Friday, June 22, 2012

AWEsome Electricity: A Powerful Subject

Children love electricity! Not just because it is fascinating, but because it powers their fun (and their work!) Today they use power to text, talk with friends, read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, play a game and even do their homework. The fun stops the minute they run out of power. Without thinking about the science or technology involved, they know that electrical devices need batteries or power cords. The abilities to generate and store power are just two of the concepts children will be able to explore in DuPage Children’s Museum’s new exhibit AWEsome Electricity.

DCM's Pedal for Power Exhibit
In fact, it is easy to generate enough electricity to light a bulb. Generating power to light a city is a similar process, but on a much grander scale. Turbines spin in both circumstances, but a city does not rely on children pumping a bicycle or spinning a hand crank to generate its supply. As the world’s energy dependence grows, helping children to understand the production of useful power is increasingly important. Children playing in AWEsome Electricity can generate and control electricity to race cars, spin trapeze artists and drive trolleys, while exploring solar power and energy storage. Amazing electrical busy boards filled with switches, lights and fans will help children understand the wiring in their own homes. Chicago kinetic sculptor Christopher Furman created a lively carnival sculpture especially for the exhibit that children will set in motion by building electrical circuits. Developed for children ages five and up, the exhibit has elements for our younger visitors, as well. DCM has opened another powerful and power filled exhibit for young people to explore. You’ll get a charge out it!

Marcia Z. MacRae, M.A., is DuPage Children's Museum’s Interdisciplinary Art Specialist and the Exhibit Developer of AWEsome Electricity.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Benefits to Encouraging Curiosity

Did you know that curiosity can have a profound impact on academics and even intelligence? This is probably not a huge surprise if you think about how curiosity can lend to seeking out new information, pursuing the answer or learning a new task. 

A recent analysis of research gathered data from about 200 studies and included a total of 50,000 students. This analysis, found in the journal Perspectives in Psychological Science, showed that when curiosity is accompanied by conscientiousness, it can have as great of an impact on performance as intelligence does. Further, conscientiousness and curiosity are as important as intelligence in getting good grades (Education News, 2011). 

We often view children as naturally curious from a young age—opening cabinet doors to peer at what is inside; climbing on chairs to see what is on the counter top; even digging through mud, sand or dirt to see what they might find beneath the surface. 

The curiosity that children naturally possess can be supported while keeping safety in mind. One cabinet in the kitchen can be dedicated to a variety of toys or containers. Items can be rotated in and out to keep that sense of curiosity and exploration alive. What about filling a large container with dirt for the day? By adding water scientific exploration comes into play, showing changes that happen in texture. Adding measuring cups adds math into the equation!  Finally, young and older children alike can enjoy doing their own research on their favorite subject by visiting museums or the local library.    

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Fun & Learning

School is out! Although we take a break from the busy school season, children are still absorbing all that surrounds them. Our children continue to learn no matter where they are—in the classroom, outside enjoying summer activities or while they visit the Museum. 

Picnics are a fun way to get out of the house. As you involve young ones in picnic preparation, math awareness can come into play. Math language and counting can accompany your sandwich making. “How many sandwiches do we need to make? Should we cut our sandwiches in half? Fourths?” As you cut sandwiches, you can talk about shapes. “What if we cut the sandwich into squares? Or, how about triangles?”    

Opportunity for early learning through scientific exploration can come into play in the sandbox. Children can observe texture and displacement as they grab a handful of sand that spills out around their knuckles. Add water and scientific tools such as buckets, colanders and funnels, and children can observe, investigate, experiment, make predictions and draw conclusions all during free activity and play. 

Finally, we all know the consequences of summer in the Midwest. The heat can take over and, as much as we try to prevent it, sunburn happens. The Museum offers a respite from the heat and sun. Early learning is a constant here. Our exhibits cover learning opportunities in the areas of art, math and science. In addition, books and literacy learning are a part of each neighborhood. 

As you gear up for summer, remember that opportunities for early learning, even with a carefree summer attitude, are everywhere!