Tag Archives: making museums fun

Art adventures: Arizona Capitol Museum

When the Arizona legislature is in session, hardly a day goes by without members of the local or national media reporting on controversial happenings at the Arizona State Capitol. But this is nothing new.

When my oldest daughter (now an ASU student interested in history and cultural anthroplogy) was in grade school, she spent a year home schooling. We spent lots of time at the Arizona State Capitol — exploring museum exhibits and sitting in on legislative hearings.

Back then, the hot button issue was cash rebates and tax credits for folks buying alternative fuel vehicles or converting vehicles for possible alternative fuel use. While the practice sounded good in theory, it became a wildly unwieldy enterprise as costs of the program soared past expectations and spiraled out of control.

I was inspired to revisit the Arizona Capitol Museum after seeing the cast of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “Schoolhouse Rock” do a run-through of the show the night before opening their May 6-15 run in Scottsdale. It was a lot more fun than watching some of those House hearings back in the early ’90s.

The musical “Schoolhouse Rock” is based on an animated educational TV show that ran on ABC-TV during the ’70s and ’80s. Topics treated by “Schoolhouse Rock” included grammar, science and math — as well as history and civics.

Hence songs like “Just a Bill/The Preamble,” “Great American Melting Pot,” and “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage” — which you can enjoy all over again with your kids at Greasepaint Youtheater this weekend.

I took oodles of photo during my latest trip to the Arizona Capitol Museum just last week, when Christopher and I went to explore the exhibits and grab a bite in the Capitol Cafe, located in the basement of the executive tower.

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Watch for a future post featuring photos of children’s artwork displayed along the corridor connecting the executive tower, where Governor Jan Brewer’s office is located on the 9th floor, and the Arizona Capitol Museum (with doors that open into a courtyard flanked by the Arizona Senate and Arizona House of Representatives buildings).

There’s plenty of material in this slide show for crafting your own version of an “I-Spy” museum adventure or scavenger hunt of sorts. There’s even a Press-A-Penny machine on the museum’s first floor where you can treat your children to one of three nifty designs if they’re successful with your homemade game (you can define success any way you like).

Of course, my children would have preferred viewing the slide show themselves, then coming up with a list of objects for me to identify or locate. And I’d never settle for a single pressed penny as my prize. I’d insist on all three.

— Lynn

Coming up: A trio of Shakespeare posts — featuring new seasons, teacher reflections and student reviews


Free museum days!

Every year since 1977 museums around the globe have celebrated “International Museum Day” with free admission, special offers or admission discounts. More than 30,000 museums in more than 100 countries organize “International Museum Day” activities, according to the Central Arizona Museum Association (also known as CAMA).

CAMA describes itself as “a regional consortium of museums dedicated to fostering professional development and promoting museums in Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yavapai Counties.” The CAMA website lists more than 50 museums, and lets you search museums by name, location or type.

“International Museum Day” is designed to raise awareness about the vital role museums play in their communities. As summer months with soaring temperatures loom, they’re especially important for Valley families who seek cool places to enjoy educational and entertaining experiences together.

If you’re only visiting museums when traveling other places for business or pleasure, you’re missing some of the world’s great museums right here in your own backyard — like the Musical Instrument Museum and Heard Museum, both in Phoenix. For children, we’ve got the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Museum for Youth.

Celebrate at the MIM with reduced ticket prices -- plus free performances and demonstrations -- May 19 from 5pm to 9pm (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

Here’s a sampling of Valley museums offering special pricing for “International Museum Day” this year (with thanks to the fine folks at CAMA for putting this list together)…

Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park in Tempe offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-4pm.

Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa offers one free admission with the purchase of another (free admission must be equal to or less than the price of the purchased ticket) Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Barbara Anderson Girl Scout Museum in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 9am-4pm.

Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix offers two-for-one admission Wed, May 18 from 8am-2pm.

Heard Museum in Phoenix and North Scottsdale offers two-for-one admission (for up to four people) Wed, May 18 from 9:30am-5pm.

Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix offers $5 off admission and “a range of free performances and demonstrations” Thurs, May 19 from 5-9pm.

Pueblo Grande Museum and Archeological Park in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 9am-4:45pm.

River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Scottsdale Historical Museum in Scottsdale offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-5pm.

Shemer Art Center and Museum offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-3pm.

Call ahead if you plan to tour with a large group, and remember that most offers cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons. In some cases, museum gift shops are offering discounts.

Make museum visits more enjoyable by taking children when they’re well rested, letting children help decide which museums to visit and taking along items children can use to make museum visits more fun (a camera, if allowed — or paper and colored pencils for drawing what they see).

Keep visits shorter for younger children, leaving before they get too frazzled even if it means you’re unable to see everything a particular museum has to offer during a single trip. Consider buying memberships at favorite museums — which make shorter, more frequent trips economical and offer other benefits like gift shop savings.

Look for museums with hands-on activities that engage children’s bodies and minds. Choose museums for playdates, and add a picnic lunch or park time into the mix. Think museums for family get-togethers so nobody has to clean house and the turf feels neutral.

And when you need some time away from the kiddos, consider a stroll through your local museum. Museums are perfect for enjoying quiet time and peaceful reflection. Just promise me you won’t hole up there for the night…

— Lynn

Note: Always call ahead to confirm museum location/directions, days/hours of operation and ticketing information. And remember that museum exhibits are noted in both the print and online editions of the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar.

