What's New in the Museum
On June 29, the World Forum Foundation is encouraging children around the world to get muddy in honor of International Mud Day–and in case you need more excuses to play in the mud, click the link to see 5 reasons playing in mud is actually good for you!
On May 3, 2013, the GRCM hosted the 12th annual Doc’s Day–a day for kids to work (and play) alongside doctors, nurses, radiology technicians, and more to explore the medical field. Here’s a video from Spectrum Health with highlights of this year’s event!
“Fun is an attitude. Fun is an option. Fun is a decision. If life has become routine for you, if your days lack laughter and joy, it’s time to increase your delight, joy. Life can be light and easy. It’s never too late to change.”
Here’s 13 tips to add more fun to your day! http://theboldlife.com/2013/05/how-to-have-fun-and-be-more-childlike-13-delightful-tips/
Ever watch our GRCM bees and wonder how they’re feeling? http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/bees-insects-personality/
For more, check out this article from “Healthy Child, Healthy World”, http://healthychild.org/healthy-childs-play-time-to-get-serious-about-goofing-off/
If you have been a guest to the museum in the past year you may have noticed some new recycling and garbage bins in various locations. We are trying to be more Green here at GRCM and these bins are part of a new recycling program to leave a smaller footprint on our planet. As part of this program the bins were donated by a local company Recycleboxbin (recycleboxbin.com). We also started composting our food, paper, cardboard, and wood waste with a local company called Spurt Industries (spurtindustries.com)who turn all of this biodegradable material into black dirt for farmers, landscapers, and gardeners. And this is no ordinary back yard composting process, at home when you compost, it is commonly recommended that you do not put any dairy, meat, bones, wood or cardboard in your compost because of foul odor and length of composting time. Spurt‘s composting process is what I have heard called mechanical or industrial composting where any biodegradable material can be put into their bins and a large machine mashes it up. After it is mashed up they let the material break down over a period of time until you get the final product of rich black soil. So, at home, a person is limited to mostly vegetable and paper waste but here at the museum we put all of our food waste, our paper and cardboard waste and even our wood waste from our exhibit building shop. This has been an amazing project to be a part of and it always feels good to recycle at home but to have a whole organization composting and recycling makes one feel like they are having a real impact on the world.
We have been impressed with how many of our guests have been appreciative of our recycling program and we will continue to push to offer more and better recycling options. That being said, I feel like there is still a lot more we could do here to be more ecologically friendly, such as; have a community garden in the park across the street, make our building more energy efficient or have an accessible green roof, among many other things.
As always, we are here to provide, through play, a safe and fun learning environment for children. Teaching respect and love for the natural world to kids is very important to me and I’m hoping we can be an inspiration to our guests as well as for other businesses. We need to leave a better place for our children and teach them to leave one for their children.
Jake R. Bouck
Exhibits Coordinator and Floor Manager
Sir Ken Robinson
Several of our staff and friends heard Sir Ken Robinson speak last night for the Fredric Meijer Lecture Series at GVSU. Sir Ken is the author of “The Element” http://www.gvsu.edu/read/-2012-2013-the-element-37.htm and presenter of the most viewed Ted Talk, Http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
His message is that within all of us is a vein of creativity that is just waiting to be discovered. He advocates for a radical transformation of education systems to nurture, rather than quell creativity. Everyone is born with imagination, creativity needs to be cultivated. Imagination is the raw material, creativity is what you do with it. According to Robinson, “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” He encouraged the audience to follow their passions, embrace the unintended consequences of life’s twists and turns and be open to risks.
Regular readers of this blog know that play is a critical means for exploring imagination and exercising creativity. Play can lead children to discover their passions and prepare them for a rich and fulfilling life. Thank you to GVSU and Sir Ken Robinson for an engaging evening.
“Children are naturally drawn to role play—the magical art of imitation and make believe. But role play is more than fun…it’s a key component of learning. ”
On March 1, 2013, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum took a major leap. Maybe you heard about it or maybe you were there for our very first Symposium on Play.
This symposium was the first step in our goal to lead West Michigan in becoming an even more playful community. By collaborating with Grand Valley State University, Aquinas College, Spectrum Health and others, we presented a day of internationally respected speakers on the benefits of play to all of us. Almost 200 attended.took a major leap. Maybe you heard about it or maybe you were there for our very first Symposium on Play.
