects because they are constantly moving. Have your child explore basic science by making the mobile move through various techniques. Have them push the mobile with their hand. Air, either the wind or your breath, can move the mobile as well. Shine a light on the mobile as it moves and see how the shadows dance. Use your imagination!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Design the Dollhouse of Your Dreams!

Please Touch Museum is partnering with DesignPhiladelphia on a unique city-wide project bringing together artists, architects, children and their caregivers, designers and students. "Design the Dollhouse of Your Dreams" lets participants unleash their inner Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry by creating their own version of the ideal dollhouse!

I sat down with Lorna Kent, Senior Exhibits Designer at Please Touch Museum, who told me a little more about this exciting project.

Pinky: This sounds like a wonderfully exciting project! How does it relate to Please Touch Museum's mission of "learning through play?"

Lorna: Please Touch Museum's "learning through play" philosophy values the creative possibilities and playful minds of its young visitors. In true Please Touch spirit, this hands-on project will let children and adults collaborate in a fun, educational way as they build their imaginative and inventive dream dollhouse. Just like Frank Lloyd Wright's imagination was stimulated while he was playing with building blocks at a young age, we hope to spark the imagination of children across the Philadelphia area with this project. The museum will also display the work of young visionaries alongside the contribution of professional participants to promote the importance of design and creative thinking in everyone's lives.

Pinky: Tell us a little more about DesignPhiladelphia, its mission and how it relates to what we do at Please Touch Museum.

Lorna: DesignPhiladelphia believes that Philadelphia is a center for education, boasting a diverse network of academic design programs, colleges, and universities as well as a thriving and nationally recognized professional design community. Through showcasing the extent of designers and retailers, professional offices, museums, and galleries, DesignPhiladelphia aides the city's retention and attraction of young designers and creative professionals. Like Please Touch Museum, DesignPhiladelphia is eager to get kids of all ages involved in a project that promotes teamwork, imaginative thinking, education and exploration. In a way, the project is bringing the museum's mission into families' homes!

Pinky: I can't wait to get started on my dream dollhouse! Where can I sign up?

Lorna: The project is open to everyone and design proposals can be submitted online here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Put on your dancing shoes!

Please Touch Museum’s latest and greatest music programming is offering visitors an opportunity to create their own beats that have them up on their feet!

I sat down with Ann Goering, Music Coordinator at Please Touch Museum who told me all about how cool it can be to create music at the children’s museum.

Pinky: Ann, the music department at PTM is new. What’s it all about?

Ann: The music department is about fun! It’s about expressing emotions through everyday instruments. The department puts together shows and programs that take place 7-days a week. Our shows are structured, but are never too serious where the kids don’t feel like they’re the stars, which they always are! Then there are times when we bunk down in a cozy spot in the museum and welcome anyone who wants to make some noise using instruments like the drums, guitars; whatever’s around, really. Too often people forget that you can make music out of pretty much anything and that even if it doesn’t make a perfect harmony, it’s still music.

Pinky: I love making music! Can parents get involved, too?

Ann: Of course! While children are our favorite audience, we love it when parents take part in the programs. Often times we see that they have as much fun as the kids do! Musical limbo is a favorite at the museum and a great activity that incorporates family bonding and musical discovery. Plus, you can do it at home!

Pinky: What sort of things can kids discover?

Ann: Discovering sound is really the key. The noise a pen makes when we tap it on the table or even the sound that we can make by slapping our hands on our thighs. The possibilities are endless! Incorporation of everyday matters is also a big part of our programs. August is transportation month here at the museum, so we put together a mini traveler’s music manual by implementing a drum show. We will perform using drums that come from countries all over the world and will invite our guests to take part in learning how to create their own tunes. With this, we exemplify different sounds with a little bit of geography. It’s going to be a great time with lots of rhythm!

Pinky: Great! I’ll be sure to bring out my favorite dancing shoes!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author birthday & lots of great books!

On July 9, Please Touch Museum celebrated author Todd Parr’s Birthday! We celebrated with special readings of his books in our City Park Gazebo, and with a special activity in our Program Room called "Todd Parr's Hair Salon." based on his book This is My Hair.

Todd Parr was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1962. His career began in 1998 with the publishing of his first book; he has published over thirty books since. His books are immediately recognizable for their simple drawing style and bold, striking colors. His stories help introduce children to complex emotional subjects in a fun and whimsical way. Since 2005, Parr has had his own show, "ToddWorld" on TLC and Discovery Kids. You can learn more about Todd here.

Here are some of our favorite Todd Parr books that you can read at home with your family:

This is My Hair
Todd Parr's whimsical exploration of all the different things that hair can do. It can be short or long, it can stand up, it can blow in the wind, or be tied into ponytails. This book also displays Parr's effervescent humor, as one child styles their hair with spaghetti and meatballs.

The Family Book
There are many different kinds of families and this wonderful book celebrates them all. The one thing that all families have in common, though, is the love they share.

