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Inspired by the Museum: The Fun is Just Beginning!

DotThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

It's a hard to believe that my stint as a member of the Blog Ambassador Panel with The Children's Museum has already come to an end. Didn't we just get started?!

I have to admit that six months ago, as the mother of a then 9-month-old, I was skeptical about the benefit my family would see in the museum. In my mind, the exhibits and programs were just a little too advanced for my little baby, and I couldn't imagine how she would enjoy it at such a young age.

I was so, so wrong.

We, as a family, have been inspired—just as the name of this series states. Since our first visit, we have seen a huge change in our daughter. Her creativity has been ignited, her curiosity is ever-present, and her mobility is at an all-time high. She's hit so many milestones—many of which become more apparent each time we visit. Her imagination is growing, in large part due to her time at the museum, and it never ceases to amaze us.

Over the last six months, we have explored (and climbed) every part of Playscape. We have driven IndyCars, rode on locomotives, dug for dinosaur bones, and have even flown to China. We attended a delightfully spooky Halloween bash, welcomed Santa Claus to Indianapolis, and of course we can't forget the time we watched Bucky come to life in the atrium.

But perhaps the best part of our new-found love of The Children's Museum has been the incredible inspiration for play and learning within our own home. Water tables have transferred over to bath time play, stairways have become mountain climbing courses and every pot and pan has become a musical instrument.

Everything is an adventure when you're 15-months-old!

Even though my time as a Blog Ambassador has come to a close, the fun is just beginning for our family. I hope you've enjoyed following us, both on this blog and via the #BlogTCM hashtag, as we reacquainted ourselves with the museum and brought the inspiration and wonder home with us. I hope to see you all soon at The Children's Museum!


Inspired by the Museum: Jolly Toddler Snow Globe

Snow GlobeThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

I've decided that nothing is more magical than experiencing the holidays through my toddler's eyes. I'm so full of the holiday spirit, I feel like I might burst! Every Christmas tree is deserving of an enthusiastic, "Wow!" Christmas lights send little Dorothy into an excited dancing frenzy. Even the cold and the snow are overly fun when you're just one-year-old.

Don't worry. I'm sure she'll develop her parent's love for the warmer climates soon enough!

We're just starting to develop our own family traditions, but I know that the Jolly Days exhibit will remain on our list for years to come. I mean, have you seen the giant snow globe in the Sunburst Atrium? My daughter could have pressed that button to see the snow fall all day long. She loved watching the older kids take on the Yule Slide (next year!), and we can't wait to attend Breakfast with Santa later this month. I'm sure Dorothy will be thrilled to finally meet Santa Claus—and if not, I'm sure we'll get a keepsake photo just the same. ;)

Since many of our Christmas decorations at home are highly fragile and off limits, we decided to take inspiration from the Jolly Days exhibit and create a toddler-friendly snow globe for Dorothy to admire. Not only is she mesmerized by the "snow," there are few ways she can destroy it. Personalized Christmas decor AND a toy for the baby? Win-win in this momma's book!

Merry Christmas from the Cotten family! May your holidays be merry and bright.

Jolly Toddler Snow Globe


  • Empty water bottle
  • Corn syrup
  • Glitter
  • Metallic Sharpies (or stickers, or jingle bells, or.... whatever you want to use to decorate!)


  1. Fill your empty bottle halfway with water, then add an equal amount of corn syrup.
  2. Add in as much or as little glitter (aka "snow") as you would like! We thought it was fun to mix different colors and textures of glitter to make a true winter wonderland. In Dorothy's and my opinion - the more sparkles, the better. ;)
  3. Close the cap (tightly!), and then use your imagination to decorate the outside of your snow globe.
  4. When finished, give your snow globe a good shake and see what happens!

Toddler Snow GlobeToddler Snow Globe


Inspired by the Museum: Fireworks of Balloons

This post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

FIreworks of Balloons

The classics never get old, do they?

To this day, I am fascinated and inspired by many of the permanent exhibits at The Children's Museum—the very same that once contributed to some of my favorite childhood memories. From the towering water clock in the Sunburst Atrium, to the whimsical Carousel in Wishes and Dreams; in my opinion the best exhibits get better with age (both theirs and mine!).

Perhaps my favorite permanent exhibit is Dale Chihuly's Fireworks of Glass. I've seen the sculpture of 3,200 hand-blown pieces of glass hundreds of times, yet I find myself studying the display at every visit. Different colors, shapes and techniques within the artwork keep me coming back for more. There is a lot to see in all 43 feet!

While my one-year old isn't exactly an art critic, it's clear she already shares her momma's appreciation for all things Chihuly. Her animated gasps at Fireworks' beauty tell me so. ;) We were inspired to grab a bag of assorted balloons and create our own work of art in our basement. It was a family affair—my husband blew up the balloons (we recommend splurging for a hand pump), I tied, and the toddler giggled as we worked. As we blew up various balloons, we talked about their different physical aspects—the color, size and shapes—and then taped them into a sculpture form. 

