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Raising Stations (Part 2)

At the Children’s Creativity Museum (, we are helping shape the next generation of innovators, inventors, tinkerers, storytellers and artists- the leaders of the 21st Century.

At CCM, we don’t teach children a subject. Through art and technology, we teach them how to learn, to be confident in their creativity, to collaborate and communicate with one another. To do our job right, we have to stay up to date with cutting edge technology. We want to be able to expose ALL children to state of the art equipment in addition to our state of the art teaching. We need to modernize our Animation Studio and we need YOUR help!

In our Animation Studio, it can be a challenge to keep up with current technology, while also addressing the various needs of our visitors.

There are many details of our older Animation Stations that hinder the creative process of our visitors:

• Exposed wires, which can lead to tech problems

• No angle options with cameras

• Dependent on natural lighting

• Unstable backgrounds

• Tables take up a lot of space, are stationary, and are too high for our younger visitors

It’s heartbreaking to watch a child work for hours on a clay animation movie, only to see it lost when he or she accidentally kicks a wire.

Fortunately, our new Animation Station prototype has addressed all of these problems. The prototype has been on the museum floor for nearly 5 months now and the visitors and staff love it! The design features include:

No exposed wires.  All wires are contained inside of the station with only one access door, keeping it safer from kicks and pulls.

Formica top – Durable and easy to clean.  Children could take a hammer to it and it won’t dent or chip.

Keyboard drawer can support 150 lbs– Just in case!

LED lighting – Low energy lighting that will last and has very low heat output (children can’t burn themselves on the light).  The lighting can be used to light the stage if needed in case of low lighting due to decreased natural lighting (cloudy day, late afternoon, etc).  Also, clay characters will be easier to see.

Portable – Everything is attached to and contained in each station with only one power plug coming out of the back.  This way the station can be unplugged and moved with a dolly to any space in the museum, allowing MORE children to access it.

• Smaller –  The station is smaller so that it can be easily used by our target audience for clay animation (6-12 years old), but also accessible for adults.

Backdrops – Backdrops can easily slide in and out so visitors can change scenes.  It also allows them to incorporate their background without it falling over.

Durable Materials – The station is made of a lightweight cabinet wood.  This makes it affordable, durable and easily transportable.

We Need Your Help!

Our prototype can currently host 4-5 kids at a time. Our goal is to upgrade all of our Animation Stations so that we can offer more children and families the opportunity to create together.

We need your support to help us reach our goal. If you’d like to make a donation please click here.


Thank you for your support and stay tuned for updates!


Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Children’s Creativity Museum

by Lauren Kennedy
(Video by Eli Africa)

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Children’s Creativity Museum invited Yerba Buena Garden visitors to share their dreams with us, just as Dr. King did on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The dreams we saw and heard that day included everything from a private candy island, a pair of wings to fly to a grandmother and a college degree at their ideal university. Although the dreamers we met that day may have been all different, they were the same in the way that they inspired us with the the ingenuity of their creativity and limitless thinking. Although MLK Day comes around only once a year, these dreamers made us realize that it is always the time to dream.

Our educator Eli Africa recorded these dreamers sharing their hopes and visions for the future and compiled this video in tribute to Dr. King and all those who see inspiration in the face of adversity.

Becoming a Creative Fellow

by Tomas Durkin

“Creative Fellows work closely with the Education and Exhibit Departments to drive innovation concepts, prototype new exhibits and programs, and gain experience in the fields of museum education, informal learning and design thinking…Creative Fellows have the opportunity to develop their skills as artists, educators, designers, and non-profit administrators through a combination of project-based learning and hands-on experience facilitating the Children’s Creativity Museum’s programs.”


In October of 2011, I discovered an intriguing program known as the Creativity Fellowship at The Children’s Creativity Museum.  I had been living in San Francisco for about a year and a half, and was starting to feel a disconnect between my studies for my MFA and my recently chosen career path of developing museum exhibits.  My creative drive was also beginning to wean.  Between being a perfectionist and a procrastinator, I was constantly sabotaging myself.  It seemed every project I worked on was completed in the early morning hours before it was due, or I would convince myself that if I just turned a project in late, I could make it even better.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had worked on something that wasn’t assigned to me by a professor.  I was looking for something more than just work-experience.  I needed something to change my life, not just to add on to it.

