Monday, September 27, 2010

Educators Making Sense of Number

We hosted our 3rd annual Educators' Open House this week. About 80 educators visited with Museum staff, toured our exhibits, and explored activities associated with our Learning Lab School Programs. In addition, participants received 1.5 CEU or CPDU credits by listening to an engaging and informative presentation by Angela Andrews, Associate Professor of Math Education from National Louis University. Her topic, Making Number Make Sense, reminded us that in order to develop math understanding, we have to help children and adults understand that math is "comprehend-able not magical!"

"Never miss an opportunity to count with children," Angela told us. "Research has shown that the higher they count, the more they comprehend number." From the beginning and through kindergarten, parents, teachers and caregivers should be counting forward with children. Surprisingly, in the Pre-K years it doesn't matter if numbers are mixed-up or skipped as children are counting forward. What's important is that they keep counting forward, as high as they can go. This helps to develop the mental number line children will need for higher level math thinking. When should we start counting backwards with children? How should children write numbers? When do they start learning their math facts? Learn these answers and more when you view excerpts from Angela's presentation, available on our website soon!

If you would like more teacher workshops related to art, math or science, then DuPage Children's Museum can help! As part of a cadre of experts in integrating developmentally appropriate art, math and science activities, Early Childhood Specialist Jayne Carpenter; Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist Marcia MacRae; Chris Barry, School Programs Manager; and expert play and school facilitators have traveled all over Kane, Cook, Will and DuPage Counties to conduct hands-on workshops for caregivers and teachers of children, infants through 4th grade. These workshops can be brought to your site or hosted here at the Museum. For more information about our workshops, please contact Margaret Hanly, Associate Director of Programs ( or Jayne Carpenter (

Friday, September 24, 2010

Science Learning through a Child's Eyes

Scientists use their curiosity about a particular problem to observe, test, verify and make discoveries. How does this curiosity develop? Apparently right from the start! Lise Elliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, notes that "psychologists have tracked babies' eye movements to gauge whether they understand such properties as gravity, speed, and momentum. Remarkably, they have found that they do!"

Babies explore through their senses. They look, touch, smell, taste and hear just about anything within their reach. You can learn a lot about your child's natural curiosity by observing his/her play and supporting it. A safe environment with objects of varying textures and sounds provides a beginning science exploration for infants. Their favorite object to look at is you! So spend lots of face-to-face time with them!

Older babies and toddlers continue to explore with their senses but now can explore using their increasing motor abilities. Given time to freely explore their environment, toddlers will begin to sort and classify objects. Provide containers of varying sizes and some everyday objects such as balls, large buttons, pom poms, ribbons, lids and bells. These types of open-ended materials foster cause and effect exploration that is basic physics.

Preschoolers tend to center on only one property of an object. For instance, exploring rocks may be about size or shape or color, but rarely about all three attributes. The preschooler's developing language allows him to share ideas and approach problems cooperatively. You can support the preschooler's curiosity by providing short explanations that extend learning opportunities. Try adding a challenge at the end of your explanation. "That rock is shiny when you shine the light on it. Let's try another rock to see if that one shines too."

The early school-age child prefers to solve problems alone or with her peers. The budding scientist is still curious and is more capable of experimentation and increasingly challenging problems. The rock exploration may now be about exploring weight or adding incline planes for experimentation about inertia and momentum as the rocks slide down.

The focus in our Family Resource Center was changed during our shutdown to offer resources related to the topic Making Connections to Science. You can find more information about supporting your child's science explorations both in the FRC and on our website through the end of November. Educating grown-ups about how children learn is a focus of the Museum; it is very important in supporting children's learning both here in the Museum and at home. Because part of our mission is to integrate art, math and science through play, we have chosen to highlight these focus areas in our FRC and on our website to better support the adult's role in the adult-child learning partnership. If you would like more information about science resources offered through the Museum, please contact Jayne Carpenter, Early Childhood Specialist (

For further reading about exploring science through play you may want to view these previous posts:

Exploring the Science of Air
Question, Predict, Try, Analyze and Retry
Explore Shadow Science
Finding Science in Play

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's New at DuPage Children's Museum?

We are pleased to welcome our visitors back! After a two-week refresh and cleaning of the Museum, we are open! A Play Facilitator was overheard saying, "Boy, does this place smell clean!" Cleaning and sanitizing takes priority all year round but especially during our annual shutdown. You can read more about our daily and yearly cleaning procedures here and in a 2008 article in Hand to Hand Journal for the Association of Children's Museums (ACM).

A major change during our shutdown was the refreshing of our Interact with Art Gallery, The Play's the Thing, now called The Play's the Thing: Act II. The main purpose of our gallery is to help our young visitors and their adult partners realize that there are many creative ways to interpret the world and that their own interpretations have validity. Like its predecessor, The Play's the Thing: Act II offers opportunities for pretend play, performance, puppetry and set design. Pretend play is a wonderful way to facilitate development of imagination. When children role-play, they often practice taking on the perspective of others.

You will notice that the Main Stage was moved to the other side of the exhibit. A plain back-drop was added so children can manipulate their own props with Velcro®. You will also see a Play Note that prompts the visitor with a performance idea.

The Tower has been transformed into a Rocket, which, along with the Space Station, Space Mural and Saturn Bench, children can use to expand their performance ideas into outer space. For more information about The Play's the Thing: Act II read an article in the Daily Herald newspaper here.

Stay tuned! The Family Resource Center's focus is Stepping into Science. In our next post we'll look at some of those resources and the exploration of science through play.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Creative Thinking Inspires Children's Engineering Abilities

The simplest materials often stimulate the most creative thinking! This summer Line Sculptures filled DCM's Studio for an entire week with colorful abstract designs, representational pictures and inspirational feats of engineering. "Inspirational" materials included paper strips of varying widths, scissors, glue sticks and small rectangular papers on which to work. A few hints on how to shape paper with accordion folds, spiral, curls and pop-up designs were all that excited visitors needed to get going.*

Children of all ages and abilities bring their unique level of skills and vision when basic materials are provided for open-ended activities. The smaller bases offered for our Line Sculptures encouraged preschoolers, who like to work flat, build up into the third dimension. Older children created engineering playgrounds, buildings and gardens, figuring out how to put wider strips at the bottom to support decorative elements on top. Designs and creativity are boundless when you keep it simple!

*One tip: Strips of wrapping paper bring fun sparks of pattern to designs.

This week's post is written by Marcia Z. MacRae, Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist for DuPage Children's Museum.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clean and Refresh

Our annual shutdown for refreshing exhibits is currently underway. Staff and volunteers are working diligently to clean, paint and (sometimes) refurbish every area, including exhibits and behind the scenes.

Our Interact with Art Gallery: The Play's the Thing will have some changes as it evolves into Act II. The curtain opens September 13th. In the meantime, read about some of the changes here.

Our deep-cleaning procedures start with baseboards and furniture. Add some smiles and we're on our way to completing these projects.

A fresh coat of paint is more fun to apply when you have a painting partner at your side.

Although cleaning and painting can be exhausting work, we manage to find time to still play!
Ben, the Mighty Power Washer