Thursday, April 30, 2009

Staying Healthy...Keeping Clean

In light of the recent reporting of Swine (Influenza) Flu outbreaks, families have been asking what are the Museum's cleaning and sanitation policies. Fortunately, for our staff and our visitors, this question was addressed back in 2001, when we moved into our 46,800 square foot building. Museum staff worked with the universal precaution recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and our local health department to instill a practice of consistent sanitation procedures to ensure the most important line of defense in preventing the spread of illness.

There are daily cleaning procedures, such as spraying and wiping all manipulative pieces for each exhibit area of the Museum.
In addition, there is a behind-the-scenes designated cleaning room where objects that need longer soaking or a run through a dishwasher are cleaned.

Hand to Hand Journal for the Association of Children's Museum (ACM) devoted their entire Spring 2008 issue regarding Children's Museums: Clean and Safe Places to Play. An article by our Early Childhood Specialist, Jayne Carpenter, addresses all of our cleaning polices and procedures at DuPage Children's Museum. You can read a copy of that article here.

What You Can Do
The best way to minimize your risk during this recent flu outbreak is frequent hand washing. Sing a short jingle such as the ABC or Happy Birthday song with your child. The length of the song is about the length of time needed for proper hand washing. Remind your child (and yourself) to give your sneeze or cough "a hug." This is accomplished by placing your mouth on your sleeve, as the sneeze or cough is happening.

With today's fast breaking news stories and worst case scenarios your child may express some anxiety or have questions about the recent flu outbreak. We recommend you visit about what to say to your child.

Continuing to monitor, educate and update ourselves on cleaning and sanitation procedures is of utmost importance for us! We welcome your comments and questions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Discover DCM - Training for Staff and Volunteers

Well-trained and easily recognizable staff and volunteers are vital to DuPage Children's Museum (DCM) daily visitor experiences. You will recognize staff or volunteers at DCM by their name badges (office and program staff) or blue aprons (facilitator and studio staff). All regularly scheduled staff and volunteers are required to attend a two-hour interactive workshop, Discover DCM, Where Play and Learning Meet.

This picture shows staff and volunteers playing with "The Thing Museum" in a typical introductory training session, where workshop participants are asked to choose an item from one of the baskets. After some brief play time with their chosen item, they are asked why they chose what they did and what they discovered. Through this play time participants discover a lot about play and how their responses relate to children's play and learning at DCM.

Their answers are often the same as what we observe from our young visitors at DCM:

I played with this as a child........ Children often choose what’s familiar. The simplicity of our materials - balls, water, bubbles, lights, etc. - naturally invites children to play with something that is familiar, which leads to new learning discoveries!

I didn’t know what it was at first; then I disovered what to do with it .........Watch for those surprises or “aha” moments with children. Children will manipulate, explore, challenge and invent creative solutions if given the opportunity! They learn new and different ways to solve problems and discover that they are competent problem solvers!

It looked like fun............... Children discover and learn often when they are having fun! Learning is not the goal, but learning happens anyway!

I really wanted what she picked ...............The ability to share takes a long time to develop. The habit of sharing is dependent upon three considerations - maturation, the number of supplies available and adult involvement. DCM ensures plenty of supplies. Staff are trained to recognize the developmental process of sharing and use their facilitation techniques to model caring words and facilitate without judgement.

Stay tuned! In a future post we will share more tips and techniques from some of our other workshops.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Children Bring Communities Together!

Celebrate the Week of the Young Child April 19 - 25, 2009
The Week of the Young Child (WOYC) is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the nation's largest organization of early childhood professionals. This week long celebration recognizes and honors more than 35 million children from birth through age eight and their families, teachers, and others who help children make the most of their learning opportunities in the early years.

In honor of this year's theme, Bringing Communities Together, DuPage Children's Museum and the Naperville Park District have teamed together to create an entire week of free events for our community including a car seat safety check, a pajama party, a concert and many more child and family friendly activities. For a schedule of all the Week of the Young Child events, click here.

Join us for this week long celebration as children bring communities together!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Taking the Opportunity to Respond to Visitors

In our last post we discussed the value of comment cards and listening to front line staff when when making conscious design choices for our Museum. In this post we will look at ways DCM takes the opportunity to respond to these comments.

How do our visitors know their comments are considered?
All visitor comments and suggestions are categorized by specific topics related to the Museum - staff, exhibits, snack room, etc. "This helps us look at issues over time," noted Kim Stull, Director of Guest Services. "While we cannot respond to every comment, when visitors leave an e-mail or phone number, we may contact them to offer feedback or ask for further clarification about their particular experience.. It is our hope that visitors notice changes, even minor ones."
A few years ago, verbal and written comments indicated that visitors wanted some help with supporting their children's learning in our Moser Construction House. Specifically, they were requesting examples of children's woodworking creations for ideas to share with their own children. Knowing that using real tools and nails was a developmental process, not necessarily producing an end result, we wanted the response to be more about educating the visitor, rather than following their specific request for real examples. A Build-osophy guide was created, which educates our visitors about the developmental stages that most children follow when becoming a builder. The guide shows pictures of the varying stages children typically follow when learning to build, which helped to validate the request for specific woodworking examples. Because the information is available both in the exhibit and on our Web site, we no longer see or hear this request.

What do do when you can't fix it!

Not all suggestions are easily fixed. Some require more time, effort or finances, which may not be currently feasible. Sometimes, our actions speak louder than our words. "Take the snack room, for instance," noted Kim Stull. "On very busy days we used to receive a number of comments about the snack room. We know that families are going to create messes while eating. We don't expect that everyone will clean up after themselves. Since our day porter cannot spend all of her time cleaning the snack room, a volunteer position with regular shifts was created to sweep the floor and wipe the tables. This minor change significantly lessened the number of responses regarding the neatness of the snack room."

To all our visitors, we hope that you will note how your requests are acted upon at DCM. Although not all requests can be acted upon, your suggestions and comments are very important to us!