Karen Kelly, director of exhibits and education at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, joins the Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio podcast to discuss educating children on the power of play and upcoming exciting displays. Kelly joins hosts Carol Morgan and Todd Schnick for the Around Atlanta segment.
The mission of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is to inspire and educate children on the power of play — something Kelly feels is very important for today’s generations of children. Focusing on children from zero to third grade, the museum offers children the freedom and initiative to learn and play in tandem with parents and adult caregivers. Exhibits throughout the museum allow children to participate in hands-on activities and stimulate their brains while learning new skills in a fun and interactive environment.
For example, “Step Up to Science,” a program courtesy of The Cognizant Foundation teaches children cause and effect. The current exhibit, “Force in Motion,” focuses on how things happen, what pushes them and how to act on them. Exciting interactions include a racetrack for kids to build and test racecars and a display to design rockets for the wind tunnel.
“This is all about open-ended experimentation,” said Kelly. “There is no one result or one path so kids can try and see if they can make it better, see what went wrong and see what happens again.”
One of Kelly’s favorite exhibits is the augmented reality flow wall that demonstrates air and fluid dynamics. Kids use magnets to build a dam and see the result of obstructions in the water. Open-ended play is an integrated mix of technology and hands-on, creating the best way to teach children. All museum activities incorporate hands-on elements so kids can learn with both their eyes and hands.
The diner exhibit is perfect for all children as each age group has a specialized experience. A two-year-old that is learning role play will take the food order of a guardian. A third grader however will focus on using math to determine the order total for a different experience tailored to their education. The museum works in tandem with Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards to design exhibits such as this one. The museum can inform visiting teachers how the interaction meets their curriculum standards while also keeping it fun.
The fantastic permanent collection is “Fundamentally Food.” Featuring farm-to-table interactive play, this popular section teaches children the various stages of food production, from milking a cow to shopping in a grocery store. The important exhibit teaches children the path of food production and helps them develop a healthy relationship with nourishment.
“Leaping into Learning” features a backyard pond setting for kids to “fish” and focus on early science learning. A featured climber allows them to learn the importance of a safe-danger space; the idea of a space far enough from watching eyes to experience independence but close enough for guardians to keep a watchful eye.
The “Gateway to the World” features two-story climbers that teach safe-danger space and the difference between left and right while climbing. A staging area hosts storytimes and science experiments every hour on the hour, constantly debuting new shows. The arts section boasts sand tables and painting on the wall. A giant ball machine features six simple machines for every complicated one with different access points to play and receive different outcomes.
The museum takes measures to ensure children are always safe and requires visitors two and up to wear facial coverings. Each day has two visiting periods with a cleaning period in-between to sanitize exhibits.
Opening September 18, the Rube Goldberg exhibit is on loan from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh until January. Goldberg is a cartoon artist renowned for drawing crazy machines. In his lifetime, he produced over 50,000 cartoons. Kids can experience real-life creations of his drawings and create their own Rube Goldberg machines to take home. It is fun and experimental but also focuses on the play piece found throughout the museum. The thoughtful exploration of emotional and social learning teaches children that if something doesn’t work out, try again.
“Our kids shouldn’t have everything perfect. They should try again and again,” said Kelly. “Learn persistence and the fun in the persistence.”
There are a lot of opportunities for schools and parents inside the museum. On-the-go programming allows schools to visit in person or virtually and provides supply boxes for educational, language-rich and playful instruction. The museum also occasionally trains early childhood educators. Depending on pandemic conditions, the museum hopes to host field trips again soon.
If you’re interested in donating to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, visit www.childrensmuseumatlanta.org to find ways to support their mission and volunteer. As a nonprofit, the museum depends heavily on private, corporation and foundation donations for support. A portion of all donations supports the museum’s outreach work in underserved communities. With this sustenance, the museum can provide free admission to low-income families and bring their programming to schools that otherwise could not afford it.
For information on daily sessions, parking around the museum and potential featured guests or exciting demonstrations, stay up to date on their website.
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