By Suzy Letourneau and Robin Meisner, Providence Children’s Museum

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Providence Children’s Museum’s recently reinvented Coming to Rhode Island exhibit explores history through four story galleries ­– an English colonist’s farmhouse (1640), the new Fort Adams worksite (1835), a Cape Verdean packet ship (1892) and a Dominican bodega (1961). The exhibit uses these stories to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up the world. Empathy is the ability to sense, understand and share other people’s emotions, and it allows individuals to take others’ perspectives, communicate and collaborate.

Children develop social and emotional skills like empathy as they begin to understand their own identities and appreciate differences between themselves and others, and research shows that pretending is a natural avenue for this development. In Coming to Rhode Island, children engage with each story through pretend play, allowing them to practice social and emotional skills in developmentally meaningful ways.

Toddlers (and even infants) start to notice and react to others’ emotions, a foundation of empathy. They also start pretending in simple ways and playing in parallel with other children, setting the stage for social skills and later forms of pretending. In the exhibit, a toddler might offer fake food to someone who says they are hungry or share with another child while playing side by side.

Children ages 3 to 5 begin to engage in more complex forms of pretend play, from wearing a costume or using props to creating stories with different roles. Children in Coming to Rhode Island might pretend to cook in a kitchen, build a fort or sail a ship. When pretending together, they talk about their ideas and decide how a story should unfold. In the process, kids learn that other people might not think and feel the same things they do, and they practice seeing other’s points of view and learn to work through conflicts.

Children ages 5 to 7 start to understand similarities and differences between themselves and others, and can take many different perspectives. When playing together, they create elaborate stories and practice empathy by imagining what others might feel in different situations. In the exhibit, kids might take on roles that are very different from their own lives. They might think about what life was like for the people whose stories appear in the galleries, and they recognize differences between their own lives and those who lived in the past.

Children ages 7 to 11 begin to recognize that different people might have different interpretations of the same situation, and that multiple perspectives can be equally valid. They also start to understand that people’s feelings are influenced by what others think and how others act towards them, helping them develop deeper empathy for others. In Coming to Rhode Island, older kids might reflect on how other’s previous experiences shaped the decisions they made and their perceptions of the world.

While children begin developing empathy and perspective-taking very early on, these skills continue to grow throughout their entire lives. In Coming to Rhode Island, older children and adults might question stereotypes and challenge assumptions, and appreciate the diversity represented in our community.

Learn more about Coming to Rhode Island and get a peek at the process of creating the exhibit on the Museum’s blog.

By Megan Fischer, Associate Director, Providence Children’s Museum

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 Step back in time at Providence Children’s Museum to explore a playfully reinvented version of its popular Coming to Rhode Island exhibit. The dynamic environment invites visitors to embark on a time-traveling exploration of the state’s history, immigration and culture through stories and engaging hands-on activities that encourage empathy and respect for diversity.

 For hundreds of years and continuing today, people have come from all over the world to what is now Rhode Island – whether voluntarily, coerced or forced – and everyone has stories about where their families are from and how and why they came. Coming to Rhode Island shares real stories of real people who have immigrated to the state – how they lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found.

 While Coming to Rhode Island explores history and culture, above all the exhibit is designed to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up our world. It’s about understanding that diversity makes our communities richer and stronger, and about cultivating compassion for others by making personal connections to their stories. Research also shows that pretend play is one of the best ways to develop empathy and other socio-emotional skills, including taking different perspectives and relating to and communicating with others. At a time of divisiveness and discord in our country and world, empathy is more important than ever.

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 Discover these exciting exhibit updates:

In celebration of Coming to Rhode Island, discover a series of special programs exploring construction and Irish culture in November and December. Build with bricks, engineer tunnels, enjoy lively performances of energetic Irish tunes, and more. Learn more.

Coming to Rhode Island and related activities are free with $9.00 Museum admission.  For more information, visit www.ChildrenMuseum.org.

Get a peek at the process of creating Coming to Rhode Island on the Museum’s blog!

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Champlin Foundations; The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen. The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with the Fort Adams Trust and The Museum of Newport Irish History.

By Megan Fischer, Providence Children’s Museum

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Providence Children’s Museum introduces a playfully reimagined Coming to Rhode Island exhibit this fall, with an opening weekend celebration November 18 - 20!

For hundreds of years and continuing today, people have come from all over the world to what is now Rhode Island, and everyone has stories about where their families are from and how and why they came. Coming to Rhode Island is designed to promote tolerance, diversity and inclusion by sharing actual stories of the history of immigration to RI – how people lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found. The exhibit’s goals are for children and adults to develop tolerance and respect for the diversity of individuals that make up their world, understand that diversity makes our communities stronger, and build empathy for others by making personal connections to their stories.

Discover these exciting exhibit updates:

While there are a lot of changes in store, the new Irish gallery will replace only the French Canadian mill gallery – so no worries, the beloved English farmhouse, Cape Verdean packet ship and Dominican bodega will return!

Curious how the Museum makes new exhibits?  Visit the Museum's blog for a behind-the-scenes peek at the process of reinventing Coming to Rhode Island!

