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Help! Lend Me an Idea!

The school year is almost over but for many educators there is no summer break. I find that I get a little antsy at this time of year when some of my educator friends are planning a work-free summer and I am faced with planning another season of activities. Sometimes I need a little inspiration for fun things to do with kids.

One activity we’ve been doing at Boston Children’s Museum this month in the Art Studio is “Map Making”. Children can make a map of anything they’re familiar with: the playground, their school, their bedroom ….the possibilities are endless! Maps can be drawn with pencils, crayons, and markers or collaged with bits from magazines or made with toothpicks glued to paper (reminiscent of Polynesian stick charts).

Here are some books to go with a mapping activity:
• My Map Book, by Sara Fanelli
• Follow That Map, by Scot Ritchie
• Me On The Map, by Joan Sweeney and Annette Cable

If you get creative blocks like I do, these blogs help me recharge and find inspiration. Hope they help you too!

http://progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.com/

http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/

http://www.sunhatsandwellieboots.com/

http://www.childcentralstation.com/

http://www.classic-play.com/issues/

Do you have favorite resources that get you out of your creative ruts? Let us know what they are!

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May 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM Leave a comment

COMING SOON: STEM Resources for Preschool Teachers

How often have you heard preschool teachers talking about their STEM activities or the STEM skills in their curriculum? Probably not very often but preschool teachers are engaging children in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities every day. They don’t refer to their activities as STEM activities but they are. A common misconception is that STEM activities are for older kids. What does STEM look like for preschoolers? The STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide will show you! Through a project funded by National Grid, Boston Children’s Museum has created the STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide, soon to be available on the Museum’s website http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/.

This is what you’ll find in the guide:

  • What is STEM is all about?
  • Brain Building 101
  • Asking Good Questions:  Focus on “What”
  • A Day in the Life of a Preschooler
  • Massachusetts Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences
  • STEM Activities for Preschoolers

In addition there will be eight downloadable tip sheets on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Seeing, Touching, Hearing, and Smelling/Tasting each with the following information:
• How can so much fun teach STEM skills?
• Activities to try
• What to tell children
• What to tell parents
• The brain-building connection
• Books to learn more

For more information about the guide, contact Beth Fredericks: fredericks@bostonchildrensmuseum.org

January 26, 2012 at 4:03 PM Leave a comment

Child Scientists Needed!

Have you ever seen those signs on the T that say something like “Do you have a child between the ages of 2 and 5?  Does he/she like to do puzzles and play games?  Come to ‘X’ University to play some games and help us learn about how children learn!”

Well, it turns out that it’s very hard to get people to trek out to ‘X’ University to participate in studies like these.  So institutions like Museum of Science, Boston  http://www.mos.org/  and Boston Children’s Museum http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/ are offering our space to researchers so they can collect data for their studies.  This also enables the research to get out into the public domain.  Researchers collect data by recruiting museum visitors to participate in a variety of studies that last about fifteen minutes and happen right at the museum during the course of their visit.

The Museum of Science has created a “Living Lab” http://www.mos.org/discoverycenter/livinglab  where research happens right out in the open in a corner of their Discovery Center or the Human Body Connection.  Boston Children’s Museum has been a partner in this project and is learning from them how to work with researchers effectively.

At Boston Children’s Museum the research sometimes happens behind closed doors with parents present, but often happens out in the open as well.  Researchers benefit because they have a captive audience from which to collect data and the students who collect the data get practice talking to the public about their research. The museums benefit from having researchers visible because it emphasizes how much learning and brain development is happening in the process of “play” – playing at museums or playing games at home. We can also utilize the research to plan exhibits and programs that promote learning.

The Early Childhood Cognition Lab at MIT actually has their own lab space at Boston Children’s Museum called PlayLab http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/exhibits/playlab.html#letter .   Researchers are there everyday conducting studies for young children ages 3 months to 8 years.  Their research is focused on answering questions about how children learn and understand cause-and-effect relationships and interpret different types of evidence.  The studies are short and fun, and may include playing games or watching a short video or display.

Other studies taking place at Boston Children’s Museum are:

  • Children’s Beliefs and Preferences (Harvard)
  • The Development of Executive Functioning (Children’s Hospital)
  • The Development of Children’s Estimation and Counting (Boston College)

December 9, 2011 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

Handprint Turkeys and the Cotton Ball Snowman: Is There Hope For an Artful America?

I have a coworker at Boston Children’s Museum who has some compelling ideas about nurturing creativity in young children and I’d like to share them with you. Her name is Bridget Matros and she is our Arts Program Manager. She recently contributed a chapter to a book called 20 Under 40. Her chapter is called “Handprint Turkeys and the Cotton Ball Snowman: Is there Hope for an Artful America?” She urges us to think outside the box.

