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The Very First Children's Museum App

Playscape AppBy Jennifer Messmer, Director of Digital Communications
 
Obvious statement of the day: Technology has changed a lot since 1981. That’s the year the original Playscape exhibit opened at the museum. At the time, it broke new ground as one of the first exhibits in the nation to offer a dedicated early learning space for infants, toddlers, and preschool children. But over the years, it was loved by millions of little visitors, and was ready for a make-over
 
As plans came together our teams talked a lot internally and with outside advisors about the use of technology in this new exhibit. We all know that most kids age 5 and under can pick up a smartphone and learn how to use it in minutes! But after long discussions, we decided that rather than incorporating tablet activities in the exhibit, we would use technology in a different way—to compliment the hands-on experience and continue the learning at home. 
 
The result? An app for phones and tablets that features four activities for children ages 5 and under that correspond to elements your child can experience in Playscape. If you are able to visit the exhibit, the app will enhance your child's learning experience and help solidify new skills learned while exploring at the museum.
 
Activities include:
  • Forest Finds—Create your own nature collage by dragging images of leaves, flowers, sticks, and more onto a canvas. This is reflective of the creations you can make using a variety of natural materials in the Art Studio.
  • Flutter Fly—Touch the fireflies before they flutter off the screen. This is perfect to build on skills like tracking objects and hand eye coordination that our littlest visitors practice in Babyscape. (And let’s be honest, it’s not just for babies! My coworkers and I have had a few contests to see who can get the most fireflies.)
  • Fish Friends—Help a fish swim down a stream by removing obstacles in its path. This activity allows toddlers to problem solve and investigate new ways to move the fish through the stream just like they can do at the Creek in Playscape.
  • Reaction Contraption—Construct a contraption and then release a ball to watch it navigate down the path. This is the digital version of the very popular interactive Rube Goldberg contraption.
There are a lot of ways to bring Playscape home with you, the app we created is just one more! It’s now available in the iTunes Store and Android Market for phones and tablets.
 
Playscape is made possible through lead gift support of PNC Foundation, with additional support provided by The Efroymson Family Fund, a CICF Fund, W.B. Fortune, the Joseph F. and G. Marlyne Sexton Family, The Children’s Museum Guild, the Harlan Family Foundation, the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, Jane and Steve Marmon, Jerry and Elsie Martin, Randall and Deborah Tobias, and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.

The Children's Museum Blog's Top 10 in 2013

I Blogged ThatBy Lori Phillips, Digital Content Coordinator
 
As the coordinator for The Children's Museum's social media and blog, I get to find out about all of the fantastically cool stuff our staff is up to—and then share it with you! That means that I talk to our paleontologists, curators, program developers, actors and interpreters, educators, exhibit developers—even Children's Museum Guild witches—and work with them to write blog posts about it. (After which, of course, they receive a clever blog-related button as a token of my appreciation.)
 
At the world's largest children's museum, there's no shortage of things to blog about! Here are the top five blog posts from 2013, followed by the five posts on my "not to be missed" list. 

The Top 5

  1. Behind the Scenes Playscape Construction, August 12, 2013
    A recap of our behind the scenes sneak peek photos and videos prior to the new Playscape's opening.
  2. Why Did Some Pirates Wear an Eye Patch?, September 23, 2013
    Mythbusters inspired us to share this fun fact about pirates for our Never Stop Asking Why series.
  3. What You've Been Waiting ForPlayscape's Grand Opening!, August 19, 2013
    This post kicked off a series of 10 blogs detailing the new elements of the new Playscape gallery.
  4. Why Are There No Dinosaur Fossils in Indiana?, March 18, 2013
    Museum paleontologist Dallas Evans provided one of our most interesting Whys to date!
  5. Saturday Science: Homemade Plant Cell Pizza, February 2, 2013
    This Saturday Science proved so popular that we created a matching Animal Cell Cookie graphic, too!

