By Heather Lee
Education Intern at CCM
Last week the Ronald McDonald House spent an afternoon at the museum. I had the pleasure of introducing and guiding them around the museum and as a fairly new education intern I did not know what to expect. It turned out to be the most touching and personal group visit I have ever had and I do not think there is a better way to experience a group of kids with illness. They are braver and more courageous than most kids and adults combined. What we forget is that kids with illnesses are still kids first and foremost. They become this symbol of fragility that we have to pay attention to and that we have to compliment in order to make them feel good about themselves. Really what I have learned is that all they want are the same things as regular kids.
Parents of sick children are strong. They are worrisome, and sometimes they might feel inadequate or weak but I see them as beautiful and capable. Their children teach them to be emotional and understanding. They teach their parents to treat them with the same amount of discipline and with the same amount of tenderness. Surprisingly and beautifully, these kids don’t request for extra attention because of their illnesses. Discipline and tenderness are key factors for parent’s sanity. One amazing parent discussed with me the heroism he found in his son because he was able to withstand multiple kinds of cancer before the age of 10. A girl can have multiple heart transplants and not be affected by the amount of sadness around her. I found it astonishing, surprising and eye-opening that these kids do not ask for more attention. They enjoy the little things like making a mask out of felt, or making a clay figure, or just how marching up the stairs makes them laugh and giggle. These are the rewarding moments that make the staff at the Children’s Creativity Museum want to come to work everyday with smiles on our faces.
Almost every week I get asked by a parent or guardian if I enjoy working here. I always say yes and smile with enthusiasm but then we go into discussion about the pay, the benefits and the experience. Most parents are surprised when I tell them that I am not being paid and that I volunteer my time to be here because I believe that it’s worth the experience. They also ask me what kind of benefits we get from working here and I have never been able to pinpoint the benefits but at a certain point it just becomes overall enjoyable and rewarding. Some days are more rewarding than others. Some days are faster and slower. Sometimes kids touch your heart in a figurative way. Enjoyable and rewarding are the only benefits I’ll be happy with. If I happen to pick up any others than that is rewarding as well.
Experiences like these do not come everyday and most people do not get to work with kids like these but when you do it becomes the only thing in your day that makes you feel like you did something worth while.
By Tomas Durkin
Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, and inventor. He is best known for his cartoons depicting complex machines and devices that perform simple tasks in an overly elaborate manner. While he never physically built any of these machines, his cartoons have inspired countless numbers of engineers, inventors, and dreamers to come up with their own machines to accomplish simple, everyday tasks.
So our CCM Rube Goldberg Machine didn’t actually perform much of a task. I actually struggled with the what the “task” would be that our machine would accomplish since JP and I came up with the idea for the workshop. Furthermore, charged with the task of designing a workshop for kids on Spring Break, how would we set up such a complicated machine while still leaving kids the freedom to devise the solutions. Rube Goldberg machines are complex and fragile. The challenge was, and always is here at CCM, how to provide kids with just the right amount of inspiration and instructions so that they could feel free to be creative within the context of our workshop. Then sometime on Friday it hit me. Look at how creative the solutions were that the kids came up with, even with no actual goal in sight! I was frantically trying to come up with an ending, when in the end the kids never cared about the ending in the first place. I have never had so much fun, stress, and inspiration packed into a single event. Watching kids problem solve with a room full of materials at their disposal is one the true pleasures that I have working at CCM. Kids figured out innovative solutions to send marbles and dominoes around the room in ways that I never could have imagined. I guess it’s just another reminder that you’re never too old to learn something new, especially from unexpected places. In the end, Aha lost his marbles and we helped him find them. Thanks so much to the visitors, interns, and staff who helped make this workshop possible.
Have you ever worked with kids on a complicated project before? Tell us how you balanced the kids’ imagination and freedom to be creative with your own guidance and help.
There is no denying that the Animation Studio is a popular place to be in the Children’s Creativity Museum. It only takes a few minutes for claymation’s endless possibilities to draw in visitors of all ages. What would it be like to be a professional animator?
CCM interns heard about claymation from an expert last month. Dave Osmand from Shademaker Productions, a stop-motion animation company in San Francisco, visited the museum and spoke to educators and interns.
Osmand brought along some of the tools of his trade: wooden implements for shaping clay and creating detailed expressions in his characters. He demonstrated their use and then let CCM staff practice molding their own clay characters. Meanwhile, Osmand captivated everyone with stories and sage advice about animating. He outlined the main principals of animation (of which there are a large but variable number, depending on who you talk to).
Osmand has been animating all his life. He loved cartoons as a kid and gravitated towards Daffy Duck. He always enjoyed playing with clay and that remains his favorite medium for stop-motion animation. As a professional, Osmand became a stop-motion lip-sync expert and worked on films like Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run.
The highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see an animator in action. Osmand graced the CCM stages with his stop-motion skills in a wire figure walking demonstration. His audience challenged him to make the wire figure (or armature) sneak across the stage. Osmand’s personality came through in his movements and he was a captivating storyteller.
Animation by Dave Osmand
While Osmand painstakingly adjusted and readjusted his armature, he explained some of his techniques. Practicing movements he was animating with his figure was an important part of the process. Osmand tried a sneaky walk over and over again himself so he could get it just right in the animation. The result was impressive!
Dave Osmand left CCM staff in awe of the time and effort that goes into professional stop-motion animation. He also contributed some exciting new ideas for our animation studio that we can’t wait to try!
Here at Zeum, we talk a lot about the power of imagination starters in the creative process. We have observed that if you give a child (or an adult!) a blank sheet of paper and ask them to draw something interesting, the vast expanse of white can be incredibly intimidating. Furthermore, there is often a sense that as soon as you draw that first line on the page, you have ‘ruined’ the perfectly clean paper. To counteract this, Zeum advocates building ‘imagination starters’ into activities that provide a prompt/launchpad for creative ideas. These imagination starters might be a story prompt, the start of a sketch, or even modeling the activity to show kids how they might use the materials.
Our friends at Tinkerlab recently discovered an amazing real world example of imagination starters at play- check out Wandermonster and be inspired!