This little art activity would probably work better with slightly older children, however our end result has been admired and appreciated by all family members - even our cat, Halle.

Behold! The Cotten family's "Fireworks of Balloons." 
What do you see? How many colors can you find? Where is your favorite shape?

Fireworks of GlassFireworks of Balloons


The Intern Experience: Creative Marketing

MelissaMelissa Mcshea is an intern with the Creative Marketing department. She attends the school of informatics and computing at IUPUI, studying New Media. In her free time she enjoys being outside.

What makes up a museum? At The Children’s Museum—the largest children’s museum in the world—a lot of things make up our museum! That means that archiving, typically associated with Library Science, is a large part of what we do in the museum.  

The Children's Museum was recently awarded the National Metal for Museum and Library Service, which celebrates the museum’s accomplishments and its positive impact on families, children, and communities.

My internship is within the Creative Marketing Department, which allows me to contribute to many real world projects. It also allows me to be supervised by a Children's Museum design department manager, who bridges the relationship between creative design staff and staff in other departments. The designers work with staff across the museum to create marketing and educational materials that are used in advertising, museum programs, and beyond.

It's true—interns at The Children’s Museum get real assignments and real world professional museum experience! One of my main projects is archiving photographs so that departments can more readily use them for projects, from museum signage to brochures.  This will be accomplished through a Digital Asset Management system, which will allow staff to easily find images and graphics for various needs.  

In between my internship assignment, I have enjoyed walking up to our new exhibit Take Me There: China to see our marketing and exhibitions hard at work. It’s a good feeling to know that I'm archiving these images for future generations to understand and enjoy. 

How Trees Grow (and Glow) in Lilly Theater's MULAN Jr.

Abigail Copeland is the Scenic Designer and Artist in the Lilly Theater. She's also the Stage Manager—the person who helps keep the actors and director organized. She loves being able to create a new world in the theater every few months for visitors to experience.

When you think of ancient China, what do you see? Towering mountains, flowering gardens, sacred temples? The story of one girl’s journey from villager to hero is set among these elements. In our latest production, Disney's MULAN Jr., Mulan travels from her home town to a military camp, then through the passes of gigantic mountains and finally to the Imperial Palace. How could you possibly fit all of these locations onto one stage?

The answer is what scenic designers call a “unit set.” This is a set that never changes but serves as a neutral background for all the action of the play. For Mulan Jr., the unit set has focal points that can represent many places. These include a temple arch, rocky ground, and a cherry tree with an ornamental pond. You might recognize the tree and pond as a setting from the Disney movie. 

Since you can’t get a cherry tree to grow inside of a theater, we had to create one from scratch. This involved a multi-step process beginning with a wooden frame. On top of this we added Styrofoam which was then carved into the shape of a tree. Since Styrofoam is not a sturdy material, we coated it with a roofing compound. This allows the actors to climb on the tree without damaging it and gave it the texture of tree bark. After this it was painted and the cherry blossoms were attached. The "glow" that you see is actually just the regular theater light projected on the tree. The production will have other objects that light up…but those are a surprise!

Every set for the Lilly Theater takes about one month to design, one to two months to plan for budget and materials, and six to eight weeks to build and paint. There are three full scale productions during the year which run for six weeks. Each of these productions has original sets, costumes, and lighting. But so far, Mulan, Jr. is the most technically advanced show the Lilly Theater has done. We hope you'll enjoy the show!

See Disney's MULAN Jr. in Lilly Theater, Tuesdays through Sundays, June 24–August 3!


Meet Our Artist in Residence—Linda S. Cannon

Sumi painting

Linda S. Cannon is The Children’s Museum Playscape artist-in-residence. She is a professional artist who creates work in pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, and oil. Linda visits The Children’s Museum twice a month to share her artwork and lead fun art projects for children ages 0-5 and their families. 

Artists are dreamers. They are imaginative. Ideas come for paintings, writings, art activities at the most unexpected times. So as they come, I write them down. Every month this includes a new Arttails. ArtTails tell the ongoing stories of art puppet, Monet Mouse, and includes art activities and an art recipe; an artventure to try.

Artists are observers. They notice things. Perhaps the curve of a cat’s outline as it basks in a sunny window. The shape, texture, light, color and movement as maple leaves dance about in the wind. Look closely. What do you see? 

Artists are story tellers. They communicate with you through their art. It could be the mystery in the shadows at night or the freshness and invitation found in a new day. Expressive . . .still . . . art awakens an emotion in you. What does it mean?  How do you feel?  

