Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Transportation at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition!

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk with Stacey Swigart, who is the Curator of Collections here at Please Touch Museum. I was wondering how all of those people made it to and from Memorial Hall during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Stacey had a lot of information for me and I want to share it all with you!

Over 10 million people were in Philadelphia during the six month span that the 1876 Centennial Exhibition was open! “Center City” Philadelphia was several miles away and it took a bit longer to get to Fairmount Park then, than it does today. How did people get to the Fair? Many walked. Major transportation included railroads, street cars, steamboats, and vehicles—horse drawn wagons and carriages. The carrying capacity of passengers, per hour, for each was:

Street Cars—12,180

That means an average of 21,930 passengers were moving around an hour at any given time during the day! Fares from downtown Philadelphia to the Exhibition gates ranged from 9 cents for street cars to $3.00 for closed carriages! Most horse-drawn vehicles could travel the distance in about forty-five minutes. Local owners of carts and wagons retrofitted them with temporary seats so that they could make some cash transporting people themselves. Most traffic converged on the Girard Avenue Bridge—causing huge traffic tie-ups!

On the river, rowboats, tugboats and sailboats looked for the closest landings—and trains—the most popular mode of transportation, dropped and picked up passengers outside the gates every five minutes. At the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot, built especially for the Fair just outside the fairgrounds, excursion trains were dropping people off every thirty seconds from all points north, south, east and west!

Cabs (carriages) sit outside the main
entrance gates of the Centennial Exhibition
waiting to pick up passengers.
(Please Touch Museum Collection)

A Pennsylvania Railroad “trade” card,
advertising the places and amenities the railroad
company provided to passengers visiting the World’s Fair.
(Please Touch Museum Collection)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hide and Seek of the Week: Loads of Phillies fun!

This week's Collections object is a Philadelphia Phillies Mr. Potato Head!

Manufactured in 2005 by Hasbro, this Mr. Potato Head includes a Phillies uniform, baseball cap, batting helmet and other baseball related accessories.

Put on your looking eyes and see if you can find it during your next visit! For more info about Hide and Seek of the Week, click here.

Of course, this Collections item is the perfect match, as we celebrated the kick-off of the Phillies' Paint the Town Red Week yesterday here at Please Touch Museum! Check out the picture below of the 20 Phanatic statues that were unveiled, and be sure to swing by soon to take your picture with our very own "Mad Hatter Phanatic" painted by Lorna Kent!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Creative Curiosity and New Media

Exciting news over here at Please Touch Museum! Last week, a few of our staff members, including Brian Rafter, Literacy Coordinator, attended the “Creative Curiosity and New Media” conference in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Check out what Brian had to say about the conference, and be sure to say hi to him next time you’re in the Story Castle for a Storytime!

Brian: Last week, Please Touch Museum was invited to participate in the first ever “Fred Forward Conference” at the Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe, PA. The conference’s subject was ‘Creative Curiosity and New Media’, and we joined a variety of other organizations and individuals in the education, research, technology, policy and children’s media sectors, to talk about some of the challenges and exciting opportunities that technology offers for early education and young children.

Technological change is progressing at an unpredictable and enormously quick pace. Unsurprisingly, these advancements are changing childhood and transforming how and what we teach our children. These new media opportunities (which include TV, the internet, and digital toys) are exciting, but it is important to use them in a considered and engaging way.

It is important to remember that children should be exposed to a variety of media, and that they should receive a balance of new and traditional educational materials. It is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to ensure that our children have the same reverence for and facility with books as they do with television and the internet. Although it is frequently derided as such, new media does not have to be a passive experience. TV and the internet provide a great opportunity to sit down with your child and interact with them and share something together. What you get out of it always depends on what you put into it!

For more information on the Fred Rogers Center and their conventions, click here!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Old Abe, the Eagle

Hi everyone! Today I have a very special Centennial History post for you! I spoke to Stacey Swigart, Curator of Collections at Please Touch Museum, who told me about "Old Abe" the Eagle. Read on for the exciting story!

Ahgamahwegezig (also known as "Chief Sky") was a Chippewa Indian who captured a female bald eagle on the Flambeau River in Wisconsin in the mid-nineteenth century. According to stories, Chief Sky sold the eagle to a man for a bushel of corn. There are different accounts, but at some point, someone sold the eagle to a Company "C" of the Eight Wisconsin military unit ready to head out on campaign in 1861 for a few dollars during the Civil War. The men named the eagle "Old Abe" after the president, Abraham Lincoln.

