Where Children Play to Learn and Grace Learns to Play
I am nearly finished with my nine- week internship with NCCM, and I am astounded with how time flew by, the relationships I was able to form with the staff and the families who frequent the museum, and how much this summer internship has impacted me. I have always deeply enjoyed teaching and engaging with children, but the amount of energy and creativity I saw which these children was inspiring and picked me up on days I was feeling slow or tired. Some children can come a few times a week and still find new ways to entertain and learn through the museum.
This past week was the culmination of my work for the museum. I presented my hour-long program, a more comprehensive and hands-on learning component the museum offers on weekends. After weeks of fumbling to try and find an interesting and engaging topic that would pique children’s interest, I settled on constellations. I was intent on making my program an experience to remember, and that was achieved through our star projector that displayed the night’s sky on the walls. Covering all the windows with black cloth allowed the room to have a mystical, yet realistic, night feel to it while I presented on the history of constellations in relation to Greek astronomer Ptolemy, fun facts and directions for our program. Admittedly, the morning of the presentation, I was nervous and excited, how I feel with virtually every presentation I give. I hoped children would enjoy my program and that it would engage their creative minds. Everything was set up, and the moment had arrived—slightly differently than expected. The audience of children I had for my presentation was much younger than anticipated, as I had spent the past few weeks versing myself in all things space. The presentation I created was packed with information that I had to adjust for the audience to keep the younger ones engaged. It worked out great, and my coworker at the museum sat in the back, taking pictures and evaluating my presentation and project. His feedback at the end was very useful and thought-provoking, including explaining I could have spent more time on the interactive activities I had planned to do during the presentation. Nerves and excitement definitely played a role in my fast pace, but he assured me overall it was a wonderful presentation.
Beyond the presentation, I had the opportunity to help out with the Acting and Theatre summer camp program that the museum holds in collaboration with the SUNY Potsdam Performance Arts Center. Having a background in Performance and Communication Arts (PCA) at St. Lawrence, I was able and happy to help. I facilitated a program that helped the children gain confidence talking in front of others, an activity called ’30 second speeches’. With how young the group was, we altered it to just 15 seconds, where they stand in front of their group, and talk about whatever they want to. I started, and introduced myself, explaining where I was from and where I went to school, etc. It was definitely a fear for some to speak in front of a group, but with their end of the week performance for parents, I knew they needed to get some practice in! Conquering that fear was such a cool thing to be a part of, and I could see the growth the children went through in just one week!
My time here at the museum has been wildly more impactful than I ever could have imagined, with it being my first time working in a museum setting. I have really fallen in love with the atmosphere and the work ethic of the program directors, who are constantly looking for dynamic ways to teach new content. I am ready to enter my senior year at St. Lawrence and finish strong, moving on to find a new home in Boston, MA in the fall of 2020. There, I really hope to use my skills and experience developed at NCCM to find a position with the Boston Science Museum or the Boston Children’s Museum. I really would enjoy continuing my work in this field and creating ways for younger generations to find the joy and excitement in learning.