The last time I had felt a creative high was working on an exhibit for the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA.  The exhibit was an interdisciplinary collaboration between electrical engineering, music, and visual art students at UCSD.  We designed, constructed, and implemented an interactive kiosk that let visitors listen and see how different guitar effect pedals created their signature sounds.  I realized that I wanted to pursue a career working with museums and their exhibits.  This experience also led me to recognize that I am the most creative and productive in a collaborative environment, especially one where people bring a wide range of experiences to the table.  Not only does working with others offer you new perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise consider, it also gives you a group of people that you don’t want to let down.  It’s much easier to give up on yourself when you’re the only person affected by that decision.

Unfortunately, my first application didn’t get a response.  The museum was in the middle of a rebrand at the time and my paperwork was probably lost amongst the commotion of renovating the museum.  I still felt incredibly drawn to this mysterious Creativity Fellowship and reapplied again in November.  This time I was asked to come in for an interview.  My persistence paid off and Ben Grossman-Kahn, the Education and Innovation Manager at the time, thought I would be a perfect fit.  I started training in January 2012 with the newly-hired Education Interns.  Fellows are thrown in head-first into all aspects of the museum, and I hit the ground running at full speed.  Within my first month, I was trained to lead all of the different field trip experiences.  I had experience working as a water sports instructor for 10 years, but informal education was never something that I had ever envisioned myself pursuing as a career path.  However, as I began to learn about the museum’s educational philosophies and the “Pillars of Creativity,” I discovered that I was a developing a tool set to not only help children overcome their creative speed bumps, but to help overcome my own creative mental blocks as well.

Imagination Starters and 20% Inspiration is one of the museum’s philosophies that first struck a chord with me both as an artist and as an exhibit designer.  One of the hardest things for anyone to do is to create something from a blank slate.  A blank, white piece of paper can be one of the most intimidating moments for an artist or a writer.  Everyday we glean inspiration from the world around us, which in turn helps influence our imagination and our decision making.  So why should we ignore or even repress the power of inspiration while we’re being creative?  We don’t live in a vacuum, so why should we be creative in one?  Here at CCM, we strive to provide inspiration in all of our exhibit spaces.  From building castles and forts in Imagination Lab to the various Mystery Box prompts, we want visitors to be inspired to create at every turn.  We never want there to be a question of “What do we here?”

One of my first projects as a Creative Fellow was to develop and facilitate a Rube Goldberg Workshop with a fellow intern to be held over Spring Break.  For those who are unfamiliar, a Rube Goldberg Machine is a deliberately-complicated device that accomplishes an extremely simple task.  Over the course of this project, I learned about the concept of “Failing Forward” first hand.  Our idea was that kids would help us make a combination of domino and marble runs that would travel all around our Birthday Party Room.  Instead of having everyone work on the same part of the of project at once, we divided the room into sections and assigned different parts of the run to different groups and visitors.  We then later connected the different sections together.  The problem was that enthusiastic visitors were so fascinated with the dominos and marble runs that they just kept knocking them over and giggling ecstatically at the result.  In the end, we spent so much time getting the marbles and dominos to work together, that our Rube Goldberg Machine never actually accomplished a task other than giving our unofficial mascot Aha a high five with a domino.  However, the process of watching kids create these intricate and innovative ideas was one of the most meaningful moments I’ve had here at CCM.  Some might even call this a “light bulb moment.”  It didn’t matter that our machine didn’t actually accomplish a task.  In fact, it never mattered.  What did matter was the process and the collaboration, not the end product.  Little did I know it then, but this was the beginning of my journey towards becoming an educator.