Official Centennial portrait of "Old Abe" the War Eagle (Courtesy Robby Cohen Collection)

The troop carried "Old Abe" on a perch at the end of a staff next to their colors. The "Eagle Regiment," as they were soon nicknamed, took the eagle through 36 battles with them. During the battles, she would spread her wings and "scream." Some accounts say she was wounded twice, but she survived the war until she was “mustered” out with her troop in 1864.

Following the war, she was gifted to the State of Wisconsin, where she traveled to conventions, military reunions and special events. A booklet about her illustrious history raised $16,000 for sick and wounded soldiers.

She came to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition (for which Memorial Hall, Please Touch Museum's current home was built) and was on display in Agricultural Hall. She drew big crowds at the Fair, especially during feeding time where her caretakers gave her live chickens. One visitor is said to have gotten to close and ended up with a scratched cheek!

"Old Abe" died March 26, 1881 from smoke inhalation when a fire broke out in the basement of the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. She was later mounted and continued to be on display in the Capitol of Wisconsin until she was destroyed by fire in 1904.

Reverse of the official photograph of "Old Abe." The former owner of this photograph glued a newspaper clipping reporting the death of the eagle from 1881. (Courtesy Robby Cohen Collection)\

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March of the Puppets!

As you may have seen in our last post, we celebrated the International Day of Puppetry on March 24, but puppetry was also the theme throughout the whole month of March in the Program Room!

If you visited us this month, you may have created your very own PTM Puppet Pal to bring home with you! Creating paper bag puppets gave children the chance to bring their artwork to life by performing in our homemade Recycled Puppet Theater. We used a diverse set of materials including sparkles, krazy krinkle paper, stickers, pom poms and brightly patterned papers. Each puppet let our young visitors practice identification of facial features and body parts.

You can bring this experience home with you easily buy using paper lunch bags and recycled household materials around your house, like used newspaper, that can be used as clothing, or buttons that can be used to create your puppet’s face! All you need is a little bit of creativity!

Puppets are a wonderful learning tool because they encourage creative play and discovery. They allow us to communicate and express ourselves. Children can perform with puppets by using different voices, varying their motions, and also by putting them in new or exciting situations. Many people say that children will always surprise you with how they choose to use materials, and we were thrilled to see so many of our young visitors actually gathering an audience to watch their next puppet performance!

Next month, the Program Room art experiences will include: Recycled Print Making, Window blocks with Recycled Materials, Drawing in the Sand, and a Beehive Matching Game. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hide and Seek of the Week

This week’s Collections object is a Horse and Warrior Puppet from Mali, Africa! This puppet is a great example of the type of puppets used in Sogo bò puppet festivals in the Segou region of the Republic of Mali. The Sogo bò performances explore the important cultural values and social relationships of the community. Performances are typically performed by the young men and women in each community. The puppets on display throughout the museum are on loan from Mary Sue and Paul Peter Rosen.

Put on your looking eyes and see if you can find it during your next visit! For more info about Hide and Seek of the Week, click here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

International Day of Puppetry

Hey friends! did you know this Sunday, March 21st, the museum will be celebrating the International Day of Puppetry? It's my favorite day of the year! I sat down with my good pal Aaron Rose, Please Touch Museum Theater Performer, and he told me all about what's in store for the day:

Pinky: What’s the International Day of Puppetry all about?

Aaron: The International Day of Puppetry is a day to celebrate puppetry. And not just one type of puppetry but ALL types of puppetry. Puppetry is the art of making or operating puppets. A person who makes or operates puppets is called a puppeteer.

Pinky: You mean the person with me all the time is named “Puppeteer”? I thought her name was Alice.

Aaron: Well, you’re right. The person is called “a puppeteer”; but that is not her name, it is her job, like being a teacher or a doctor. A teacher’s job is to help people learn, and a doctor’s job is to help people be healthy. A puppeteer’s job is to work with puppets to help people imagine and laugh.

Pinky: How are we celebrating International Day of Puppetry here at the museum and why are we celebrating it?

Aaron: We are celebrating by having the entire day dedicated to all kinds of puppetry and puppet. Puppetry is a very important part of what we do here at PTM. We use it in our theater shows, out on the gallery floor, in our Program Room, and in our special events. We use it everywhere! Puppets are special because they can be used in many ways. For instance, they can teach us about new and exciting things, listen to our stories, help us to not to be afraid, and of course make us laugh or feel happy when we are feeling sad. International Day of Puppetry is a day to celebrate all of the things that puppets and puppeteers do for us. We celebrate YOU, Pinky. If we didn’t have puppetry or puppets, then we would not have you.