Linda CannonUsually I am drawing and painting in my studio, but every month—the third Thursday and fourth Saturday—I also visit the Children’s Museum Playscape Art Studio to share artventures with the children and families in that studio. I bring one of my works of art and Monet Mouse. Occasionally a puppet friend of his accompanies us. Monet Mouse and I demonstrate, welcome, and interact with those that visit.

With the Playscape team, we explore something new from the world of visual art. So far this year we are discovering art and nature. Every artist has his or her own special way of creating art, so individual works are created to take home and a community piece is enjoyed cooperatively—all with artist, Mrs. Linda, and art mouse. An ArtTails to reinforce the experience goes home with each family. What a treat, at Playscape we cook up some art in the most fun, imaginative and memorable ways. Join us and come back again and again!

You can download your own ArtTails newsletter on Linda's website

Bringing a Mummified Dinosaur to Life

Leonardo rendering BerglundMichael Berglund is the artist behind the beautiful illustrations of Leonardo the mummified dinosaur, helping to bring Leonardo to life in his new home in Dinosphere. Michael has been a commercial special effects artist, designer, and sculptor for over 27 years. He's participated in dinosaur digs as a volunteer and has contributed art to museums for the past 15 years. His mother claims he could say "Tyrannosaurus rex" before he could say "mommy."

I first met Leonardo at a paleontology conference way back in 2005. As an artist interested in the finer points of muscles and skin on dinosaurs, I was astonished at what I saw when the pictures came up on the screen! It looked like he had just fallen over, well, not yesterday—but you get what I mean. You could really see the living creature in the rock!

Afterwards I approached the people who gave the presentation and struck up a conversation. They looked at my work, and so began my long association with Leonardo. I have done pictures and graphic design for the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, the Houston Museum where Leonardo was briefly displayed, and now, here, for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s almost as though he’s my "dino-buddy" at this point, we’ve been through so much together.

The renderings that I've done for the Children’s Museum represent the collected wisdom of scientists and artists through the years, thinking about Brachylophosaurs, and Leonardo in general. I've had the great fortune to be able to learn from, and have my work improved by, association with Dr. Robert Bakker, Dave Trexler, and Peter Larson, to name a few experts in the paleontological world. 

The image I created is a 3D model—a computer graphics rendering. I started by using measurements and skeletal diagrams to get the proportions and overall shapes. Creating a "low polygon, low detail" model is almost like building a sculpting armature (or frame), to refine the overall forms and shapes. Scientists know about dinosaur musculature by studying the fossils—which bear traces of muscle and tendon attachments—and by studying living creatures today. With Leonardo, there's even more information, in the form of preserved muscle and tendon structure! 

Leonardo’s skin is also preserved in large sections, and that's really exciting to me as an artist. While imagination is key to any art, it’s a real thrill to be able to create something with the evidence backing it up, and to be able to stand back, look at it, and think, "Wow, this is probably what he really looked like." All of that detail was added in a 3D sculpting program.

The most speculative thing about the picture is the coloration. We may never know what dinosaurs were colored like, but we can make educated guesses based upon living animals and habitats. Leonardo’s patterned, brownish color is reasonable given the environment he lived in. The coloration was done in a paint program and wrapped around the digital sculpture.

It’s been great fun helping to bring Leonardo back to life, and to contribute to the wonder and discovery of recreating our Earth’s prehistoric past.

Leonardo wireframe Berglund

Leonardo wireframe color Berglund

Images: Michael Berglund, 2013


Create a Holiday Traditions Memory Book

Tree Jolly DaysBy Melissa Trumpey, Director of Public Events and Family Programs
Drinking hot chocolate, cooking and eating favorite foods, enjoying holiday lights and decorations…are all things families do around the holidays.
Think about your most special holiday moments. What traditions are important to your family and why? Most likely, they revolve around something you do with your family each year like taking a trip down the Yule Slide at The Children's Museum or singing carols together. Traditions with loved ones are what make the holiday season so special and provide reasons to look forward to the holidays each year.
Create your own Holiday Traditions memory book and it will become a wonderful place to record everyone's favorite holiday tradition! The book will be something each member of the family treasures as children get older and traditions change.
Holiday Traditions Memory Book
  • Visit your Local craft or hobby store and pick out a scrapbook, photo album, notebook, decorative box or anything where you can keep pictures, notes, lists or stories of your family traditions. Get your children involved in choosing how to preserve those memories and traditions.
  • After you have chosen where you will put your memories, have everyone in the family help decorate the album.
  • Each family member writes or draws a picture or uses a family photo to represent their favorite holiday tradition. Be sure to write down the ages of your children so you can keep track of their favorites from year to year.
  • Each year, include a list of things the family will do during the holiday season and add pages as your family celebrates the holidays!
You can visit Santa in the Jolly Days exhibit through December 24 at 2 p.m. Jolly Days remains open until January 5 (with the exception of Christmas Day, when the museum is closed.) Come visit Santa, "skate" in your socks, brush Santa's reindeer, "bake" goodies in the Cookie Café and create new holiday traditions of your own.
The celebration continues through New Year's Eve. Join the museum for a family-friendly Countdown to Noon on December 31st. Participate in the countdown, enjoy activities and ride the Yule Slide.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Indy's Child. 