My largest undertaking as a fellow was to develop a brand new field trip for CCM called Video Game Design.  Using a software program called Scratch, students would learn the basics of programming by creating a Pacman-esque video game.  Using colored bricks as metaphors, Scratch teaches fundamental programming concepts such as user input, coordinate planes, conditional loops, and variables in a fun and easy-to-understand way.  Scratch is also completely free, and available on all platforms.  This meant that students could continue and expand upon what they learned with us, using the same tool set, and at no additional cost to them.  After overcoming my initial grumpiness that programming was not this easy when I was a kid, I very quickly realized the potential of being able to teach kids programming without forcing them to suffer through the meticulous task of typing code.  We were currently using Scratch at the museum on a very rudimentary level, but we were far from utilizing its full potential as a teaching tool.  After researching through various curricula and sample programs online, I developed a 2-hour field trip where I introduced students to as many concepts of programming as possible.  Even though students were learning under the premise of creating a video game, the thought-process and vocabulary that they were developing is relevant to a much wider range of potential applications.  This was my first real experience developing curriculum and I began to take on not only the day-to-day roles of being an educator, but the mindset as well.  When I first discovered the Fellowship, and even after my first couple weeks, I never expected that I would be spending so much time teaching.  I definitely did not expect to enjoy it as much I did and as I currently do.

I was hired as a full-time educator in October of 2012.  Being a teacher is not something I’ve actively pursued up to this point in my life or even seriously considered.  But on the other hand, I honestly can not see myself being anywhere else.  Never have I felt so much drive and purpose as I do right here, right now.  Being hired as a Creative Fellow will forever be one of the watershed moments of my life.  Even after a year, I still feel an incredible magnetism towards this place.  It’s difficult for me to describe in words the magic that is created within our oddly-shaped walls.  It is far easier to explain why it happens.  The answer is simply the people.  The staff, city guides, interns, and volunteers are what make this place so special.  Without them, none of this magic would happen.  Even when I was just hired as a Fellow, I could have a professional conversation with our Managers and Directors and not be disregarded as just a temporary employee.  And it’s not just that they’re good at their jobs, each and every person who works here possesses an endearing personality.  My co workers have ended up being a network of close friends that I never knew I had.  We are all incredibly dedicated to both our individual and our collaborative endeavours.  New ideas are encouraged, support is always around the corner, and creativity is simply everywhere.


Raising Stations

by Heather Roesner

IMG_1604clay station

“There is a way to do it better-find it” – Thomas Edison

The Children’s Creativity Museum (CCM) is a place that not only encourages creativity and collaboration with their visitors, but also their employees, interns, volunteers, and anyone else passing through their doors.  I’ve even watched as parents, inspired by our mission to build creative confidence, proudly display their own work or leave with their own creations in hand.  In a time when much of the professional world is filled with bosses, companies and organizations telling you exactly what to do and how to do it, it is inspiring to enter into the world at CCM, where individuality and creativity are encouraged. Here everyone’s ideas are valued and incorporated.  It is not just our mission, it is our culture to inspire creativity, encourage collaboration, and support communication.

I started at CCM as a part-time intern and thought that through fulfilling the internship I would gain experience for my future career. I wasn’t prepared for just how valuable the experience would be. It is hard not to be inspired in an atmosphere that encourages creative problem solving and original thought, especially when your opinion is valued all the way to upper management.

I am now a full-time educator, running educational programming and teaching design thinking to students and teachers. About 6 months ago, I decided to tackle my own creative design challenge. Our animation stations were falling apart and were hazardous to the success of children’s creativity. The problem was clear and I was full of ideas on how to fix it.  With the design thinking process in mind I embarked on an ambitious project to redesign the animation filming stations.  Little did I know the challenges I was about to face, how hard it would be to work within the constraints and how I would watch my deadline come and go with a prototype I had yet to deliver.

Empowered by the museum’s mission, I was brimming with creative confidence.  With a mockup of collaborative ideas I called the one designer and engineer I knew best, my father, who would support my ambitious goal to help this museum fulfill its mission and launch it into the future. I was determined to deliver CCM their first prototype of a new animation station that was not only functional for the daily visitors, but also for educational programming.  I was going to build this vision and I was going to do it all within my limitations of little time and very little money.