 

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of October 11). The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with The Museum of Newport Irish History and the Fort Adams Trust.

By Providence Children's Museum

This summer, kids and adults can explore beats and rhythm and make some joyful noise on two vibrant interactive sound sculptures recently installed in The Children’s Garden at Providence Children’s Museum.

Whether banging on drums or ringing bells, children inherently respond to making and sharing music. Designed to accommodate a range of physical abilities and skills, the sound sculptures invite children of all ages to play a variety of inventive percussion instruments in their own ways and create meaningful interactions with music and with each other. Making music together promotes confidence and social skills, as well as the development of language, mathematical and spatial thinking – and it's just plain fun!

PCM-Music MakingBy incorporating a variety of intriguing reclaimed objects and new materials, the playful sound sculptures offer kids a hands-on musical experience with both usual and unusual instruments, including bells and tongue drums fashioned from steel propane tanks, triangles and large wooden and metal chimes.

The captivating musical components have infused The Children’s Garden with even more creative exploration, and inspire families to express themselves while discovering ways that everyday items can be playfully repurposed. Feel the beat!

There are plenty of other great play opportunities at the Museum this summer, too! Get Out! for hands-on activities in The Children’s Garden on Tuesday afternoons, climb aboard a different vehicle during Wheels at Work each Wednesday morning, build with big blue Imagination Playground blocks every Friday, and much more! Learn more.

By Megan Fischer, Associate Director, Providence Children’s Museum

For a fifth summer, Providence Children’s Museum is bringing playful hands-on activities to parks across Providence, building on its commitment to advocate for and raise awareness of the critical importance of children’s play, and its efforts to provide unstructured play opportunities throughout the community.

Families will join the Museum to try a variety of playful open-ended activities – to build forts, blow bubbles, send rockets soaring, play parachute games, and more. Activities take place evenings in July and August from 5:00 - 8:00 PM during Celebrate Providence, the city’s Neighborhood Performing Arts Initiative performances, and are free to the public.

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Play at the Park with Providence Children’s Museum from 5:00 - 8:00 PM:

Thursday, July 7 • Bucklin Park (Bucklin and Daboll Streets)

Tuesday, July 12 • Fargnoli Park (Smith and Jastram Streets)

Wednesday, July 13 • Harriet and Sayles Park (Harriet and Sayles Streets)

Thursday, July 21 • Dexter Training Grounds (Dexter and Parade Streets)

Wednesday, July 27 • Harriet and Sayles Park (Harriet and Sayles Streets)

Thursday, August 4 • Billy Taylor Park (Camp and Cypress Streets)

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Unstructured, child-directed play is vital for kids’ healthy growth and development, and the Museum is bringing play to public spaces to combat children’s growing play deficit and to make unstructured, high-quality play experiences available to all kids and families. A strong advocate for the critical importance of open-ended, child-directed play, the Museum is excited to continue partnering with Providence parks to bring creative play opportunities to kids and families in communities throughout the city.

Children’s Museum activities at the parks are part of its participation in Playful Providence – a citywide celebration commemorating Providence’s fifth consecutive designation as a “Playful City USA” by KaBOOM!, which recognizes communities commended for prioritizing play.

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There are plenty of great play opportunities at the Museum this summer, too! Get Out! for hands-on activities in the Museum’s garden on Tuesday afternoons, climb aboard a different vehicle during Wheels at Work each Wednesday morning, build with big blue Imagination Playground blocks every Friday, and much more! Learn more.

By Providence PlayCorps

Providence PlayCorps returns for a third summer of unstructured play at parks throughout the city!  An innovative collaboration between the City of Providence’s Department of Parks + Recreation and Healthy Communities Office, the Partnership for Providence Parks and Providence Children's Museum, PlayCorps activates low-income neighborhood parks across Providence with free play, art and creative exploration in conjunction with the free federal summer meals program.

Teams of trained play facilitators are a consistent presence at community parks throughout Providence.  They provide activities and materials to engage neighborhood children in physically active play, improving the overall safety of the parks while encouraging more children to take advantage of free, nutritious summer meals.  By working in neighborhood parks, PlayCorps fills the gap when school is out to ensure that Providence youth are active, safe and healthy over the summer.

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PlayCorps activities take place from July 5 to August 19, 2016 (Monday to Friday from 11 AM to 2 PM) in these parks:

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Join PlayCorps members for an exciting summer of play.  Enjoy a free summer meal (age 18 and under) and build forts, blow bubbles, make art, make music, explore nature, make friends and SO much more!

For updates and activity announcements, visit www.PlayCorps.org and follow PlayCorps on Facebook.

Providence PlayCorps is a collaboration of the City of Providence’s Department of Parks + Recreation and Healthy Communities Office, the Partnership for Providence Parks and Providence Children's Museum.  PlayCorps 2016 is also supported by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, a Health Equity Zone grant through the Rhode Island Department of Health, PODS and the Rhode Island Foundation.

