Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Creativity, Curiosity & Compassion at the KID Museum

When was the last time your son asked about the opening date for a new museum?  That was my son’s response as we wound our way through the MakerFaire in Silver Spring, hosted by the soon-to-open KID Museum.

Let me tell you about my son, first. My son is that kid who spends hours reconstructing and imagining cardboard boxes as box cars or forts or boats, starting with shoeboxes when he was a toddler to packing boxes now.  He likes things that light up and buzz and whistle, especially if they also fly around or roll away. Give him a piece of paper and he will fold it into a box or a multi-sectioned circle or a crane that flies.  We’ve given him, as a birthday gift, a box with a box in it, along with glue, tape, and scissors – he was thrilled.

So this is the kid who I knew would love the MakerFaire and, eventually, the KID Museum.

As they prepared for the Faire, I had the opportunity to take a peek at the space which will eventually be the KID Museum and talk with Founder and Executive Director, Cara Lesser.  That day, the space was filled with a floor-to-ceiling cardboard robot sculpture, boxes of Legos and wooden building pieces that connect to each other with a 3-D printer made thing-a-ma-jig, rolls and rolls of cardboard, and various piles of electronic pieces, wires, and batteries.  Those were for the Faire, but exemplify the electronic, “Outside the Box Building,” and digital media activities that will be in the museum.
Maker Faire - Silver Spring MD
One thing I loved about the Faire, and I anticipate in the Museum, there were no instructions. No one told the kids “here’s step 1 and then do this.” In the cardboard constructing area at the Faire, there were piles of cardboard, scissors, staple guns, and some cool little connector things and kids walked away with a knight’s suit of (cardboard) armor, a huge spider, robots, crowns, and … stuff. Perfect. Sometimes kids need a break from being told what to do and discover what's in their own heads.

Surprisingly, sitting in the middle of the museum space-to-be, was a Singer sewing machine. And not the new fangled, electronic programmed sewing machine. An old foot-petal to turn the wheel kind of Singer sewing machine, the kind your grandmother (or maybe mother) had.  One section of the museum will be dedicated to the Fabric Arts. What a great mix of the hard electronics and the soft textiles.

Tying this all together, an aspect that I think makes this space unique, is the exploration of world cultures and social responsibility.  There will be a rotating cultural display, the first planned is Kites and Flying Machines from around the world.  The KID Museum will also provide opportunities for students to participate in service activities in the museum space each weekend.  A few of the Advisory Board members and staff are from the MIT Museum, a science space that we happened to visit this past summer on vacation.  We had such a good time there and somewhere in the fun, I believe we all learned a little bit more about science – even me! Having MIT folks as advisors I think will ensure a wonderful level of creativity and science.

To answer my son’s question, the KID Museum opens in October in 7500 square feet in the lower level of the Davis Library in Bethesda, MD.  The exhibits will be geared to elementary and middle school-aged children and be open primarily when they are out of school – weekends and holidays – as well as be available for school field trips.  It fills a need for a creative science space in this area, the closest family science center being in Baltimore.

And the all important parent question -  do I have to go through the museum with my child or can I sit, drink my coffee and read a book while he goes through it without me? Yes. You can do either.  The museum is an open space with a little nook for tables and chairs, so you can explore with your child or sit on the sidelines and let him figure it out by himself, but still keep an eye on him.
Our take-home project - a Drawbot kit.

So until October, let the kids cut and glue cardboard and play with light up stuff at home. Then in October, pack them up and head on over to the KID Museum and enjoy a few hours of scientific fun.

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