Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Truth about Clean-up

Whether at home, at school or in our Museum, the truth about clean-up is that it's a natural part of play. Still, if you are like most parents, caregivers or museum facilitators, getting children to clean up after an engaging play experience can be challenging. To support parents and caregivers DCM offers a Just for Grown-up focus sheet, The Truth about Clean-up, which is available on our Web site and in the Museum, located in the resource rack across from the fish tank. This useful focus sheet shares some of the many benefits children derive from participating in clean-up, as well as useful tips for supporting clean-up as a part of the play experience.

To continue the discussion from our last post, here are a few more conscious design choices offered by Peter Crabbe, Associate Director of Exhibits and Design, which support participatory clean-up in the Museum.

Make it fun to get it done!
"I'm putting all the squares away. Do you want to put the triangles or the diamonds back in the bin?"
This picture shows how a conscious design decision can encourage clean-up with little or no grown-up prompting. The table is designed for children to intuitively see where the geometric clings are stored prior to or after creating patterns on nearby acrylic panels. This design supports learning by suggesting sorting and classifying shapes. After the child creates a pattern on the acrylic panel, the grown-up can offer specific choices to facilitate putting the pieces back in the bin. Here are some questions to ask when designing spaces to make clean-up fun - What can you do to the play environment that supports intuitive thought about clean-up? What visuals can you provide to guide children's interactions? Can you make this a learning activity as well?

How much is too much mess?

Whether you are a parent, caregiver or museum professional, here are some questions to ask yourself when considering clean-up challenges:
How many play materials are needed to provide a rich learning experience? Are children able to have enough choice or is their play limited due to the mess? Are children able to choose from two or three similar experiences? How many play materials are unavailable due to broken or lost parts? Consideration of too many or too few choices can impact the activity of clean-up. "When you plan for the possibility of multiple outcomes in the experience, then engagement of the activity is sustained, often leading to longer interaction with play materials," suggests Peter Crabbe, Associate Director of Exhibits and Design. "However, in a museum setting, the decision for the amount of play materials provided is dependent on staff availability in order to maintain the experience in the play area. Consider what your space and staff can maintain when making decisions about the amount of play materials." Once the environment is planned to support clean-up, who is available to assist and expand the child's role?

Stay tuned! In our next post we will look at visitor and staff comments regarding design and clean-up.

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