Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nurturing Children's Curiosity and Wonder in Creativity Connections

(This is the third in a series of postings directly related to each of the DCM neighborhoods.)

Creativity Connections was designed on the premise that sensory experiences (visual, sound and tactile) can stimulate children’s understanding of learning concepts. Sensory experiences stimulate children’s curiosity and wonder and can inspire children to ask questions like Why? and How? It is from these experiences that children gain a better understanding of how the world works and learn about many concepts related to math, science and the arts.

These are just a few of the sensory experiences you might find inside Creativity Connections:

-Color My Way: children can compare how their drawings change inside the Color Booth, create a design at Color Dots or with Picasso Blocks or describe how their environment looks through a Colored Pane.

-Music Room: children can create rhythms/patterns on a Slit Drum, explore the feel of a Babydinda or Amadinda or feel the vibrations emitted from a Whale Drum.

-Light Effects, Table and Kiosk: children can wander through the Mirror Maze, experiment with form in the Light Painting Room, create their own window using Stained Glass Blocks or place vinyl shapes at Window Art.

Creativity Connections is a great place to begin wondering about the scientific concepts of shadow/light, color and sound. A child's interest and familiarity with science come from active engagement at an early age. Each of these experiences provide children with opportunities to explore aspects of their world and develop skills necessary for scientific thought - observation, investigation/asking questions and experimentation.

"Although young children have been described as “natural” scientists, they are afforded few opportunities for learning not only science concepts and content but also the functions and structure of scientific language, discourse, and processes" (Patrick, et al., 2007).

Creativity Connections can spark your child's curiosity and wonder -- and you can encourage and extend their learning by:

-Welcoming and embracing children’s questions

To help nurture children’s inquiry, communicate positive responses to their questions—no matter how many!

  • Provide a positive response. This will communicate to the child that their thoughts are important and that you encourage their curiosity. If the moment isn’t right, assign a time for the two of you to talk about the concept later. Can we talk about this at lunch? I’m going to think about it till then.

-Giving answers that extend learning opportunities
Provide children with a short explanation that can reinforce a concept and open the door to future investigations.

  • Add a challenge to the end of an answer. I see you've made a rainbow with the prism. What would happen if you pointed the light in another direction?

  • Connect the explanation to something they already know or are familiar with. The prism breaks up the light and creates the colors of the rainbow, just like the raindrops did to the sunlight outside that day we saw a rainbow at the park.

-Instead of “I don’t know,” try “Let’s find out!”
Let children take the lead role of scientist by encouraging them to problem solve and figure out the answer to some of their questions.

  • Young children may need your help to get them started. Start by offering suggestions. Allowing children to predict, observe and test their theories are important steps of the scientific process. What would happen if you hit the other end of the drum?

  • Follow up after the experience by asking your child to repeat back what he or she has learned. How did you make your picture green? What colors did you use?

Next time:
Learning and growing is risky business! In a future blog post, we will take a look at a recent post from Bay Area Discovery Museum on the importance of taking risks. We will talk about how taking risks can promote creativity and problem solving. We will then provide a few questions for adults to think about as they determine what risks to allow and encourage children to take.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Make It a Museum Night at DCM

In a recent post on Museum Audience Insight, the author mentioned her son's excitement for "Museum Night," a visit to the children's museum that has now become a tradition for their family to celebrate over and over again.

At DCM, we know Thursday evenings have become "Museum Nights" for many of our visitors. Because of the Museum's extended hours on Thursdays (open till 8 p.m.), many visitors use DCM as a destination to meet up with family members coming home from work and enjoy quality time together.

Additionally, Third Thursday is a tradition for many families of children with autism spectrum disorders, visual impairments, and/or mobility impairments.

Every third Thursday of the month, the CAN Coordinator, Parent Support Coordinator and Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist provide extra parent resources and activities from 5-7 p.m. "Some parents have been bringing their children to Third Thursday for years," says Cindy Miller, Community Access Network (CAN) Coordinator. "We have regular visitors that use Third Thursday to meet as part of a specific group's scheduled activities or just come to spend time together as a family. Some come in to check out resources or ask questions," says Miller.

Longtime DCM Volunteer, Dick Treadway has been a part of Third Thursday since its start in 2002. He enjoys greeting families with special needs, helping them check-in and letting them know the resources available to them during the event. "First time visitors seem to appreciate this and many then feel comfortable returning at different times during the week," Treadway states. Adaptive equipment/materials and Photo Books are available to our visitors with special needs anytime the Museum is open.

Please join us October 16, 2008 from 5-7 p.m. as DCM recognizes Disability Awareness Month on Third Thursday. CAN partner Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA) will provide visitors with hands-on disability awareness activities to experience physical, visual, auditory and cognitive challenges. Back by popular demand will be Steven Keefe and his audience-participation Family Jug Band, as well as Janet Hoff with Casey the Therapy Dog. Be sure to visit the Studio for a special art session.

Don't Forget!

Register Now for:

Your Child's Growing Mind: How Families that Play Together Build Brains Together

Thursday, October 23rd 7-8:30 PM

As mentioned in a previous blog post, DCM welcomes Jane Healy, Ph.D for a thought-provoking presentation about how playing with your child can keep your own brain growing along with your child's and help your entire family develop resilience in a rapidly changing technological world.

Dr. Healy will also be taking questions from those submitted on the DCM blog. If you have a question, please submit it here.