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Opening Doors

PCM Logo on kid o infoBy Karen Lambe
Early Childhood Developer

“Mrs. Lambe, we need photo paper for the darkroom.” “How did the artist make the hand look like it was coming out of the paper in that poster?” As an art teacher of upper elementary and middle school students for 11 years, I learned what was developmentally appropriate for 12- to15-year-olds and what materials and ideas interested my students.

Karen Reading - kid o infoThen in 1985, after a few years spent raising my own young child, Providence Children’s Museum hired me to develop and lead educational programs for all ages. And some of the children were three years old! Not a part of my formal teaching experience, preschoolers were a bit mysterious to me with their short attention spans and their wide-eyed questions about the world. Not many 15-year-olds would seriously ask, “Mrs. Lambe, what’s that stuff coming out of the worm’s tail?” as they examine a fascinating, long, slimy Lumbricus terrestris under a magnifying glass.
I quickly learned the importance of providing concrete, hands-on experiences for very young children. A program about air? I had to figure out how to make the invisible stuff tangible by inviting the children to watch and listen to air bubbles come out of a soda bottle as it’s submerged in water, or by making our own “air pillows” by blowing though a straw into a plastic bag, then quickly trapping the air by zipping the bag closed. A celebration of the color green? We’d better touch green things, mix green paint, read a book about green and eat something green, too!

In the 1960s a professor of mine said, “One of the most important things you can do as an educator is open the doors of the world for a child.” This advice became a guiding principle for me and had more and more meaning the longer I taught. Her encouragement helped me understand the importance of learning about the children I’m teaching. What captures their attention? What do they want to talk about, look at, do? How can I provide them opportunities for meaningful learning experiences? That’s what the Children’s Museum is all about: providing an engaging hands-on environment that gives children a chance to explore, discover, mess around with objects and be their own guides.

I’ve learned that preschoolers love to laugh. When we dance like the monster in “Abiyoyo,” feel the icy cold of a snowball on our cheeks, get tickled by the tongue of a sweet snake named Hershey, we laugh. And in that shared laughter, we walk through doors together. To all the families who have given me the honor of spending a short time each week with their amazing children, thank you. It has truly been a joyous journey.

Karen Lambe retires from Providence Children’s Museum in August after 23 years of extraordinary service to children, families and teachers.

News and Notes from Providence Children’s Museum:
Occasional posts about things to do with our kids – from places to go, things to make, ideas to think about, and ways to explore.
Providence Children’s Museum – 100 South Street, Providence, RI. 401-273-5437 (KIDS)

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  • Thank you Mrs. Lambe.
    I also remember with great fondness you and the experiences as a student in your class, even years later. About 36 years later to be exact. I wish I’d found you here sooner.
    Without question, you’ll be missed at the Museum.
    Happy Retirement

  • my favorite mrs. lambe memory is that she remembered having my cousin in her class after over twenty years, when i came along with my own kids. she said something like, “you’re his cousin? the kid who sucked his fingers and wouldn’t stop telling you everything he knew? a neat kid, kind of irritating though? that’s your cousin?” what a woman! how can each child make an impression on her when she knows so many?

    i also loved seeing how she could get rowdy kids to quiet down by speaking verrrrrry quietly. i love mrs. lambe.

    happy retirement!

  • Thank you Mrs. Lambe.
    Your weekly classes were a thrill not only for my child, but for me as well. A time to relax a little, to observe a lot, and to connect with other parents week after week. Especially in those dark days of winter and on those dark days of parenting, your class and the museum as a whole were a welcoming light for us. We still love the friends we made at the museum, and we often fondly remember the experiences in your class, even years later.
    As a parent, I appreciated the time to “be” with my child and those memories will linger a long time. Thank you for enriching my parenting experience, we will not forget you!!!
    Good luck and lots of laughter wherever your path takes you.
    Love and Aloha
    Sarah, Ciara and Malina