Something that gets tossed around on a daily basis here at CCM is “design thinking,” which is a creative process for problem solving. There are no judgments early on so that fear of failure is eliminated and the generation of ideas is maximized, which then leads to prototyping.  It is a process broken into five steps (empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test) that encourages thinking outside of the box and leads to creative solutions.

I began this design process already a step ahead.  I had empathy. I had been using the animation station for the last several months, struggling with its less-than-perfect design to lead groups of 30+ students through clay animation classes. I observed as children and parents encountered the flaws in the design – wires were pulled out of the camera, power cords unplugged, cameras and stages bumped, network failures.   Anyone that has ever worked with children knows that one of the most heartbreaking things is to tell them that something they have created, put work and thought into has been lost or destroyed.

I asked my dad to come to the museum so he could see firsthand what an animation station was and how it was used.  During his visit he was able to see the problems encountered on a daily basis.  Armed with our insights and clear that the problem was within the design of the animation stations, we were ready to move directly into brainstorming a new design.

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” – Dr. Linus Pauling


I spent two months going over designs, scanning and emailing with my dad, and showing coworkers the iterations during the progress of the design to get their input.  I drove all over the bay area researching cameras and mounts, trying to explain my vision to fabricators, retailers and experts across a variety of fields. In this moment I learned how easy it is to have an idea and how hard it can be to execute it.  After hair pulling meetings and hearing more ideas and viewpoints than I ever could’ve imagined, I finally found parts I could afford and a design most people agreed with. It was time to start building!


I needed to build this animation station prototype, a design that I had been toying over for months, but how would I do it when I was still working within the constraints of a very tiny budget and limited time.  My weekends for the next month (along with my designer/engineer dad) were consumed with visits to hardware stores, lumber yards, fabricators and even his personal tool shed.  I needed materials that would be durable and I needed them cheap.  After carrying my calculator through countless stores, my dad suggested that it might be time to turn to a fabricator and ask for help.  That’s when a meeting with a local wood products store in Northern California changed everything.  I came in to the meeting fueled with passion to express my idea with the hope that maybe Jeff, the owner, would have a suggestion or be able to point me in another direction.  Instead, he looked at our design and agreed to build the first prototype.  Using scrap materials, Jeff built our animation station within our budget.  Over the next several weeks my dad and I worked to install all of the pieces of the station, fastening all of the various pieces I had collected.  Finally, a month and a half over my deadline, I had a prototype to deliver!  It wasn’t perfect and I could already see the flaws, but it was the start to a new future for the museum.  I couldn’t wait to deliver it and show the museum, not what I built, but what was possible with a lot of thought and determination.

Over the summer the prototype was put to the test and used by groups of children of all ages, families, and staff.  The flaws I saw in the beginning played out to be real problems and improvements needed in the design.  That’s the beauty of a prototype, I was able to take all of our ideas and put them to the test.  I witnessed as some features of the prototype were praised, while others received mediocre reviews, and other aspects failed completely.  And now it is with all of those observations and feedback from visitors and staff that I am back to the drawing board.

I am determined to see this project through to the end.  Not only because I want to see its completion, but also and more importantly because I believe in what it will enable.  Students from all over Northern California come to CCM to build their creative confidence and are given the freedom to express themselves.  Clay animation brings to life lessons in photosynthesis and astronomy, promotes reading comprehension in the works of Robinson Crusoe and Harry Potter, and brings to life historical tales such as Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.  Children are inspired to create with a medium that is inviting and playful in an atmosphere where failures are embraced as learning opportunities and constraints inspire creativity.

I am proud to be a part of CCM, where our philosophy of “having the freedom and courage to fail/take creative risks and the knowledge that all of the ideas you create have value” takes the forefront. Through our culture and mission, I developed my own creative confidence. I was able to take a creative risk and I hope to be able to inspire our visitors to do the same.