Pinky: What kinds of music, art and literacy activities are planned? How are they educational?

Aaron: We are very excited to have on exhibition, a collection of traditional Malian puppet and mask pieces on loan to us from Mary Sue & Paul Peter Rosen in an exhibit titled “Sogo Bo: The Animals Come Forth”. These are all traditional Malian puppets and masks, which tell stories of Malian traditions, lifestyle and folklore. We will have them on display outside the Please Touch Playhouse and in the Program Room from March 19th until May 31st.

Our “Hide and Seek of the Week” will feature a puppet for everyone one to find on their own scavenger hunt. The Playhouse Theater will feature an interactive puppet show called “There’s Something Under My Bed”. There will be special dance parties with marionettes. Plus, PTM puppeteers and Puppet Pals will be strolling around the museum saying hello to everyone. In our Program Room, visitors can build their own puppets, help decorate our recycled puppet stage, and explore other puppet activities. In the Story Castle, the story times will feature books about puppets and toys that come to life. We will also be introducing a BRAND NEW PTM PUPPET PAL that day! I am really excited to meet him (or her). Also, ALL puppets in the Kids Store will be 20% off on that day.

All of our programming is designed provide opportunities to interact, ask questions, explore, and discover. And, as always, we encourage everyone to play and have a great time while they are learning new things.

Pinky: After families leave the festival, how can they incorporate puppets into their kids’ play?

Well, everyone can make their own puppets here in our Program Room; however if you want to, you can also make your own puppets at home. It’s a great way to work on gross and fine motor skills, as well as developing creative problem-solving and cognition skills. We also have a great selection of puppets in the Kids Store. Once you have your puppets, use them to put on a show for each other; it can be a great family activity and a fun opportunity to talk about the day with each other. There are so many things that you can do with puppets, there are no limits when it comes to your imagination.

Pinky: International Day of Puppetry sounds like so much fun! I can't wait!

You can meet all of Please Touch Museum's Puppet Pals on our Please Touch Playhouse Theater page.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CHOP's Child Life Specialists learn through play, too!

Each year, Please Touch Museum partners with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to train Child Life Specialists interns on what we value most here at the Children's Museum of Philadelphia: Learning through play!

I had a chance to sit down with our friends from CHOP as they reflect on their experience here at the museum. Read on to learn more...

Pinky: What does a Child Life Specialist intern do on a daily basis?

CHOP: We shadow a certified Child Life Specialist to develop our clinical skills, as well as implement therapeutic activities, encourage play and normal development in the hospital, provide preparation for procedures, distraction and coping during procedures and education about medical diagnosis. We use play with the patients to help normalize the hospital environment and make sure that the child does not regress. We work with the whole family to help all those affected by a hospitalization or diagnosis cope with their health care experience.

Pinky: During your time at the museum, how have you interpreted Please Touch Museum’s mission of "learning through play?"

As Child Life interns, we recognize that children use play to express their thoughts and feelings. Children demonstrate their understanding of their environment through play; therefore, play is an ideal avenue for education. We have found that the mission of Please Touch Museum is very similar to the roles of a Child Life Specialist because we help patients and their families understand and learn about procedures and the hospital through play.

Pinky: What kinds of activities did you participate in at the museum and how have they helped you in your own work?

We toured the museum, met with staff, interacted with visitors in the exhibits, facilitated activities in the Program Room and participated in dramatic play and puppetry. These activities gave us a chance to work with children in a way that has reinforced our knowledge of child development and the opportunity to use play to build rapport and promote learning in a new setting. The experiences we were able to engage in have helped us bring new play ideas back into the hospital to use with the patients to provide new opportunities for play.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hide and Seek of the Week

This week’s Collections object is Mumwup the Monster puppet! Mumwup frequently appeared on the local Philadelphia children’s show “Captain Noah and His Magical Ark”. He was handcrafted and voiced by Patricia Merbreier, better known to the television audience as Mrs. Noah. Mumwup’s favorite part of the show were the crafts segments; he loved to eat all the paper scraps!

Put on your looking eyes and see if you can find it during your next visit! For more info about Hide and Seek of the Week, click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Centennial Popcorn

Did you know that the history of popcorn dates back over 5,000 years ago? It was originally grown in Mexico, but spread across the continents long before the birth of the United States of America. One fun way used to pop the kernels was throwing them onto hot stones over a raging campfire. It became a game to try and catch the popped pieces as they shot off like fireworks!