A Conversation with Ruby Bridges

Ruby CharlesThe Children's Museum is lucky to have Ruby Bridges as a partner in our shared efforts to inspire children to fight intolerance and make a positive difference in the world. Ruby advised on The Power of Children gallery and now visits the museum annually for a special school program. Each year students from surrounding area schools in grades 6–9 are encouraged to write letters to Ruby sharing concerns and issues facing them as teens in today’s world.  These students are then invited to Ruby's classroom in the Power of Children gallery where they have the special opportunity to discuss their letters with Ruby.
This week the museum was proud to host Ruby Bridges as she met with Charles Burks, one of the four U.S. Federal Marshals who escorted her, at age six, into William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.  As we celebrate this historic moment, we wanted to share a conversation we had with Ruby this past spring. Ruby reflects on the impact of the Power of Children gallery and the role of children today in promoting tolerance and positivity.
What made you want to work with The Children’s Museum?
Ruby: The Children's Museum actually approached me and I thought it was a great idea. It’s a great museum and a great way to expose my story to lots of kids who actually come through the museum, and expose it in a more interactive way. 
What are your thoughts when you’re sitting in that classroom and talking about things with the students?
Ruby: Well it’s a duplication of my classroom so it takes me back to 1960, and being in that space, and what it felt like. It actually makes it a lot easier to tell my story, being in that setting. The classroom is very realistic. Jennifer Robinson [VP of Experience Development and Family Learning] and her staff and I worked really hard to try to get it right. And she did an amazing job, down to the sandwiches in the cabinet. 

Ruby Talk

What do you feel like the students get from that experience when they come in?
Ruby: I think the kids pretty much know my story when they come. But it’s the little behind-the-scenes details that they take away [that gives them] a much clearer view of the story and how it unfolded, which they totally relate to. They relate to it because it’s about kids and it’s about not being accepted, and you not being able to do anything about changing who you are. All kids can relate to that. 
How do you feel like the efforts to prevent bullying have changed in the past years?
Ruby: It’s such an issue, and kids are struggling with it. I don’t know why it’s as rampant as it is. Even back when we were in school, I think we were all getting bullied at one point. But it wasn’t like it happened at every school and everywhere you go it’s all anybody talked about. It wasn’t like that then, but today it is. And I think that that’s a shame. I think we need to do whatever we can to make kids feel safe. It’s very hard to grow up feeling unsafe in your own school.
What do you hope that children and families get from the experience in the exhibit as a whole, including the stories of Ryan White and Anne Frank?
Ruby: I think what I’d like for them to take away is that no one—kids especially—should be made to feel badly about who you are. And that we as kids—I always say “we" because I’m still speaking from the point of view of a six year old—we as kids, the way we can change that is by not making each other feel that way. We change that by giving each other a chance to get to know one another. 

A Costume for Rapunzel's Dragon

Rapunzel DragonIn this post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield describes the planning and preparation behind a very important costume in this summer's production, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale"—Rapnuzel's loyal dragon, Socrates! 
One of the most challenging aspects for our production team of Rapunzel! Rapunzel!  A Very Hairy Fairy Tale was devising a costume for Socrates the Dragon.  
We discussed several options:
  • A mascot style costume
  • A larger than life sized puppet
  • A more traditional costume with theatrical make-up (like we used in Tortoise and the Hare)
  • Or a combination of these options.

We had initially settled on a larger than life sized puppet, very similar to the one that was used in the original production and other versions across the country. It seems like large puppets are very popular now in theaters and in movies like The Lion King, War Horse, and The Muppet Movie. However, the challenge in creating and using a large puppet can be as large as the puppet itself! How many people would operate it?  How would they be dressed—in black or in stylized costume?  Who would give the character its voice—would he also operate the puppet, or just narrate? How should it be constructed?

Our puppet designer/builder in residence, Patrick Weigand, made some lovely sketches that did a good job of showing how he would construct the puppet as well as the costume's overall look. Our costume designer, Kathleen Egan, also made some great suggestions as to what Socrates would wear so that the actors and the dragon would be similar in style and fit into the overall feel of Rapunzel’s world.

We also took into account the casting of the actor playing the dragon. What were Ben Asaykwee’s strengths in playing the role and how would operating the puppet affect his performance? We eventually decided that we would like to come up with more of a mascot-like costume instead of a puppet since Ben is a very good mover and has a great voice. We then approached costume designer Brian Horton, who is known for producing high quality mascot costumes, to fulfill our dragon dreams. Make sure to visit the Lilly Theater before Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale closes August 4!