Play benefits the cognitive, social emotional development of children. You’ve read that here in this blog before. But, did you know that play develops trust, teamwork and improves communication within business organizations, according to Mary Jane Pories, CEO of Fishladder, Inc. Play speed recovery, reduces the need for pain medication, and reduces fear, says Rhys VanderMark, Child Life Specialist at Helen DeVos Hospital. Play is how young children learn, assured Dr. Nkechy Ezeh from Aquinas College. Dr. John Kilbourne and Elizabeth Kilbourne (GVSU) showed us the deeper value of play in all of our lives. Chief Belk and Kevin Clark presented how play is even a factor in reducing crime and helping offenders find a better way in life. Marcie Brogan, from Brogan and Partners in Detroit, showed how play can, and should be a part of every work day.
The highlight of the day was the keynote address from Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBoom!, and author of the best selling book, “Kaboom! One man’s effort to save play”. Darell has a remarkable live story, growing up in a group home in Chicago with his seven brothers and sisters. A tragedy he read about in which two children died because they had no place to play, inspired Darell to create a non-profit company which has since created over 2,300 playgrounds in this country. He told us that 52% of schools in this country no longer offer recess, and how this trend is both short sighted and damaging to our students. He made a compelling case for play, exploring brain science to education to life changing stories of transformation.
Darell is the country’s foremost authority on the importance of play. We were honored to have his message at our Symposium on Play. Darell shared a study with us which found children laugh in excess of 100 times a day. Adults average 20. He challenged us all to bring back the child in our lives.
The conversation will not end here, it is just starting. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum will lead the way. Share your efforts to make West Michigan more playful with us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Use #PlayGR to further the conversation.
Written by Robert Dean, Executive Director, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
“Play is a free activity. You should never be forced to play. Imitation, pretending, alternation and change, taking risks, bonding with others in your environment. In pure play there is not profit. The profit from play is only play,” Dr. John Kilbourne, professor of Movement Science at GVSU.
“Play is a way that we learn about the world as young people, and it actually shapes our brains and develops our cognition so we can interact in the world around us,” explains author John Fox.
Find out more in this interview with Kai Ryssdal.
When kids are coloring or painting, they’re doing more than creating works of art to decorate the fridge! Here’s a list of just some of the skills art helps kids learn. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/
from Robert Dean, GRCM Executive Director
On the afternoon of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I received a phone call from the 9 year old son of our board president. He asked, simply, if there was anything we could do to help.
I received many of the same questions in the days and weeks that followed from staff, board, family and friends as they struggled to find a way to respond to such unspeakable tragedy, with unrelenting compassion. I know people were thinking that words of condolence undoubtedly helped, but we all wanted to look to the future and make it a better one in some way.
The day after the tragedy I was overcome with sudden emotion when I saw our Facebook posting. There, next to our logo, which brought to mind such innocence and joy, was a link to a site that offered advice on how to talk to your children about the shooting in Newtown. It was a simple and understated posting, but the contrast was overpowering.
We had a board meeting a few days later. “What could we do that would have a lasting effect?” challenged one. Another spoke about how this event reminded her how much we all need children’s museums and other places where kids can just be kids. We talked about the powerful healing which comes from play. If we could give them what we have, then maybe it might help, at least some.
At that point in the meeting another board member said, “They don’t have a Children’s Museum in Newtown Connecticut, but they are trying to build one” and pointed us to the EverWonder Children’s Museum website. We read about their passion to build “a bright spot for children and families” and their efforts to raise funds to have a permanent home. Until they have that home, they are providing science and art programming around the community. “They sound just like us, about 20 years ago” observed one or our original founders.
So, it was decided. We would do what we could to help the EverWonder Children’s Museum have a permanent home, and give the gift of play to a town so deserving. We will devote a $1.00 of every admission on January 26, 2013 to donate to their building fund. We will post a link on our website directing people to their donation page. We will be using our media contacts, donor connections and social networks to encourage others to support the EverWonder Children’s Museum. Our humble efforts alone will not build them that museum, so we are enlisting the help of our colleagues. The Association of Children’s Museums and the Association of Midwest Museums have informed their members of what we are doing and encouraged the network to help. In Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Art Museum will also be donating $1.00 of each admission from January 26th and we are connecting with many more organizations in West Michigan to be a part of this special event.