After the 1876 Centennial, “sweetened” popcorn was a huge hit. This was also the first time many people experienced this unique treat. The I.L. Baker Company paid $7,000 for the exclusive rights to sell popcorn in Machinery Hall. Seventeen years later, at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the world was first introduced to caramel corn by Frederick Wilhelm Rueckheim. This would later evolve into the famous snack, Cracker Jack!

The I.L. Baker Company Sugar Popcorn vending booth.

Image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Historical Register, 1876. (Please Touch Museum Collection)

Easy Recipe to Make Your Own “Sugar Popcorn”

1 c. sugar
1 T. unsalted butter
3 T. water
6 cups air-popped popcorn
Food coloring or Kool-Aid/drink mix packet (optional)

Combine sugar, butter and water over medium heat in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly.
Cook liquid until it is a thick syrup (approx. 5 minutes)
Remove pan from heat. Add food coloring or Kool-Aid powder.
Place popcorn into a large brown paper bag, pour syrup over the top; close bag and shake until syrup mixture is evenly distributed.

Can be colored to any holiday…make red, white and blue for the 4th of July!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Now on stage: "There's Something Under My Bed"

This past weekend, one of my very favorite Playhouse shows returned to the stage: "There Something Under My Bed!"

It's on stage now through May 9. Check out my interview with David Hutchman, Please Touch Museum's Theater Manager, for details about this wonderful show!

Pinky: What's this show all about?
David: This show is about a little boy by the name of Sam who is having trouble sleeping at night because he is convinced there is something under his bed that shouldn't be there. At first he is very scared by the thing and tries to tell his big people, but they don't believe him. Then he starts to make plans to fool the 'thing' and capture it, and get it out from under his bed. Finally, he actually meets the 'thing' under his bed is and he ends up very surprised by what he finds -- and it certainly isn't scary like he originally thought!

Pinky: Do the kids in the audience get to do anything in the show?
David: Of course they do! After all, it wouldn't be a Please Touch Playhouse show if they didn't. In this show, we get the kids to share their stories about when they might have had something under their bed at home and what they did about it. Then they get to help guess what the thing under Sam's bed might be. And then they get to help Sam decide how to solve his problem. It’s a ton of interactive fun!

Pinky: What themes or "lessons" can children (and adults, too!) take away from this performance?
David: Everyone has thought there was something under their beds when they were young. A lot of big people can still remember that time in their life. Many of the kids seeing the show are still experiencing that fear at home at night. But sometimes we are only afraid of things because we just don't know what they are. And once we do know what they are we can laugh and understand that there wasn't really anything to be afraid of at all. Sam goes through that. In fact, in the end, he makes friends with the 'thing' he was afraid of at the beginning. That's a lesson that carries through all kinds of areas of our lives.

Pinky: After kids see the show on stage, how can they create a similar performance at home with and for their family?
David: The puppetry in the show is very simple and we've heard from a lot of families that kids go home and do their own version. We kept it very simple for that very reason. Sam's head is just a red, foam clown nose on the end of your finger. All the other parts of the show are mostly stuffed animals that you would find in your own bedroom. Some of the other props you might find in your kitchen. The stage could be your kitchen table or even the back of a couch!

Hide and Seek of the Week

This week’s Collections object is the Little Tots Building Block playset! These blocks were produced right here in Philadelphia by Albert Schoenhut and Company in 1927. This set of 87 natural unfinished blocks includes various shapes: rectangles, squares, triangles, arches and half circles.

Put on your looking eyes and see if you can find it during your next visit! For more info about Hide and Seek of the Week, click here

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Piet Mondrian!

This Sunday, March 7, we're celebrating a very special artist's birthday.

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was an abstract artist born in the Netherlands. While he spent the greater part of his life in Europe, he came to America in his later years. Some of his American influences included jazz music and city life. Mondrian examined the way that order in art brings a balance to the universe. By using a palette that included only primary colors, vertical/horizontal black lines and simple shapes, Mondrian provides an excellent opportunity for our younger generation to learn through art.

On Sunday, we will be celebrating artist Piet Mondrian's birthday in the Program Room from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please join us Geo Art Collages and a Rulers Rule! activity and create your own interpretation of Mondrian's artwork!