Now YOU can play a part in creating the museum's Lilly Theater productions! Donate to our latest Power2Give project and help provide props and costumes for our next production, the world premiere production of "Jingle Arrgh the Way"!    

For Rapunzel, It's All About the Hair

Rapunzel WigRapunzel is coming to the museum! In this post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield describes the unique problem they solved to make sure Rapunzel's extraordinary hair was in top shape for the performance.

For our summer production of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale we were presented with a very fun challenge regarding Rapunzel’s hair. In the story, her hair is very long—so long, in fact, that her wicked stepmother and the prince both climb it to visit her in a tower. In the theater we wouldn’t be able to cast an actress and have other people climb up her hair. I'm sure that would hurt a lot! So the production team discussed several options for creating a special wig for Rapunzel's hair—one suitable for climbing!

We discussed the length, color, style, material, and of course how the actors would actually use it to “climb” into the tower. Some of the ideas included a rope ladder with hair braided onto it or a real ladder with hair braided onto the sides. We even consider an aircraft cable with hair attached to it that would be rigged to the I-beam structures in the ceiling and climbed on.

For safety and practical reasons, however, we settled on having two separate wigs: One that the Rapunzel actress, Jenny Reber, could wear, and a second long braided wig that the actors playing the wicked step mother, Kelsee Hankins, and the prince, Ben Schuetz, use to “climb” into the tower.   The wearable Rapunzel wig is about 6 feet long and will not be fully seen by the audience. The climbable wig is about 12–15 feet long, and will use a bit of theater magic in the staging and set design to disguise the actors physically climbing the hair.  Rapunzel will throw the hair out the balcony window upstage of the tower and then the actors will climb an escape ladder onto it, while pretending to hold onto the “hair.”

Although there are several wonderful theatrical wig companies out there with lots of long wigs available, we decided that our Rapunzel’s wig should be handmade specifically for our show. Our fabulous costume designer and our wig designer will be working together to hand-dye and braid a total of four wigs together to get the look and the length that we need. This process will ensure that the wig looks as real as possible with our actress’ own hair and facial coloring. I don’t want to give too much away, but we're also planning on styling a total of eight other wigs for the rest of the characters in the show. For this production of Rapunzel–it's definitely all about the hair!        

Now YOU can play a part in creating the museum's Lilly Theater productions! Donate to our latest Power2Give project and help provide costumes—including Rapunzel's wig!—for the summer production of "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale!"          

Rapunzel Hair Detail 

Reflections on Heroism at the Anne Frank Sapling Planting

Rabbi Brett KrichiverDuring the Anne Frank sapling planting ceremony this April, we had the opportunity to hear Rabbi Brett Krichiver share his remarks on the significance of the tree to the Jewish community, and beyond. This blog post combines his spoken remarks at the ceremony with his reflections on heroism that followed.
On April 14th our community planted a sapling cut from the Horse Chestnut tree outside the annex where the Franks hid for two years.  Indianapolis is one of seven locations worldwide that was chosen to receive a cutting from the tree, a great honor for our community.   But what struck me most about this event, and the tree itself, was something visible just outside the news camera frame.  You see, I offered a blessing – the traditional blessing for planting a tree – which says, “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who renews the work of creation in every moment,” while thinking about how heavily I feel the responsibility of communicating with future generations about the Franks and their story.  With each passing moment, the world is created anew and we move farther and farther away from history’s lessons.  As Edmund Burke wrote in the 1700’s, “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.”
Trees have a particular significance in the Jewish tradition. In Proverbs we read that our Torah is a Tree of Life to those that hold tight to it and everyone who upholds it is happy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace (after Proverbs 3:17-18).
It takes seventy years for a tree to bear its full fruit, according to the ancient texts.  This symbolism is not lost on us today, especially as we consider the lessons learned almost seventy years since the death of Anne Frank.  We consider the thoughts she had while peering out the window of her hiding place, when she wrote:
“I want to go on living even after my death!”
— Anne Frank (Wednesday, April 5th, 1944)
The Museum [was then] highlighting another exhibit about Superheroes, showcasing Batman’s and Superman’s capes and costumes. There were collectors’ comic books and even a chance for children to try on capes and headbands and something akin to Wonder Woman’s bullet-proof “Bracelets of Victory.”
Anne Frank Sapling Tree Planting
Notice in the photo below, the way in which Anne Frank’s tree, standing out against the backdrop of her words, also seems to be framed by a large display reminding us about these action figure ideologues.  And I’m sure you can guess where my blessing led me. What better way to celebrate the contribution of Anne’s diary to our collective wisdom about the nature of oppression and bigotry, and especially anti-Semitism, than to focus on her very real heroism.
Remember that it was two Jewish kids from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who originally created Superman. He was the ultimate tool for fighting Nazism and the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Their original hero destroyed Nazi armor, Japanese submarines and anything else that was thrown at the Allies. I highly recommend the fictional retelling of this story by Michael Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001.
The most important part of our retelling of history is to focus on the strength of the Jews who suffered. Clearly Anne Frank is a real hero of the Shoah, the Holocaust.  Even though she perished, she brought her ideals to life in every moment, and on every page of her writing. At our ceremony, an actor playing Otto Frank, Anne’s father, picked up on one quote from her diary I had shared – that she hoped her writing would allow her to live on after her death – a true heroic wish, and one that we can help fulfill by sharing her story, and her tree with others.