The Making of “Making Creativity”

by Eli Africa

On October 15, 2011 Zeum reopened as Children’s Creativity Museum. The museum staff and community undertook this creative risk fueled by our collective passion for the 3Cs of 21st-century skills – creativity, communication, and collaboration. Our former Director of Experience and Community Engagement, Irina Zadov, and I sat down and decided to produce a video that captured the behind-the-scenes thoughts of the Children’s Creativity Museum staff and community partners about the museum’s transformation. Keeping in mind the  museum’s motto “Imagine, Create, Share”, Irina came up with questions that we would later ask people to answer candidly in front of a video camera. Having archived media throughout the years for the museum and after the initial re-branding, it was a challenge for me to imagine how everything could come together to help tell the story of “Making Creativity”.

After a week of scheduled interviews, approximately two hours of
recorded footage were to be edited down to bite size essential nuggets. It was expected that there would be similar responses to the questions asked, so after listening to everyone’s answers, each individual voice was juxtaposed to weave in and out to create a singular story starting and finishing each person’s thoughts.

The creative process of making the “Making Creativity” video was such a rush of uncertainty and excitement. Asking the right questions were key to getting people to talk and think as a culture, as an organization and as individuals. As a collaborative story, it hopefully speaks as a living and growing testament to what can be done with limited time and resources when you nurture creativity and embrace it as your core.


The Most Useful Internship in the World (this is not sarcasm)

by Rachel Levinson
Education Intern

“The idea of being a teacher is that you’ve gotta pass it on. You learn something. You develop some insights. Your experience can be transmitted and that is the nature of civilization.”
– Milton Glaser

Let me start off by saying that I have a passion for education, art, and technology that built me into a strong enough candidate to score the opportunity to be an education intern this summer. The museum drew me in with their San Francisco vibe of forming an open creative community for visitors and staff alike. I am a local student majoring in Art History with a specific interest in museum educational programming. I think  that technology has a way of engaging visitors on a higher level than normal, even if said visitors aren’t as twitter-savvy as the high school tour group in the next gallery. It is hard to know where to start in educational programming, but the CCM internship program gives us the Intro 101 course.

Basically, we are tasked with the duty of creating workshops for visiting groups each week. A workshop is normally held in our Birthday Party room and is an activity that can easily be done within 30 minutes by someone five-years-old and under. Give them a coloring book, you say? Sure we could do that. But how is that activity engaging and challenging enough to push their creative ideas into a new realm? See, this is the programming that I vastly underestimated when I took this internship on.

I have never had to even think about writing a lesson plan before, especially with material and time limits. It is intimidating to tackle these workshops without any previous experience. I applied here in order to get a better grasp on these issues and I want to share some of the main obstacles we face weekly during workshop planning.

One of my favorite workshops (workshop being a group activities station for visiting summer campers 1st grade and under) would have to be the Animal Mix-up. The basic idea is to do a modified Exquisite Corpse by having the kids draw a full animal upon a template, then cut it up into three pieces, and lastly, tape three pieces together to make a new mixed-up animal. Our goal was to help kids focus on fully creating a single creature and then use the mix-up as a way to physically see the benefits of collaboration (even if the collaboration is not direct).

Even though every visitor had a blast drawing and mixing up their animals, there ended up being four distinct problems to our workshop:

  1. Trouble viewing project through to the end: Many times the visitors would not want to cut their animal up show it to others. They still wanted to make a mixed up creature, but did not enjoy the idea of trusting their group members to provide an awesome animal section. This could be attributed to age, but also has ties to the fact that our workshop has more parameters than normal. Throughout the weeks I’ve learned that the less steps in a workshop, the better.
  2. Overwhelmed/Intimidated: We thought that we had planned enough for this problem by doing “ten second animals” three times before introducing the project. Ten second animals is, for example, when you tell them to draw a Buffalo and then they only have ten seconds to achieve a doodle that looks like a Buffalo. It was helpful to show by example rather than sitting around waiting for them to become comfortable with an idea.
  3. Comprehension: It wasn’t too complicated of an idea (from our perspective) since the worksheets we handed out had predesignated thirds with guidelines on where to fit your animal. Wrong again! Drawing an animals body to fit certain points was a hard concept to grasp. Overall I learned, the more freedom with a project, the better.
  4. Organization from Staff: This one is completely on our side (as were the previous three). We had figured it would be easy to switch the heads, middles, and ends but not when the kids decided to switch all at once! This was more of a “Logistics with Children 101” moment that we learned from each time a new group came in.