Kids will learn to associate an artist with a style and be introduced to mathematical and scientific concepts including geometry and measurement. Through the process of creating we will be learning to identify the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and the geometric shapes used most often by Mondrian (squares and rectangles). Geo Art collage will use the aesthetic of primary colored geometric shapes and black bands. The Rulers Rule! activity will highlight early math skills and explore the use of line in art.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rhythm Romp kicks off tomorrow!

We're excited to kick off March with a bang! The Annual Rhythm Romp percussion weekend is taking place this weekend, March 5-7!

We'll have a diverse group of musicians performing everything from Afro-Cuban, Latin and African to Hip-Hop drumming. The goal of Rhythm Romp is to introduce children to the very diverse family of percussion instruments.

Tomorrow, March 5, our theme is Recycled Instruments. The University of the Arts' "Rumble" ensemble will perform at Noon and 2 p.m. This ensemble takes ordinary things that you would find in your home and turn them into musical instruments, like buckets and even trash cans! By seeing professional musicians use ordinary objects as instruments, we hope that our young visitors will be inspired to create music using everyday items as well, with adult supervision of course.

On Saturday and Sunday our theme is World Music. With a focus on Latin and African percussion, we hope to introduce our visitors to instruments that they wouldn't ordinarily see or hear. Fernando Valencia will be performing Latin percussion at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Hamilton Hall Saturday, March 6. He will be performing everything from Salsa to Tejano music.

The Universal African Dance and Drum ensemble will "rock the Hall" with performances that highlight the history behind the music of Africa and the instruments that accompany the dance and movements. One of the things that African and Latin music has in common is that drums are used as a form of communication. After watching these performers, our visitors will be able to "speak" the language of music loud and clear!

But that's not all! Other performances will feature Darius Mills on Saturday who will have a hip-hop drumming jam session in the City Park gallery space at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Daniel Schwartz will be performing Marimba in Hamilton Hall at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Music plays such a major role in many cultures all over the world, and we hope to give our visitors a taste of these cultures in a family-friendly environment, while staying true to our mission of creating learning opportunities through play.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hide and Seek of the Week

This week’s Collections object is the Crazy Combo! Manufactured by Fisher Price in the 1980s, this crazy playset allowed kids to build their own instruments. With 10 interchangeable pieces, young musicians were no longer confided to playing a recorder. They could play any instrument they could dream up!

Put on your looking eyes and see if you can find it during your next visit! For more info about Hide and Seek of the Week, click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Read Across America Day

Tuesday, March 2 is a very special day at Please Touch Museum! We will be celebrating the nationally recognized ‘Read Across America Day’, as well as the birthday of one of the greatest authors and advocates for children: Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss was the pen name of Theodore Geisel, a former advertisement designer who published his first illustrated book for children (And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street) in 1937 after it had been rejected by numerous publishers. He was an incredibly prolific author, and wrote most of his books in verse, using a variety of metrical and rhyming patterns, although most often in a form called anapestic tetrameter. Here are two lines from Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday to You!, which are written in this style:

In Katroo, every year, on the day you were born

They start the day right in the bright early morn…

Poetry, like that found in Dr. Seuss’ books, is a fun way to introduce kids to the phonological qualities of language, its component sounds and rhythms. Through the use of rhyme, a regular beat, and repeated sounds, young children absorb the sounds of language and can discover how to make those sounds themselves.

We are commemorating the achievements of this great author in a variety of ways including visits from the Cat in the Hat at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. in our Story Castle! Visit our calendar for a full schedule of the day's events.

Final Round of Mono Prints for Philagrafika!

As you know, Mono Print Making in Please Touch Museum's Program Room gave our visitors the chance to play with their art. Looking back on the beautiful masterpieces by our young visitors that were featured here on the blog last week, we see a great variety of artwork using the same tools; it's the process, not the product that matters. At Please Touch Museum, we value creativity and experimentation, and the Mono Print Making activity perfectly illustrates that each child has a unique connection and experience with art.

Thank you again to all of our talented and playful young artists for their wonderfully imaginative contributions!

Jonah, Age 3, represents a varied palette of color along with a variety of abstract shapes.

Lily, Age 3, creates art that dances across the page with contrasting yellow and blue.

Louis, Age 2, mixes and layers colors.

Maryam, Age 3, layers thin tracks of color in this exciting work of art.

Michael uses pattern and line in this mono chromatic print.

Zahirah, Age 6, lays down the pink then reprints with a darker blue that creates a nice contrast.

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.