By Providence Children’s Museum      

Kids think, experiment and problem solve as they try different hands-on activities investigating water in a winter series especially for homeschool families. Build boats, dams and water wheels, create water art, and have time to explore Providence Children’s Museum's interactive exhibits each week.Homeschool Water Exploration-Jan2015PCM

Wednesdays, January 13, February 10 and March 9
12:00 - 1:30 PM for ages 8 - 11 and caregivers
2:00 - 3:30 PM for ages 5 - 8 and caregivers

January 13: Construct penny boats, paddle boats, soda bottle boats and more, and explore the concepts of weight, load and surface tension.

February 10: Build dams of different shapes and sizes and create water wheels to explore hydropower.

March 9: Investigate ice balloons, print with bubbles, paint secret messages, and experiment with other water art.

Registration for each weekly session is $20 per child with attending caregiver; $15 for current Providence Children's Museum members.

SAVE BIG! Register by January 8 and the full three-session series is only $45 per child; $30 for current Museum members.

Click here for full details and registration. For more information, email Info@ChildrenMuseum.org or call (401) 273-5437 ext. 234.

By Megan Fischer, Interim Executive Director, Providence Children’s Museum

Providence Children’s Museum and Providence Children’s Film Festival proudly partner to present the Providence premiere of “The Land” – a powerful 2015 documentary short film about the nature of play and risk – on Thursday, October 22 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM at Providence Children’s Museum (100 South Street in Providence).

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The film is set in The Land, a Welsh adventure playground where children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails. It’s a playspace rooted in the belief that kids are empowered and understand their own capabilities and limits when they learn to manage risks on their own. The film has attracted national attention after being featured in a number of recent articles including “The Overprotected Kid,” a provocative piece in The Atlantic by Hanna Rosin that provides a look at adventure playgrounds and how “a preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery – without making it safer.”

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Following the screening, join a lively conversation about the film, adventure play and the benefits of risk to kids’ physical and emotional development. Discuss ways to foster healthy risk-taking in kids’ play, and how to provide kids with opportunities for adventure play with panelists Erin Davis, “The Land” filmmaker; Michele Meek, filmmaker and educator; and Janice O’Donnell, Providence PlayCorps director.

The Land flyerThe screening and conversation are part of Providence Children’s Museum’s commitment to advocate for and raise awareness about the critical importance of self-directed play for children’s healthy growth and development.

The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited – click here to RSVP.

Click here to learn more about the film.

Also check out these recent articles about adventure play and the importance of risk to children's development:

By Cathy Saunders, Director of Education, Providence Children’s Museum

As summer winds down and parents start to think about preparing for the school year, it’s easy to get caught up.

At the Children’s Museum, we’ve been thinking about problem solving a lot lately. We’ve looked at the obvious connections between the playful learning experiences we try to foster and some of the formal educational standards. Problem solving is a foundational skill that appears in the RI Early Learning Development Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards and is something that we have a lot of fun with.August2015PCM

How do you know when your child is exercising problem-solving skills? There are times that seem obvious – she completes a complicated puzzle or negotiates taking turns with a friend. But sometimes it can be easy to miss moments where a child is building his problem-solving tool kit.

Here are some of the things we look for and celebrate:

And these are some ways we like to spur children’s problem solving:

Problem solving opportunities occur throughout the day – when getting ready for school, making a meal, playing... Seize the opportunity in those small moments to notice and encourage your child’s innate ability to use logical thinking to reason things out.

By Suzy Letourneau, Research & Evaluation Specialist, Providence Children’s Museum

Children learn through active exploration, play and experience with the world. They are naturally curious and explore with their senses, experimenting to find out how things work and noticing when one thing causes another to happen (causal reasoning). They also learn by interacting with others, listening to others’ explanations and articulating their own ideas. Each way of learning has benefits for children’s development, and caregivers naturally support children’s learning in many different ways — by playing, collaborating, encouraging and explaining.

Exploring and explaining are also important aspects of scientific thinking that happen in everyday life, especially in hands-on environments like children’s museums, where kids have many opportunities both to explore independently and to learn from those around them.

To learn more about how children and their caregivers explore and explain in museum settings, Providence Children’s Museum has embarked on a new National Science Foundation-funded research project (award #1420548) in collaboration with Brown University and two other children’s museum/research teams – the Thinkery and the University of Texas at Austin, and the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and the University of California Santa Cruz. The partners are examining how open-ended exploration and parent-child interactions each contribute to the development of scientific thinking skills like causal reasoning, and how museum experiences in general might contribute to children’s cognitive development. The findings will help the three sites consider how exhibits and museum educators can better support children’s exploration and learning.

On most Wednesdays this summer, the Museum’s research team is inviting families with children ages 3 to 6 to participate in the project as part of their visit. If families choose to take part in the study, researchers video-record while kids and their caregivers use the exhibits. After families are finished playing, researchers and kids play short games exploring an interactive toy and then kids answer some questions about it. The first part of the study helps the team learn more about how families naturally play together, and the second examines how scientific thinking skills develop in young children. Whenever research is happening at the Museum, all visitors are welcome to watch the study in action and talk to researchers to learn more about the project and its implications.

So when visiting the Museum this summer, look for the research team in the exhibits or visit Mind Lab; to help Museum researchers and their partners discover more about how kids think and learn!

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