The GRCM celebrated the New Year with our annual New Year’s Early Eve event on December 31, 2012! Here’s a glimpse of all the fun we had that night!
Special thanks to Hybrid Media for putting together this video for us!
This was sent to us by our friend Dr. Scott Lancaster from Advanced Radiology Services.
Recess is key element in children’s well-being
photo by Joshua Lambert
Legos and open-ended play, a note from Bob Dean, Executive Director of GRCM
At the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, we concentrate on “open ended play”. When I am giving someone a tour of the Museum, I always stop at our Lego table to explain what that means. When Legos first came out, they were just a box of bricks in different sizes and colors. A child could make a car, then tear it apart and make an airplane, then a castle, or a ship or whatever. The outcomes were infinite – or completely open ended. This is the kind of play which does the most for developing imagination, various thinking skills, and several other key developmental assets.
Then Lego started coming out with themed kits in which you followed specific directions to make a specific item. One year, we bought my son a Millennium Falcon kit from the Legos Start Wars collection. He spent Christmas afternoon making it, and now it still sits on his shelf, untouched, fifteen years later.
I am sure that there are some important skills which develop through the process of following directions and making a pre-determined outcome, but developing imagination is not one of them. Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this way:
“Has Lego sold out?” New York Times, Sunday December 23, 2012
By the way, my favorite story about our museum and our Lego table (which is just loose bricks, fostering open ended play) was when a couple of parents tried to encourage their son to leave what he was working on and move on to something else. “Come on, we have Legos at home that we can play with.” The little boy gave a nod to one of our staff facilitators playing with him and said, “yeah, but we don’t have her at home.”
Note: Lego does still sell the loose brick kits: http://shop.lego.com/en-US/LEGO-Fun-with-Bricks-4628. I just checked and they are all sold out on the web site, so maybe people have re-discovered the joy of open ended creative play.
Did you know that pretending is actually helping your kids learn? Here’s an interesting article about the need for pretend play.
The Story of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum at 15 years and going…
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is celebrating their 15th Birthday in 2013. Since 1997, they have been providing cherished memories and innovative play experiences for children (and their adults).
The museum started as an idea of four women; Georgia Woodrick Gietzen, Alyce Greeson, Carla Morris, and Aleicia Woodrick. They were inspired by their children and grandchildren and they intuitively knew that regular, creative, hands-on play was inherently good for children. Founded on the beliefs that children learn best when they direct their own learning, these women set about to create a place with a sole focus on young children.
The prequel to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, a “Museum Without Walls,” debuted in August 1993 at Woodland Shopping Center. Several exhibits which demonstrated the concept that play is a child’s work dotted the walkways between stores. Children looked forward to accompanying their parents on shopping trips. The “Museum Without Walls” was such a success that the founders imagined the next step; housing the museum in a more permanent location in downtown Grand Rapids.
The four founders knew it would be difficult to convince the community that a special place dedicated to play would be worthy of the substantial charitable contributions needed to make it a reality. They envisioned an environment in which children would learn, develop and grow through the activity of playing. For a community, like many others, facing problems of economic development, poverty and homelessness, convincing people of the value of play was a challenge. Their passion and very hard work, carried the day.
Near the eastern entrance to downtown Grand Rapids, the Monument Square building was built in 1916 from a design by Osgood and Osgood, Architects. These architects had designed several other significant Grand Rapids structures. The building was known for its exterior walls of white glazed brick laid in black mortar joints. Tenants had included Daane and Witters Grocers, a stationary and fine gifts shop, the Steele Shop selling the latest fashions from Paris, London and New York, the W.T. Moore Sporting Goods Store and Oosterhof & Company, tailors. In 1980, the building was gutted by fire, leaving only the architecturally significant white exterior intact. The building remained vacant for 17 years.
In the winter of 1994, the Monument Square Building at 11 Sheldon Avenue was purchased and generously donated by Bob and Aleicia Woodrick and Jim and Shirley Balk to become the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. After much renovation, the Museum opened its doors in July 1997. The journey was documented through the perspective of a displaced pigeon, in “Penrod’s New Home”, a children’s book written by the four founders.
In 2009, a mosaic mural entitled “Imagine That” was added to the outside exterior and won second place in the first Art Prize competition. The mural has become a familiar Grand Rapids icon.
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is celebrating their 15th year anniversary from July, 2012 through July 2013. In these 15 years, over 2,288,000 people have played at the museum or in one of its outreach events, making it one of downtown GR’s leading attractions.
