(Photo by Holly Quinn)
It’s the first thing you see when you enter the Delaware Children’s Museum: a giant treelike structure called the Stratosphere. On this hazy summer afternoon, it’s mostly campers climbing inside over wooden plates that go all the way to the top.
“Kids see it when they come in, and they’re like wow!” says DCM’s STEAM Execution Supervisor Meghan Hawkins. “It’s the perfect place to drop things from.”
By that, she means eggs in experimental protective containers and marshmallow astronauts in cardboard ships, two of the projects kids during a special program.
“And when we make paper rockets,” she says, demonstrating how one flies gracefully from a plastic straw with one puff. “It’s fun when you can do it from up high!”
Making STEAM (STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — plus the arts) fun for even the smallest toddlers is what Hawkins’ job is all about.
A makerspace for kids
DCM is now getting into the makerspace revolution, with a little rebranding of one of its popular activities. Called the Recycling Makerspace, it allows kids to create virtually anything they can imagine with recyclables: empty paper towel rolls, egg cartons, plastic jars, cardboard boxes and anything else that gets donated.
There are no guidelines on what kids should make, unless they ask for guidance. In this way it differs from many of the other projects DCM offers, where things need to be done step-by-step for the final product to work correctly. It encourages innovation and critical thinking, not just following directions.
Projects and spaces like these keep families coming back, Hawkins says. “We have kids who come frequently, and every time, they have to do the Stratosphere or they can’t wait to play in the water every time they come,” she said. “But it’s also nice to have something different to do when you come.”
Most projects are tailored for kids aged four and up, and are inclusive for kids with special needs.
“We call it multiple points of entry,” Hawkins says, as we stand in the sports science room, where kids can shoot hoops and pitch baseballs in front of large backdrops sponsored by the Wilmington Blue Rocks and ‘87ers. To illustrate what she means, she points out a toddler happily pushing a basketball around on the floor, while a nearby tween sinks a basket.
“Ideally, there’s something for every kid with anything we do.”
Learning with Star Wars and Harry Potter
In addition to monthly STEAM programs like Try Science and Junior Engineers (see the Calendar for dates and times), DCM is harnessing the power of popular media to draw kids in this fall, with the return of Star Wars Day on Saturday, Sept. 2, featuring the Garrison Carida 501st Legion, build-your-own-droid and experiments using The (magnetic) Force.
Then, in October, DCM will host its first Harry Potter Day just before Halloween on the 27th, featuring costumes, crafts and science projects inspired by the magical world of Hogwarts.
This Friday, July 28, meet service animals from 5-8 p.m. for the Dog Days of Summer, for the reduced Friday After Five price of $5.
Want to know more about programs, upcoming events, parties, or field trip information? Call (302) 654-2340, or send a message via delawarechildrensmuseum.org.-30-
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