Celebrating Earth Day Year-Round in Our Neighborhood

Nicole Martinez-LeGrand works in the Children’s Museum’s Community Initiatives department as the Community Builder for the Mid-North Quality of Life Plan.

You may know that the Children’s Museum is the world’s biggest children’s museum. But what you may not know is that the museum has the biggest heart for its local neighborhood. The museum spends a lot of time connecting with our neighbors—those who are right next door as well as the broader Indianapolis community.  One important way that we’re working with our local community is through the development and implementation of the Mid-North Quality of Life Plan.  This plan has many goals, including the improvement of the appearance of the neighborhood through nature and art.  What better time than Earth Day to share about all of the projects going on right here in our own backyard?

The Mid-North Quality of Life Plan was created by residents and community members of the six neighborhoods that surround the museum. The museum helps those involved in the Quality of Life Plan pursue our shared vision of creating a neighborhood that is a good place to live, learn, play, work, and grow.

One way to make it a good place to live is improving the environment. One initiative we're working on is called Destination Fall Creek. It seeks to to restore the ecology of Fall Creek and it as an asset and destination. Another project, Reconnecting to Our Waterways, aims to help improve the existing waterways that flow through Indianapolis urban neighborhoods and, in turn, allow the waterways to strengthen the neighborhood. Imagine Fall Creek booming with housing and activity—like people riding their bikes and even boating!

The entire community has been stepping up to make a difference. Eli Lilly and Company dedicated a “Day of Service” on October 11, 2012. 2,500 Lilly volunteers worked along Fall Creek to remove trash, debris, and invasive plant species. They also built and installed bird feeders using the clippings to construct public art, and constructed seating for outdoor classrooms for Ivy Tech students.  This year, Lilly volunteers will return for new projects such as planting native species along the creek to restore the ecological balance. Want to see the creek and all of this work up close? The Fall Creek Extension project, which is also underway, will extend the existing Fall Creek Trail from the Monon Trail all the way to Central Avenue: a bikers dream!

In short…one recipe for success is having a plan and having a community that is passionate about it. Watch this video to learn more about how the Mid-North Quality of Life Plan is helping to make an impact in the neighborhood…

An "Artrageous" Chihuly-inspired project

Artrageous closeup

Artrageous with Nate is an art education program for kids ages 7-14 hosted by Indianapolis art teacher, Nate Heck. Through Artrageous, Nate shares about great works of art, the artists who've created them, and the science behind artistic techniques.  By making artists and their art more interesting and relatable, Nate hopes to inspire creativity and foster innovation in children.

Artrageous's newest episode focuses on the life and work of Dale Chihuly, the artist behind our Fireworks of Glass exhibit.  Filming here at the museum, Nate and our Chief Conservator, Christy O'Grady, take you to the roof for an unusual view of the sculpture.  

But Nate didn't stop there! He found Fireworks of Glass to be so extraordinary that it prompted him to rally 800 students to help recreate a Chihuly-inspired sculpture of their own.  It took the students three weeks and over 1,700 two-liter bottles to produce the nearly 30-foot tall sculpture. After much painting, cutting, and building, the sculpture was unveiled in the Indianapolis Artsgarden last year.

Gather up your family to watch the full episode of Shattering the Mold: Chihuly and the Science of Glassblowing.  

For more information on Artrageous with Nate, and to find out how you can help fund his next episode, visit Artrageous's website at

Families around the World: The Castellers of Catalonia

This is the first post in a series on the traditions and experiences of families from around the world. We have partnerships with people in many different countries, including Catalonia, a region of Spain with a unique and distinct culture.

After recent press in the New York Times about the Catalan tradition of "castelling," we were inspired to learn more about what castelling is really like from someone who has grown up with the tradition. This post is written by Àlex Hinojo, Wikipedian in Residence at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona. Àlex has worked with our own Wikipedian in Residence, Lori Phillips, to translate our Wikipedia articles into Spanish and Catalan.

''Castells,'' a group game where teams create and dismantle a human tower (or castle), is one of the most important traditions of Catalan culture. A castell is made up of men, women, and children (“castellers”) standing on shoulders often as high as six levels!  The game reflects the idea that if we join forces we can achieve great goals.