Not To Be Missed

  1. Astronaut Movie Review: David Wolf's Take on Gravity, October 22, 2013
    Who better to review the movie "Gravity" than our own Scientist-in-Residence, astronaut David Wolf?
  2. The Story Behind the Jolly Days Characters, December 10, 2013
    See the inspiration behind Jingles and his friends, from both a curatorial and a creative perspective.
  3. How a Carryout Pizza Box Inspired Me to Protect Superman, May 23, 2013
    Collections Preparator Nick Schanz has wow'ed us all year by sharing the ways he keeps objects secure.
  4. #AskACurator: When Curators Take On Twitter, September 18, 2013
    Curators around the worldincluding ourswere in the Twitter limelight answering ALL of your questions. 
  5. The Playscape 5, September 2013 to February 2014
    We handed over the blog reins to three families and five kids all experiencing Playscape over six months.

This list doesn't even include all of the amazing guest blog posts from this year, like author John Skewes sharing his journey to create Larry Gets Lost at the Museum, former interns filling us in on their new careers, and our temporary animal keeper keeping us apprised of the geckos well being. And we've had some amazing new blog series this year, from our archivist showcasing Funky Finds from the Collection to the Lilly Theater manager sharing tricks of the trade for every stage production.

With all of the fun that 2013 brought to the blog, I can't wait to see what 2014 will bring...my goal is to see more "blog" buttons on museum staff lanyards!

Did your favorite make the list? Leave a comment and let us know—we want to know what YOU love on the blog.

 

Are You On Vine?—12 Museums To Follow

This post was written by Lori Phillips, Digital Marketing Content Coordinator. As one half of the social media team, Lori's responsible for what you see on the museum's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blog (this very one!)...and now Vine.

As a multi-tasking parent, you can probably get a lot done in six seconds—and Vine can too! Twitter launched Vine as a short-form video-sharing app that creates looping, six-second videos. It's like 140 character Tweets...but with video! We know you're always trying to capture your kids' hilarious moments, and Vine is a great tool to do just that. Have you given Vine a try?

Here on the digital team, we like to try out the latest social media trends, and Vine is no exception. You can follow the museum by searching for @childrensmuseum. (You can also click the linked URL if you're on your smartphone.)

So far our Vine adventures have included things like Rex dancing...Bumblebee transforming...and more!

    

But we're not the only museum on Vine. Here's a list of our favorite museums, zoos, and aquariums that are actively posting videos. To follow, just search for the name within the app...

  • Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh)
  • CincyMuseum (Cincinnati Museum Center)
  • Indiana State Museum (Indianapolis)
  • AMNH (American Museum of Natural History, New York)
  • Field Museum (Chicago)
  • City Museum (St. Louis)
  • SFMoma (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
  • Walker Art Center (Minneapolis)
  • Miami Science Museum
  • The Museum of Flight (Seattle)
  • San Diego Zoo
  • National Aquarium (Baltimore & DC)


Recently, Instagram also added short-form video, which you may have already given a try.  You can follow us on Instagram too, at @childrensmuseum. And if you're looking for more, check out this list of the 30 most active museums on Instagram (yep, we're on it!) 

Learn about QRpedia on This Week's Wow!

Some months ago I shared a little about the special QRpedia codes that we have in exhibits around the museum. When you scan these unique QR codes they go directly to Wikipedia articles about our collections objects. While Wikipedians (volunteers who edit Wikipedia articles) already know a lot about QRpedia codes, many museum visitors do not. I was very excited to teach Claire and Josh (and you!) all about QRpedia in This Week's Wow!

While I have been the Wikipedian in Residence at The Children's Museum for over a year and a half, this is my very first This Week's Wow appearance.  My four year old son is a huge fan of This Week's Wow, so he was amazed to see his very own mom on his favorite show.  His reaction: "Mommy, how did you get in there??" That will have to remain a mystery.

Check out This Week's Wow to learn all about our QRpedia codes, from who wrote the Wikipedia articles to the special feature that helps even more visitors learn about objects like Captain Kidd's cannon...