Coming up: A sweet theater find

Update: The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is also offering free admission and special activities on Wed, May 18 for International Museum Day. And the Phoenix Art Museum has announced that their members receive free admission to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Science Center, also in central/downtown Phoenix, May 18-22 (just show your membership card).

Museum musings: More fun, less frenzy

I spent an awful lot of time visiting museums with my children when they were younger. Some visits went well, others not so much. Over time I came to discover there were things I could do to make these experiences more interesting and enjoyable. Perhaps some of these tips, adjusted to suit the ages and stages of your own children, will help you make the most of your museum time together.

Begin when your children are small. The older they get, the more times they’ll hear that all museums are stuffy and boring. Once peers plant this seed, it’ll be harder to get your children to explore museums with an open mind and sense of adventure.

Call ahead. Contact the museum you plan to visit to confirm directions, museum hours, parking options and such. Ask about guided tours, children’s hands-on activities, availability of stroller rentals, policies on bringing snacks and such. If you like smaller crowds, ask which days or times are typically least busy.

Learn to let go. Give your children the freedom to explore museums without expecting them to follow a set agenda or reach a particular goal. Follow their lead instead of imposing your own preferences about which exhibits to see, how long to spend at each one, etc. The fact that there is a map doesn’t mean you have to follow it.

Take baby steps. Recognize that the size of many museums makes them difficult to completely appreciate in a single visit. Stay as long as the experience is fun rather than waiting for your child to feel frustrated or frazzled. Children should leave feeling they want to go back for more instead of hoping they’ve escaped for good.

Start with your child’s interests. A child who loves airplanes will likely enjoy an aviation museum more than an art museum, so start there. Once children learn to enjoy the museum-going experience, they’ll be ready to start exploring museums with less familiar themes.

Be well rested. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep before heading out to a museum. If naps are still needed, avoid museum visits that come anywhere close to naptime. There’s nothing fun about walking around when you’re fatigued (make sure you get a good night’s sleep as well).

Take care of basic needs. Locate museum restrooms as you would emergency exits on a plane. When your child needs one, you’ll be ready to make a run for it. Also assure that children get plenty to eat and drink before you head out, since it’ll likely lessen the fussy factor.

Seek out hands-on activities. Choose museums with kid-friendly crafts, story times, interactive exhibits and other activities to engage your child. Call ahead or go online to learn of special opportunities for children to enjoy active play and learning.

Follow the rules. Your child is more likely to demonstrate good museum ettiquette if you do the same. Talk with a soft voice. Use your manners with those fabulous docents. Leave your water bottle in the car if it’s not allowed inside the museum. Don’t use your camera or cell phone if it’s against museum policy. Your children will model your behavior for better or worse.

Build excitement before you go. Find ways to explore a museum’s theme/s before you visit. Arrange a visit to your local fire station before heading to the firefighters museum. Play with dinosaur puppets before hitting a museum with dinosaur bones. Make a model rocket with your child before visiting a space exhibit.

Bring on the books. Use books to introduce museum themes before you head out. Read about whale hunting or ice fishing before visiting an exhibit of Inuit art. Read about period costumes before seeing an exhibit of fashions from another time. Read even more when you get home and your child will feel a new sense of expertise.

Prepare for extended learning. Have supplies on hand in case your child wants to further explore museum themes once you’re back home. Have the drop cloth, easel and fingerpaints at hand when you return from the art museum. Follow a trip to the bead museum with some at-home bead stringing or jewelry making. Try a project from a science experiment book after your visit to a science museum. Have the camera ready to shoot photos once you get home from a photography exhibit.

Try some one-on-one time. Museums can be frustrating with too many folks in tow. Consider making museum visits a special time when you and your child can enjoy each other without siblings there to divide your attention. Your children may enjoy museum visits more if they know these trips mean uninterrupted time together.

Invite a friend along. Turn museum trips into social rather than solitary outings so your children associate museums with friendship and fun. We never had the biggest or best house for having friends over, but we were well known for theater and museum outings.

Set some ground rules. If a trip to the museum’s gift shop is meant only to explore and not to buy, let your child know ahead of time. If the museum boasts a food area but you don’t plan to eat there, adjust expectations ahead of time. Gently remind your child of any rules you have for public places–such as walking rather than running or using an ‘inside’ rather than ‘outside’ voice.

Follow the school’s lead. Watch for opportunities to tie museum trips into subjects being studied in your child’s classroom/s. Visit the Arizona State Capitol Museum when your child studies the three branches of American government. Visit the Musical Instrument Museum (scheduled to open this spring) before or after your child’s school takes a field trip to see and hear the Phoenix Symphony.

Get into the museum habit. If museum outings are too often delayed due to competing demands for your time, consider scheduling regular ‘no-excuses’ museum days—maybe every Sunday afternoon or every first Saturday morning of the month. Set a family goal of the number of museums you want to visit during the next one, three or six months—then do it.

Make online connections. Learn about museums you plan to visit before you go. Museum websites can help you explore which exhibits may be of the greatest interest, learn important facts to make your visit more interesting, raise questions to make your visit more intriguing, and more. Some websites feature projects or guides you can print out and enjoy before and/or after your museum visit.

Most importantly, let your child see your enthusiasm for exploring museums together. When you approach museums with a happy, healthy respect and genuine sense of wonder and exploration, you teach your children to do the same. Your child isn’t likely to find museums boring unless they get this message from you.

What message are you sending?


Note: Watch for future posts featuring tips from fellow parents and museum professionals. And remember, museum memberships make unique gifts for teachers, friends and family members.