When building a castell everybody has a different role to play, and the children are the ones who climb the highest! The castell is completed only when everyone has climbed into place and the enxaneta (a little girl) climbs to the top and raises one hand with four fingers, symbolizing the four stripes of the Catalan flag. The game is not over until the whole group of castellers has descended.

Castelling is not only about reaching a goal; it's also about being a member of a community and safely creating something together. The game is usually played on Sunday mornings next to a church or the town council, or in any major venue within the villages throughout Catalonia. While there is a castells league and several teams who compete against each other, sometimes the teams work together to create a huge castell with up to nine levels. These larger human towers show that working together is more important than the team itself.

The motto of castellers is “Força, equilibri, valor i seny,” which means “strength, balance, courage, and wisdom.”  While the older children and adults support the younger children as they climb, they are also encouraging the shared values of sacrifice, effort, pursuing the common good, and respecting the decisions of the group. Through castelling, the teams are showing that the children can grow and climb the “castle” thanks to the strength and support of the adults.

The tradition of castelling is so important that in 2012 the castells were distinguished by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Catalan people are so happy to share castelling with others from around the world!

Make a Difference. Change the world.

You can still nominate a youth in grades 6-11 for The Power of Children Awards through midnight, May 18, 2012.

Youth philanthropy is vital in our world today. We try to instill humility and compassion in our children to help make them wise and caring adults. We strive to teach understanding and independent thinking to prepare them for the real world. Youth philanthropy teaches all of these elements and allows them to grow up appreciating the differences they can make.

Nominator Sharon Stark shares her story about 2010 winner Ben Gormley.

As Director of HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program, a comprehensive community program serving the homeless of Indianapolis since 1988, I was honored to nominate Ben Gormley for the Power of Children Awards in 2010 for his project “Operation Backpack.”

When I nominated Ben, he had been collecting, cleaning and repairing used backpacks, filling them with hygiene items, socks, gloves and hats and delivering them to our Street Outreach Team since October of 2008, when he was just 12 years old. In order to accomplish this, Ben met with middle school principals for permission to set up collection sites, convinced students and teachers to donate used backpacks, and enlisted friends to help him with the project. He put notices in school newsletters and Church bulletins and established a collection center at the Kwik Kleen Coin-Op Laundry where he cleaned the backpacks.

Ben is now a sophomore in high school and still collecting and delivering backpacks to the Homeless Initiative Program – over 500 and counting. Ben’s belief in the importance of his project is demonstrated by his continued commitment to purpose and his ability to motivate others to help in the cause. Ben was inspired by a visit to Wheeler Men’s Mission to help those men who seemed so alone and in need of care. There are other children like Ben who see a need and find a way to fill it; to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s why I nominated Ben, and why I would encourage others to recognize those exceptional children in your community with a nomination to this year’s Power of Children Awards.

For more informaton on Ben Gormley's project, watch his video.

For more information on the awards, please go to our webpage:

Daniel's Story

The deadline for the 2012 Power of Children Awards has been extended to May 18, 2012. There's still time to nominate an extraordinary youth!

2005 Power of Children Awards winner Daniel Kent shares his story.

"Youth are tomorrow's leaders" - or so the adage goes.  The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis sees things differently - "youth are TODAY’S leaders." In 2005, the Power of Children Awards were created to identify youth making a difference in their communities.

Net Literacy ( is a digital inclusion nonprofit founded by middle school students that originally began by teaching computer and Internet skills to senior citizens in 2003 as Senior Connects.  Students comprise 50% of the board of directors, write all of the grants, and conduct all of the volunteering.  Today, Net Literacy has an expanded mission and has engaged and empowered a team of 3500 social entrepreneurs that have increased computer access to over 170,000 individuals, donated more than 20,000 computers, and provide $1.4 million in annual services.  Internet associations representing 270,000 Internet companies on six continents have endorsed our Digital Literacy best practices initiative (

As founder of Senior Connects , and a current member of the Net Literacy team, I was honored to be selected as one of the Power of Children Award Honorees during this program's inauguration. The Power of Children Award was very important to me because it represented the trust and confidence that community institutions like The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis have in young social entrepreneurs.  This trust and confidence in me and the team of Net Literacy volunteers, when our nonprofit was very young, reinforced our collective belief that we could change the world.  The Power of Children Awards is a program designed to show that youths are not just tomorrow’s leaders; we’re also today’s leaders.

It's seven years later and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis is still looking for youths that are today's leaders.  Are you, or is someone you know in grades 6-11, making an extraordinary difference in the lives of others? Nominate them for the Power of Children awards.  Visit  for more details.

To learn more about Daniel’s work, watch his video.

Photo: Daniel Kent, 2005 winner.

A nominator's perspective on The Power of Children Awards

The Power of Children Awards nominator, Troy Cockrum, highlights his nomination of 2010 POCA winner Claire Helmen.