The Okay Book
In The Okay Book, Parr reassures children that it is okay to be scared, or to be from a different place, or to wear glasses. This magnificent book is a joyous celebration of all the things that make you unique!

Otto Goes to Bed
In this book, Parr's recurring character Otto gets ready for bed. The bedtime ritual is a common experience for all families, no matter what form it takes. In Otto Goes to Bed readers can acquaint themselves with Otto's bedtime routine and even make his a part of their own.

The Feel Good Book
This book ends with a seemingly simple question: what makes you feel good? Maybe it is reading, or running, or taking a bath, or petting a dog? Or maybe it is brushing your hair with a lion?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

July and August are “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” months at Please Touch Museum!

With the summer season setting in and families planning vacation trips, it’s the perfect time for Please Touch Museum to teach children about all different types of transportation and how vehicles move and function! This is a great time to highlight Please Touch Museum’s Roadside Attractions exhibit where your child can pretend to be a mechanic in Please Touch Garage where they can work on the engine of a car, fill up tires with air or top off a tank of gas at our “full service” gas station.

In each of our exhibits we like to emphasize to value that play provides our young visitors. Roadside Attractions provides a great opportunity for role playing. Role playing increases social interaction by using negotiation and listening skills and helps children to safely explore the world outside of their familiar environment. Children also have the opportunity to use their imagination and direct their own trip behind the wheel of our popular SEPTA Bus.

You can also find fun and creative transportation themed activities in the program room! Kids can paint with vehicles and familiarize themselves with the different types of tires and wheels they use. Using untraditional painting utensils creates a setting in which they can learn to think about and use different objects in a new context (as art supplies and construction materials). Children can also paint their own vehicles, encouraging them to use their imaginations to depict the different vehicles, how they move and what they are used for.

Learning doesn’t just take place in the museum. We encourage families to continue the fun and learning when you leave the museum too! If you’re driving the family mini-van, pretend it’s a submarine and ask your child what they see out of the windows! Or sing songs like “the wheels on the bus go round and round,” point out different street signs and explain what they stand for, or challenge your child to identify the meaning on their own, encouraging family learning and critical thinking.

Transportation Month Booklist:

3 and Under:
Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman
Whether they are driving, walking, flying, swimming, or riding a bicycle watch these animals go and GO!
Truck by Donald Crews
A wordless picture book that follows a big red truck on a special delivery. A Caldecott Honoree.
Clink, Clank, Clunk by Miriam Aroner, illustrated by Dominic Catalano
A rabbit and his friends join together to try and get his ailing car into town in this accumulative story.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
The bus driver has asked you to make sure that the pigeon is not allowed to drive thus bus. And this pigeon really wants to drive the bus. Will you let him?
My Car by Byron Barton
Join Sam as he talks about how his car works and how he cares for it to keep it running.

4 to 7:
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
Everything from fire trucks to toothpaste cars can be found in this classic book by Richard Scarry.
Night Driving by John Coy, illustrated by Peter McCarty
A son narrates a nighttime drive with his father to the mountains for a camping trip. Illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Peter McCarty.
Roy Makes a Car by Mary E. Lyons, illustrated by Terry Widener
Based on a two paragraph tale recorded by Zora Neale Hurston, Lyons’s book tells the story of Roy, a car mechanic of exceptional skill.
The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Everyone knows what the wheels on the bus do, but what about the seals? Or the rabbits? Or the tigers? In Hort’s twist on this well known song you will find out!
Truck Duck by Michael Rex
In cars and trucks and motorcycles and blimps see how animals get around in this rhyming book.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day everybody! Before you go out to watch the fireworks this Saturday, there are all kinds of fun ways to celebrate this special day at Please Touch Museum.

In our Program Room, kids make their own light shows with ‘Light Projector Fireworks.’ Kid will be able to use colored transparencies, liquid watercolor paint, baking soda, oil, and vinegar, to create their own fireworks display on a light projector surface. This activity is based around the ideas of Reggio Emilia, a prominent figure in the history of early education. Emilia believed that the learning environment is an important part of how children learn, and in this activity children are able to interact with and manipulate their environment in a way that allows them to be creative and expressive. The extra dimension of this activity is that it also enables them to recreate their own fireworks displays, which are a familiar part of celebrations and holidays around the world!

There will also be activities in the Program Room that allow kids to explore the history around this holiday in a fun and creative way. With the ‘Make a Five-Pointed Star’ activity, kids can make and decorate their own stars using a technique that was used by Betsy Ross, a famous Philadelphian who sewed the first American flag! And just like Betsy Ross, kids can make their own flags from white paper, and strips or red and blue colored tape. These activities provide children with the materials to create these important historical figures, but still allow for open-ended creation, an important aspect of all PTM’s art experience activities.

And don't forget to check out the marching band parades in Hamilton Hall at 12, 2, and 4 where two percussionists will lead a parade through the Hall and kids can follow behind and make music of their own!

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.