Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You’ve got to rip a lot of paper to paint a masterpiece

QUESTION: Do you know what happens when a painter gets their paper really, really wet with paint?
ANSWER: It rips.

I did not learn that fact in graduate school, preparing to work with children. I learned it many years ago as a frustrated young artist with a ripped painting. We frequently hear warnings about this in the Museum art studio but, as with most things, humans learn best through their own trial and error.

Paper often gets too wet, red pastels are drawn on red paper and too many colors get mixed together resulting in multiple bowls of brown paint. While children may give an accurate answer to the eternal question of, “What do you get when you mix yellow and blue?” they don’t really learn what will happen until they sit down with the actual paints.

While experimentation may not result in masterpieces, real discovery about colors, materials and art processes happen everyday. The experience of ripping a painting by using too much paint results in learning to use less paint, and, ultimately, the ability to turn that experimentation into a real work of art.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fun and Learning for Children with Special Needs, part 2

Universal Design refers to producing buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to everyone - those with and without disabilities. This concept was key to planning the layout of the Museum and is at the forefront when considering updates to exhibit areas and the exhibits themselves. For example, the Bubble Booth has been a favorite feature for children and adults alike for many years, giving visitors the opportunity to encase themselves in a giant bubble.  Thanks to a generous gift from Walgreens, the exhibit was completely re-engineered a couple of years ago, making it wheelchair accessible.  It’s equipped with ramps to get on and off an ample-sized platform (room for a wheelchair user and assistant if needed) as well as a “pass through” design allowing an easier and safer exit.

DCM also makes available adaptive tools so that children with and without disabilities can work side-by-side on the same projects and challenges.  Several adaptive tools are available in the Studio and also for certain exhibits.  One visitor expressed her pleasure: “I was thrilled to find the adaptive equipment [for the Room Of Rhythm].  My daughter has the use of only one hand and she loved being able to use the velcro percussion cuff to make music with both hands.”

One of the pieces of equipment available in the Studio is a Light Box and it made all the difference for one young man using it during his art process.  Marcia MacRae, DCM’s Interdisciplinary Art Specialist, recalls, “He came into the Studio and started to leave right away as if he thought there was nothing for him to do there.  I noticed he appeared to have low vision so I invited him to join in and offered the use of the Light Box with his project. That made all the difference!  Using the Light Box, he stayed quite awhile, engrossed in his work, exploring, creating and beaming.”  Marcia also commented that part of the idea of Universal Design is having the Light Box and other adaptive equipment available all the time.

View the complete list of adaptive equipment and materials we have to offer.  In addition, when you’re looking for gift ideas for a child with special needs, our Explorer Store offers many great choices!  Stop by and browse the large selection or if you need a little help narrowing it down, request our list of toy/gift suggestions for children with special needs.

For more information about this topic, contact Cindy Miller, Community Access Coordinator, or 630-637-8000 x4800.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fun and Learning for Children With Special Needs

DCM’s open-ended exhibits offer meaningful activities for people of all abilities, including a wide variety of sensory and therapeutic opportunities. In addition, we offer a range of adaptive equipment and materials for our visitors with special needs to help enhance their Museum experience. For example, a child experiencing challenges with verbal communication or processing, may benefit from our visual communication systems such as the Photo Book and Picture Sequences for Studio activities. One of our frequent visitors, Sara, has incorporated the Photo Book into her “Museum routine.” Her mother states that Sara finds comfort in simply checking out the Photo Book and using the photos even though she “no longer actually needs it” to communicate her wants. What a success!

For visitors accompanying a child with therapy needs, we offer our Therapeutic Play Guide. A collaborative effort, the guide was developed by a variety of therapists, and it provides recommendations for using many of our exhibits for therapeutic benefit. DCM’s exhibits include sensory and motor experiences, allowing children to explore, discover and experiment with color, light, texture, sound and movement. Additionally, exhibits offer ways to work on language development, social skills, purposeful play and more. Sheri, a physical therapist, shared that she frequently brings her clients to DCM for therapy sessions. “It’s very effective in getting kids to cooperate with therapy because it’s such a fun and stimulating environment. One of ‘my kids’ took her first steps [walked] at the Museum!”

Speaking of therapy, we also offer the unique experience of pet therapy. One of the most popular faces at DCM is Alex, a 2 ½ year old Sheltie who specializes in simply sitting still, being cute and pettable. Alex and his owner, Janet Hoff, volunteer at Third Thursday, 5 – 7pm, as well as the second and fourth Fridays of the month, 11am – noon, in our Family Resource Center.