Introduction from the author:
“One might see finger-pointing at craft projects in early learning settings as gratuitous snobbery. Make no mistake, my realm is one of crayons and glue sticks and I’m surely unqualified as an elitist in any arts discipline. I claim only to be a well-positioned observer who has discovered and watched a glaring disconnect for so long that I finally have to step into the arts advocacy ring and sound an alarm -hopefully for the benefit of both the field of arts advocacy and its constituents – society at large. My intention is to share an insider’s view of what kids are learning (and unlearning) about creativity and art before kindergarten, and to shed light on how the situation creates an uphill battle for individuals working towards an arts rich culture. I’ll do a bit of theoretical connect-the-dots, explain myself by sharing (in gory detail) my experiences with families and teachers of young children during my time at Boston Children’s Museum (BCM) and just when the picture becomes horrendously bleak, I’ll offer some simple suggestions on how we can change the status quo for the better.”

Some basic tips Bridget has to share on art making with young children:
1. Materials should be simple. Stick to the basics: glue, scissors, paint, crayons and markers.
2. Let the child lead (back off).
3. Focus on the process not the product.
4. Respect the product – “ it is not yours, it belongs to the artist. Resist tweaking a button for symmetry! “
5. Teach parents, educate them. Send a note home at the beginning of the year to set expectations about art making in your class.
6. Different is better, “weird” is good. Positively reinforce any and all out-of –the box thinking!

Click here to read more from Bridget’s chapter (also available on the “Resources” page).

For information about the book go to: http://20under40.org/

July 5, 2011 at 4:47 PM Leave a comment

Achievement Gap…what is it really?

This is a buzzword that we’ve been hearing a lot but what is this gap really?

Another way to frame it is an Experience Gap. Think about the wide range of experiences that build vocabulary and life skills. By experiences I don’t mean trips to Europe and Russian classes. Experiences of the everyday variety work very well.
• A trip to a Museum
• A walk in the park
• A splash in a puddle
• Constructing a ball out of masking tape

And while you’re at the museum, in the woods, splashing or constructing, don’t forget to encourage talking and using all senses! Bring some wipes if you’re afraid of germs and mess but let children touch the puddle, worms, and snails. Stop and listen. Talk about what you hear. Make up stories about what you see. Gather some materials from your walk to explore back in the classroom or to use in an art project. Look, listen, touch, smell, talk about it and maybe even taste it!!

Here is a blog to inspire you:

http://progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.com/

May 4, 2011 at 12:09 PM Leave a comment

On Beyond Marshmallows…

If you like the Marshmallow experiment you’ll be interested to know that researchers from MIT, Boston College, Harvard University and Children’s Hospital are running similar experiments at Boston Children’s Museum.

 MIT’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab has a space at the Museum called PlayLab and runs several experiments in which visitors can participate.  Participation is always voluntary!  Researchers are there every day conducting studies for young children ages 3 months to 8 years.  Their research is focused on answering questions about how children learn and understand cause-and-effect relationships and interpret different types of evidence.  The studies are short and fun, and may include playing games or watching a short video or display.

 Other researchers are collecting data at the Museum too:

 The Lab for Developmental Studies at Harvard University

  •  How children think about different beliefs and how children reason about people who have different beliefs than they do.  Could lead to better anti-bullying policies…

 Children’s Hospital Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience

  • How do kids’ memories work? Could lead to changes in education…

 Boston College Infant and Child Cognition Center

  • When and how do children learn what number words refer to and why we count? Maybe children receptive to learning about numbers and counting earlier than we thought…

 Thinking and Learning Lab at Boston College

  • How do kids learn math? We could learn the best ways to teach math…

 Arts and Mind group at Boston College

  • What are the benefits of art making on children’s mood?  Evidence could advocate for more arts in schools…

 Researchers share what they’re learning with the Museum which helps us to build better exhibits and to get grants to support the important work that we are doing.

March 23, 2011 at 4:42 PM Leave a comment

I LOVE this resource!

Maybe I’m slow on the draw or just ill informed but have you seen the Baby Brain Map?   I love the Zero to Three website in general for all the great information and it’s been mentioned on this blog before but this Baby Brain Map is just really cool! I can imagine it being used by providers in parent trainings. I used it to show some of our youth staff the amazing things going on behind the scenes in the life of infants, a developmental level they have a hard time relating to. 

What about you? Do you think this is a useful tool? How would you use it?

February 14, 2011 at 2:48 PM Leave a comment

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