The museum has been awarded the Art Serve Michigan’s Governor’s Award, the Service to Children Award from the Child and Family Resource Council and was recognized by the Association of Children’s Museum as one of the most innovative Children’s Museums in the country.
This award for innovation underscores probably the most important asset that the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum has brought to West Michigan. All museums bring valuable culture and learning opportunities to a community, each in their special and characteristic way. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is unique in that it concentrates entirely on the activity of play and the rich cognitive, social emotional and physical benefits which are derived through play. Play nourishes the mind, the body and the spirit. Abilities learned through play build skills critical to success as adults. The museum’s exhibits and programs are hands on, interactive and open ended. It is a one of a kind space in which children can safely be in charge, imagine without limits, discover and learn.
In a period in our culture where schools are increasingly cutting recess time in favor of class time, outdoor play areas are disappearing, and parents are overscheduling their children into structured activities, the message of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is ever more important. Free play diminished in our society by 25% just between 1981 and 1997 according to a study by the University of Michigan. At the same time examples of bullying, childhood obesity, depression and anxiety are on the increase. A recent Newsweek article warned of a loss in creativity among our nation’s workforce. Many blame the decline in play for the rise of such problems.
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is the expert in play. We closely follow the emerging scientific research on brain development and the positive impact of play. We turn this research into captivating exhibits and programs which engage children. The findings are conclusive that play can lead to the development of thinking skills, problem solving, improved interpersonal skills, communication, impulse control, creativity, and planning abilities, to name just a few of the beneficial outcomes. These are all critical skills of the workforce for tomorrow. The impulse to play is inborn to most animals. Now, it turns out, that play is remarkably beneficial for those who take the time to do it and for the communities which foster it.
The museum has followed the original vision of the four founders for these 15 years. Visionary founders, a historic building, generous philanthropy and a critical mission – that’s what made the first 15 years of play happen in Grand Rapids. Written by Bob Dean, Executive Director.
Sometimes roughhousing gets a bad rap. Parents might feel that roughhousing between kids, or between a parent and a child just leaves the child too excited and hard to calm down. A recent book, The Art of Roughhousing” by Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen,(Quirk Books; May 17, 2011) however, illustrates the many benefits of roughhousing. The authors claim “Play – especially active physical play, like roughhousing – makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful”.
Roughhousing builds resilience, helps cognitive development, builds social skills, teaches morality and keeps your children physically active. But, as you might imagine, the book begins with a disclaimer cautioning all to use adult common sense when roughhousing to assure safety. Have fun, but keep it safe.
-Bob Dean, Executive Director, GRCM.
Our message here is that play helps children develop their minds, and apparently the message is getting through. Recently a Mom asked her son what he was building at the magnate table. Dad answered, “His brain” He gets it.
Sunday was an extraordinary experience at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Thanks to the generosity of Amway and Fifth Third, 2,429 adults and children visited the museum for free!
That number may not be the highest number in one day ever at the museum ( staff member recalls a 2,600 day), but that would have been an eight or twelve hour day. Yesterday we were open for five hours. There were lines out in the cold from 45 minutes before opening to after 4:00. Some waited an hour in the cold. That means we operated at our 600 person fire code capacity until just before closing.
Rather than try to describe the entire day, here are a few lasting impressions:
Staff – every time I saw one of them, either they were smiling or they were making someone else smile.
Complaints – none
Funny moment – I talked to two little girls, twins, who looked about four years old. As they waited in line I asked them several questions. They answered each one in perfect unrehearsed unison.
Thank you’s – In spite of the crowded conditions, nearly everyone said thank you as they left, along with multiple comments about how much fun they had.
There were a lot of first time visitors to our museum, and a lot of families taking in at least one other museum downtown during the day.
To Amway and Fifth Third, those 2,429 thank you’s, go to you.
-Bob Dean, Executive Director, GRCM.
An article in the current issue of The American Journal of Play discusses the possible evolutionary reasons of why play behavior developed in humans and in just about every mammal. Early humans who knew how to cooperate with others, how to control their impulses, and how to communicate effectively had a better chance of surviving than those without such skills. Play develops these abilities. Monkeys and rats who were deprived of play at a young age grow up without adequate social skills and are prone to misread normal interactions with others in their species, as aggressive acts.
