Friday, January 29, 2010

Shadow Play

Our brand new exhibit, Shadow Playground, opened a few weeks ago. This refurbished, expanded and renamed exhibit in the Creativity Connections Neighborhood came about as a result of numerous observations from our previous exhibit, Shadow Theater. Although the focus of the previous exhibit was about children discovering light and shadows, most observations showed very little interaction in the area. A team was put together, led by our Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist, Marcia MacRae, to develop plans to make the area more interactive. Preliminary research showed that most children think objects, not light, cast shadows. Using this misconception, the team set about to develop experiences where children will notice the correspondence between objects or themselves and their shadows.

One way to help children notice the necessity for light in the creation of shadows was to develop an exhibit component using flashlights. By moving the flashlights back and forth, children can discover that shadows change based on the shape of the surface on which they are cast and the distance between the light source and the surface.

We know from our observations that children play with shadow and light when they notice their bodies as shadows. In Shadow Theater, you can observe shadows using a full-body experience.

Read more about the exhibit in the news here. In our next blog post we'll look at the other two components of this exhibit and discuss how children use the scientific process when exploring shadows.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Play to Learn: What It Means for Parents

The last three posts have concentrated on a few ideas about what children learn through play as suggested by Dr. Alice Honig in the Young Children journal article, "Play, Ten Power Boosts for Children's Early Learning" (September, 2007). Providing rich and varied play experiences for children definitively has been proven to boost children's early learning (Kaplan 1978; Bergen 1998; Johnson, Christie & Yawkey, 1999, as cited in Honig, 2007). As one of your child's play partners, you may be wondering what your role is during your shared play experiences.

If you are a regular visitor to our Museum, you probably have noted many discoveries your child encounters during play in our seven neighborhoods of play and learning. For instance, remember the first time your child discovered water can move objects? What did he do? Most children delight in their discoveries and want to repeat or "test" their hypothesis over and over again. Sharing in your child's discovery encourages him to keep exploring.

Whether playing at home or in the Museum, here are a few more supportive ways to facilitate your child's learning through play:

Take time to watch and listen. Before joining your child's play with your words or actions, take time to observe how he is playing and experimenting. Not only will you delight in your child's discoveries, you will also find that observing is a great way to get to know your child's interests and gain understanding about what he is learning. You may be surprised at how competent your child is when you focus on what he is doing.

Acknowledge what you see. Instead of acknowledging with the phrase "good job," give your child specific feedback about what she did or what happened. Acknowledgement can be a gesture, facial expression or verbal feedback. Remember your child's discovery of what water can do? Here are some phrases you might say that show you notice your child's discoveries. "You did it!" "Wow, look at that! The water made the wheel turn!"

Extend Play. Offering other materials or modeling a new skill based on your child's interests is a way to initiate interaction and suggest additional possibilities, extending your child's learning while he continues to play. For instance, when your child notices the water wheel turn when he pours water on it, offer a larger container. Does the wheel move faster with a larger volume of water being poured over it?

Remember to have fun and enjoy the memories! Our children are always watching us. When they see you making new discoveries, you are sharing a valuable lesson, that is, learning is a lifelong process.

For further information about supporting your child's play at DuPage Children's Museum, visit the parent support section of our Web site. For some ideas about how play encourages children's learning, visit previous posts from our Play at the Museum section of the blog. Looking for more reasons to play? Check out our Just for Grown Ups resource, Ten Reasons to Make Time for Play. This resource is based on information from experts (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) and recent research supporting the importance of play to a child's overall development and achievement.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Did You Welcome 2010?

Celebrations help us connect to the important people in our lives. The Museum had another successful family oriented countdown to noon celebration to say goodbye to 2009 and welcome the New Year. "Our annual Bubble Bash is truly a family event,” says DuPage Children's Museum's Director of Marketing and Membership Alison Segebarth. “It gives everyone the opportunity to see the celebration through a child's eye. There's a lot of joy that permeates throughout the morning."

Before the new year gets too far ahead of us, take a few minutes to view the fun we had at this year's Bubble Bash.

Making the New Year "pop" with bubble wrap

Smiles all around when Bubble Man Geoff Akins shows his bubble magic!

Showing off our celebration hats and bracelets while dancing to the music of Jeanne B and the Jelly Beans

Counting down to noon with Naperville mayor George Pradel

Plans are already brewing for 2010...Have a great year!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Learning to Reason through Play

The ability to reason and predict cause and effect are important components needed for science learning. In her Young Children article, Play: Ten Power Boosts for Children's Learning, Dr. Honig labels this,"if-then reasoning," an important skill needed for experimentation and scientific thinking.

There are a plethora of opportunities for children to practice "if-then reasoning" through play experiences in the Museum. The Large Beam Balance in Math Connections is designed for children to safely experiment with weight and balance. "If you take away some of the blocks, will my end move up?"

Make it Move was designed to be the "cause and effect" center of the Museum. Here, children can create and conduct their own simple experiments with velocity, speed and gravity as they move balls on stationary ramps or incline planes created with blocks.

With the play materials chosen for the water tables in WaterWays, children can experiment and wonder, "Will it sink or will if float?"or "If I fill one container, can I pour it into another container without it spilling over?"

Block building offers opportunities to learn causal and space concepts, suggests Dr. Honig. In the Museum we have over 800 blocks for children to use as they explore equality, comparison and estimation. "If I put the bigger block on top of the smaller block, will it stay in place? I wonder how high I can build before my structure falls down?"

Cooking with your child at home is a great way to enhance "if-then reasoning." Changing something from a liquid (cake mix, for instance) to a solid (a cake) is not just delicious; your child also can discover how some materials change in his or her world. What will happen if you put juice in the freezer? Through these simple activities your child is observing cause and effect and learning to make predictions.

Are you interested in other opportunities to encourage your child's reasoning abilities? Check out some of our winter creativity classes,where you and your child can experiment and problem solve with a variety of materials.