I realize that some of this blog’s readers are educators and parents, so all of these revelations come to no surprise to you. I, on the other hand, have almost zero experience with educating children and have found each day spent at the CCM as an enormous learning experience. There have been learning moments in educational programming, interacting with visitors, logistics, and professionalism that I would be hard pressed to find in any other type of institution. I almost wish it would be mandatory for business majors to spend a summer doing this kind of work in the same way that I should spend a summer learning accounting as an art history major.

I am truly starting to appreciate not only the amount of work that the education staff does every day but also the work of every teacher/professor I’ve had before.  Basically, my point is that teaching anyone something takes a lot of effort that goes beyond the specific time you spend with them. As with everything, we get better when we learn from our mistakes and I cannot wait to see how my experience here will shape my projects in the future!

Summer Animation Camp

By Justin Gabaldon
Educator at CCM

Summer camp is upon us, and so far it has been an amazing success! We’ve just completed our first Three Day Animation Workshop and I’d like to share a little of what that was like.

We started camp by watching a clay animation classic: “Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers.” Since we’d all seen the film before, we took the opportunity to discuss the techniques used by professionals like Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit. After the film, we were all eager to get our hands on some clay and start animating. In the Animation Lab, our goal for the morning was to practice animating using a couple lumps of clay. Oddly enough, those lumps of clay started gaining personality—and would eventually become the stars of the show!

Our next stop was the Innovation Lab where we began dreaming up stories and building sets. We spent an hour drawing and laughing and building the silliest story we could think of. With our basic story in place, we moved on to set-building. Here at the Children’s Creativity Museum, we have so many bits and pieces of recycled material that once we decided that our story would take place in a cosmic cul-de-sac, we had no problem finding everything we would need to make a block of houses for our little clay creatures.

As the last activity of the day, we moved our production into the studio where we would spend the next two days.

We spent all of the second day animating our film. Obviously, we broke for some lunch, but the campers were so eager to tell their story that even during our break, we continued to discuss those details that weren’t quite clear yet. By the end of that day, we’d had fun animating but we were excited to move on to the next stage of the process.

On the third and final day of camp we still had one last scene to animate before we could begin recording sound. Once that scene was complete, we moved camp into our Children’s Creativity Theater (site of our summer Film Festival on August 19, where you’ll all get a chance to catch the terrific films our campers produce) to record dialogue and sound effects. We took turns individually recording voices for the characters we’d made. Then we all recorded sound effects together!

The third day was nearly done but we still had to combine the video we’d made with the audio recordings. Our Design Studio served as the editing room and screening room for the Grand Premiere! The campers made a quick round of the museum, collecting other visitors to attend their first film premiere. It was standing room only when the film began. We’ve included it here as well.  We hope you enjoy it.

We all learned a lot over the course of this three day camp.  As an educator, I was proud to watch as these students actively shared their ideas and learned to collaborate with one another on a project they cared about.  As an animator I was amazed to see these young artists create a film with dynamic characters that interacted with each other in a way that told a unique and interesting story.  I can’t wait to see what the next round of visitors create.

If you have a child who would be interested in creating their own animated film, we have three more camps scheduled this Summer.  The next one is coming up this Sunday. It’s a one day camp for visitors 6-8 years old. Then we have another three day camp starting August 15th through the 17th for visitors 9-12 years old.  Our final camp, on August 19th, is another one day event for 6-8 year olds. Later that evening we will be holding our big Film Festival where all the films made this Summer will be shown on the big screen!  For more information or to sign up you can visit our website at We hope to see you soon!

Click here to register