An interesting finding was when adults were asked to remember back when they played tag, did they prefer being chased, or being the chaser? Most people prefer being chased to being the person who is “it”. Apparently it was pretty important for our ancestors to know how to run away from wild animals.
Every once in a while, the staff at the GRCM will hold an “Emergency Play Drill” for any guests who happen to be visiting at that time. Today appealed to my ego, at least for a moment or two. The staff printed off 30 some copies of a recent picture of me, then hid them throughout the museum. They announced to the guests that if anyone found a picture of “Bob” and turned it into the front desk, they would get a prize, a small bottle of bubbles. They soon figured it out and many went scurrying around to find my pictures hiding in the farm, on the mirrors or in the Cafe. As I stood near the front desk to thank the kids who found me, I saw a little two year old girl who had found my picture and had given it a kiss. A very touching moment, until the staff explained that she could get a prize in exchange for the picture. She wasted no time thinking. She threw my picture to the floor, stepped on it and eagerly accepted the little bottle of bubbles. Kids are wonderful at keeping one humble.
Post written by Bob Dean, Executive Director at the GRCM.
The most recent issue of The American Journal of Play (Vol. 3, Number 3, Winter 2011) has a couple of articles about the value of play to adults. The first is an interview with Ruth Codier Resch, a psychoanalyst who suffered a stroke that robbed her of her ability to speak. Ruth regained her ability to speak, went back to work, and developed a whole new outlook on life through her rehabilitation using play. This illustrates how remarkably changeable the brain can be and how play can lead the way in making this change. Play, effectively, helped her brain develop new pathways to express herself and opened her up to understand how the non-verbal side of the brain communicates.
Playing with Ideas: The Affective Dynamics of Creative Play by Pat Power, explores the value of play in adulthood by studying the neurology, emotion and cognition of play. The author suggest eight essential qualities of play: lighthearted, humorous, imaginative, open-minded, transformative, enigmatic, interactive, and dynamic. She concludes that play enhances our sense of quality of life and therefore “positively confers a plethora of long-term health benefits including a tendency to live a longer and happier life”.
Playing in the Mud – A great article on a great website, about the joys and value of playing in the mud. Did you know it can even help your immune system?
Through the Eyes of a Youngster
While standing in front of the distorted mirror that makes one look… well… short and wide, we overheard a young person say, “Hey, we look just like Grandma!”
Playing Without Seeing
Many parents and children enjoyed participating in a multidimensional “visual art meets music” workshop with husband and wife duo, Ed and Adriana Mallett in a recent GRCM program. The Malletts conducted three workshops in which Adriana guided children through the creation of several visual art pieces, while listening and responding to live music performed by Ed. It was a wonderfully creative and holistic arts experience for children (and grown-ups!) of all ages.
Perhaps, however, one of the most appreciative visitors did not want to create her own works of art, she just wanted to explore the musical instruments themselves. A GRCM staff member noticed a 9 year old visually impaired girl hanging out near the workshop listening to the music. Her mom indicated that she has had a long time interest in music and is very musically gifted, but doesn’t often have the opportunity to explore “real” instruments. Between two of Ed and Adriana’s workshops, the staff member asked if the girl could come in and feel the various instruments. Ed spent the next half hour with the little girl showing her each of the instruments, showing her how to play them and making music with her. This was a truly unique opportunity for the family and the heartfelt impact of this impromptu music lesson was revealed in twin smiles shared by mother and daughter.
A Grandmother was just observed in our Happy Animal Clinic, where kids pretend to be veterinarians. She was wearing one of our turtle costumes. She was crouched down on her hands and knees and, was telling her two grandchildren about her turtle symptoms, while they checked her over with stethoscopes and ultrasound.
What is the GRCM Playblog?
This is the inauguration of a new website and a new blog for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. We hope it becomes a regular stop for you. Our objectives with this blog are many and varied, but in short, we want it to extend the mission of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum beyond our doors and into yours.
In this blog we will pass along the latest research on play and the beneficial impact it has on cognitive, social emotional and physical development. We also plan to pass along practical ideas on how you can stimulate your children with open ended, child directed play, at home, on vacation, virtually anywhere. Finally, we also hope to share with you the daily joy of being at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum by posting pictures and telling stories. This is a truly magical place doing an important job and we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. We welcome your comments and ideas. Enjoy.