Friday, October 30, 2009

Continuing to Support Families

In previous posts, we shared stories about the Wakanheza Project, launched at the Museum a year ago. This past week we revisited some of the principles and tips that help to support an adult visitor in the Museum. Our morning meeting was used to discuss how to apply Wakanheza tips such as using empathy and non-judgment, offering verbal encouragement, and appreciating the job of parenting by helping our visitors.
One of our "revisiting tasks" was to look for a visitor, for whatever reason, might get ignored Here's what one of our Play Coordinators shared:
There's a man who visits the Museum weekly with a young boy. He rarely makes eye contact or speaks to Museum staff or other visitors. Wanting to start a conversation, I decided to put the focus on the young child. "He likes to start his day here," I commented. The man replied, "Yes," and then proceeded to tell me he gives the boy lots of choices of where to visit, but he always picks the Museum. It was a great conversation starter, which hopefully will lead to future conversations during subsequent visits.
Although we are pleased for the visitor's choice, the point of this "revisiting challenge" was to help remind us that all people have similarities and differences. Even if you share similar cultural experiences with someone, you often find differences between you, too. Saying kind words, offering to help, and showing understanding are just some of the ways we can reach out to all our visitors to demonstrate a welcoming environment.
During the discussion about applying empathy towards our visitors, another Play Facilitator shared this story:
One of our visitors came to play with two children, a toddler and a 4-year-old. She took the toddler out of the stroller. The 4-year-old boy wanted her undivided attention as her toddler was running out of sight. She attempted to play with both children for about 15 minutes and then put the toddler back in the stroller. I walked by and said to her, "It can be challenging to keep track of two children!" She smiled and agreed with my comment.
Sometimes we can't fix or change a situation. What we can choose to do is show a little empathy towards the situation. This facilitator's empathetic comment may have helped alleviate some tension felt by a mom keeping track of two children on a very busy day in the Museum.

The staff agreed that Wakanheza Week was a good reminder about the many ways we can support children and families in our Museum. We had a good time sharing our stories and reminding ourselves about all the ways we support families in the Museum.

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