If you, or someone you know in grades 6-11, is making an extraordinary difference in the lives of other, nominate them for the Power of Children Awards at

All teachers have special students.  Each year, a group of wonderful children come through our classes. But, over the course of a career, we may only have a handful of truly exceptional students. From 2008-2010, I had the honor of teaching Claire Helmen.  Claire was your average middle schooler, trying to fit in, not wanting to draw attention, but at the same time wanting so desperately to stand out.  Claire had a secret. At age 12, she started an organization called Claire’s Comfort for Kids. 

Claire had heard her mother telling stories about children that were caught in the middle of traumatic situations and decided to make and distribute blankets for sheriff’s departments across the state of Indiana.  Emergency responders now carry these blankets with them to give to distressed children.

I visited the Power of Children exhibit in 2010, and was intrigued by the award display.  I immediately thought of Claire.  I was excited to hear that Claire was one of the award winners.  Even better, the accolades associated with this award are something Claire would never seek out herself.  Watching Claire beam as she received her reward, spoke at the award ceremony, and was interviewed by news outlets was a reward for me.  Seeing her honored, seeing her grow as a person and also build her organization because of the confidence the Power of Children Awards instilled in her made me proud to know her and to have nominated her.  If you have that special student in your life, don’t hesitate to nominate them.  The joy it brings to you is as great as the joy it brings to them. 

For more information about Claire’s project, go to her video.

Photo: Claire Helmen, 2010 POCA winner.

How to Clone a Potato

By John McCollum, Biotechnology Learning Center Supervisor

This is a great at-home science activity for your kids! Seeds often use the genetic material from two parent plants to grow into a plant with a new mix of traits different from the parent plants. Since farmers want their crops to consistently have the same types of traits (such as large size, good taste, fast growth, etc.) they try to grow certain crops like potatoes without using seeds. Instead, plants like potatoes are reproduced using a process called cloning.

When planting potatoes, you will cut a fully grown potato into pieces and use those little pieces to start your new plants. In cloning, there is only one parent plant and the genetic material stays the same, so the offspring produce the same traits as the parent. 

Be sure to prepare your potatoes the day before you want to plant them, as you need to have the seedlings dry overnight. Any potatoes could be used, but special “seed potatoes” are preferable to grocery store-bought eating potatoes if you actually want to grow plants for food. Store-bought potatoes will be more likely to have problems with disease.


Paring knife
Mulch and/or potting soil


  • Take a potato and locate the "eyes." Use the knife to cut the potato into 1-inch cubes, each cube having one eye.
  • Let the potato cubes dry overnight.
  • Put the cubes on top of well-drained soil, 16 to 24 inches apart, in a sunny location.
  • Cover the cubes with 6 inches of mulch, and water them until the mulch is wet.

If you would rather start your clones indoors, it is acceptable to plant each potato cube into its own pot with potting soil. Once you see a sprout in your pot, you’ll want to transfer it to a garden area outdoors as soon as weather permits. A typical growing season starts in the early spring with some people choosing to plant as late as mid-June.

You can do even more programs like this in the Biotechnology Learning Center at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis!

Note: Adapted from content by Andrea Helaine
Read more: How to Clone Potatoes |


Krystal's Story

2011 Children's Museum of Indianapolis Power of Children Awards recipient, Krystal Shirrell, highlights her project and passion for philanthropy. If you, or someone you know in grades 6-11, are making an extraordinary difference in the lives of other, nominate them for the Power of Children Awards at

It’s easy to make a difference.  Look around, you will see endless opportunities to help. Find something that interests you, develop a passion, and use that passion to do something outside yourself. Receiving personal awards, like a Power of Children Award, can provide one of the best platforms to further promote community service. The results of my activities have further instilled in me the importance of making a positive contribution to society.

Originally inspired by family events, I eventually assisted in making hats and blankets not just for cancer patients, but for veterans going through dialysis. While delivering blankets, I heard about the domiciliary for homeless veterans.  After one visit, I knew I had to do more and my blanket project quickly evolved into VETSupport.

I implemented a service drive, collecting over 5,000 supplies, have been visiting residents, and hosting monthly Bingo parties.  For Christmas 2011, I was fortunate to supplement collection efforts with the Power of Children Awards grant. I provided gifts to all the domiciliary residents including, a variety of clothing, blankets, personal care items, notebooks, and snacks.

Wanting to make a greater impact, for my high school senior project I organized Christmas tree decorating and collected items to make care packages.  I invited Marine Corporal Josh Bleill, Purple Heart recipient and spokesperson for the Indianapolis Colts, to participate in a Public Service Announcement. Over 10,000 items were collected and together with the Military Support Group of Brownsburg we provided over 100 decorated Christmas trees, 525 care packages for our troops, and supplies for veterans.

What are you doing to make a difference?

For more information about Krystal or her projects go to her video.

Photo: Krystal displays some of the Bingo prizes for the domiciliary residents.