Stay tuned for a post on adaptive equipment and the physical layout of the exhibits and Museum environment.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our “10-Year Staff Celebration” Continues

We’re continuing some reminiscences of our last 10 years in Naperville. Here are the memories of four more staff who have worked for DCM for more than 10 years! 

Paul Gooding, Museum Floor Manager, 5/7/2001
Paul began as a Play Facilitator, was promoted to Assistant Museum Floor Manager, and then in 2005 to Museum Floor Manager.
Last winter, I was near Visitor Services when a father was signing up for a membership.  His son, about 2 years old, was hanging around, a little bored, because his father was asking questions about the Museum, the exhibits, classes, membership, etc.  I sat next to the boy who was sitting on the red bench very patiently and started talking with him about the Museum, asking if he’d been here before, and such.  He was kind of shy and wasn’t talking much yet, so I started explaining about Bubbles, the Shadow Playground, and other exhibits I thought he would like while his dad was finishing up at the VS desk.  When he finished, he told his son that it was time to go into the Museum.  Figuring my job of entertaining was done, I told them to have fun in the museum. Then the boy just took my hand and started leading me toward Creativity Connections!  I guess he wanted me to come with him and his dad!  We walked over to Creativity Connections and started hanging “fish” on the Calder Fish, and then moved on to two or three other exhibits. His dad seemed to really enjoy watching us interact too, and he was able to ask me questions about the exhibits, the Museum itself; I got the feeling he was also watching my interaction with his son so he would get an idea of how to participate himself.  Then they were ready to go and see more of the Museum so I asked the boy if he thought he could get his dad to play too, figuring this was a good transition for it. As I was putting my hand out to give a high five, the boy grabbed me and gave me a huge hug!  The dad thought this was great, and said I must have really made an impression on him.  It was a great moment that I was able to be such an important part in a dad and son’s first outing to DCM. On their way out, I happened to be at the desk again and I got another big hug before he left. It’s these kinds of personal interactions that are the most rewarding thing about working at DCM.

Shane Castilo, Play Facilitator, 11/23/1999
Shane began working on the Floor in Wheaton. He is currently a Play Facilitator and helps coordinate Museum Rentals.
One of my fondest memories from the Museum is with a boy named Mason.  The first time we ever met he walked right up to me and said, “Come on.  Let’s play.”  He had one of the most vivid imaginations I had ever seen.  We played together for a long time, and I wondered if I’d ever see him again. Weeks went by and finally one day I saw Mason come in with his mom.   We picked up right where we left off. Sometimes I might not see him for week or even months at a time, but every time he sees me he runs up, gives me a big hug, and says, “Come on.  Let’s play.”

Sue Rainey, Education Bookings Coordinator, 5/10/2001
Sue began working as a Play Facilitator and currently works with School Programs.
I have worked in many areas of the Museum from Play Facilitator in the exhibits to Program Facilitator in the Studio. Now I’m in School Programs as the Educational Bookings Coordinator. Having had jobs “all over the Museum”, I have realized that every individual -  the volunteer greeters at the door, the Play Facilitators, the Lab Rats, the Exhibits and Programs team and various others make contributions that count toward the overall success of the Museum. The community, members and visitors are also part of the DCM family. The result is a great place for children to grow and play.

Sherry Johnson, Visitor Services Specialist, 9/25/2000
Sherry began working in Wheaton on the Floor. When the Museum moved to Naperville, Sherry worked as a Play Facilitator and a Visitor Services Specialist. She currently helps keep the Visitor Service experience running smoothly.
I worked the final day at the Museum in Wheaton before we moved to Naperville. Late in the afternoon I check-in the last member family. The kids were very sad to learn that the Museum was closing.  Their mom and I explained to them that the Museum would be re-opening in a few weeks but in a different location. I immediately got the third degree from the kids.  Will there still be the Construction House? What about the Water Table?  Is the Boat going to be there?  Yes to all the above.  They were satisfied and went on to play and enjoy their final visit at the Wheaton location. As they waved good-bye, they said “see ya’ soon”!! By the second week of re-opening, there they were, bubbling over with excitement, ready to explore the new exhibits and revisit beloved old ones. Just think -- those kids are starting college this year. Time flies when you’re having fun!!