Family Programs Year in Review

It’s no secret that I love my job, both the public part (putting on fun and educational programs) and the behind-the-scenes planning and organising (spreadsheets!).  This, of course, is not unique at the museum where everyone is very dedicated and passionate about their jobs. So, it’s not surprising that when I look back at 2010 that my main reflection is how much fun I have doing my job.

In reflecting on my year, however, I find that I am a little bit surprised at the sheer volume of fun that I had with our family programs. When I first started doing the Saturday at 1 program, and other assorted family programs (some special summer programs, family activities on community days etc.), my goal was to create hands-on programs that were educational and entertaining for the families who attend the program.  It was easy to create a list of the different historical topics I was interested in covering in the programs for the year.  It is the many different ways that we can approach the topics, and the many different kinds of interactive activities that we can create around each topic, that are the constant sources of surprise and joy for me at work.  In fact, I even find myself  thinking about family programs in my free time – talking to vendors at craft fairs about heritage arts, picking the brains of my friends and family, and exploring hobby and craft stores in every city I visit. 

Over the two-week winter school break I brought back ten of my favorite family programs from 2010.  It was a neat opportunity for me to reflect on the programs we offer for families, and to start planning in earnest for 2011.  These family programs are intended to take historical and cultural themes linked to our exhibits and bring them to life through an interactive program. We try to make the family programs inclusive for families with kids of different ages - usually approximately 3 years old up to about 12 years old. The parents or guardians attend with the children and they work together to complete the activities. Some of the activities are craft or project based, and some of the activities are interactive but not crafts – such as our history detective activity, or the lizards and things program:


Another program that we brought back over the holiday was the Napi Story Puppet program.  This program was originally brought together by Tanya Harnett and Doreen Williams-Freeman.  Over the break, we re-ran the program with Blanche Bruised Head, a Blackfoot interpreter from the museum, and with the help of some volunteers.  The idea behind this program is to learn about Blackfoot culture and heritage through stories about Napi, a Blackfoot trickster character.  These stories, passed down orally from generation to generation, teach life lessons through Napi’s misadventures.  In this program Blanche shared Napi stories with the families:


The children attending the program made puppets of different characters featured in the stories.  Here are three gophers from the Napi and the Gophers story: 


This program was originally done during the Blackfoot Shirts Exhibit, however, it also links to our permanent exhibit on southern Alberta history.

Our fossil casting program was another popular program in 2010 so we brought it back over the break. This program is so messy that after each of the three times we've offered it before I've vowed that I won't offer it again.  It is, however, ultimately too much fun (and educational) to let a little mess get in the way. So, I expect that it's only a brief matter of time before we are doing fossil or hand casting again. This program was originally linked to our Dinosaurs and Company Exhibit. Although we are typically a human history museum, in winter 2009-2010 we had a special exhibit on dinosaurs, and the other animals who lived at the time of the dinosaurs, which opened up a whole bunch of fun new programming opportunities for us. The fossil casting program includes searching for micro fossils, learning about the reasons scientists create fossil casts (display, education, etc.), and creating a fossil cast of your own: 

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Our final program over the break was a group of New Year's celebration crafts.  This program, because it speaks to the multi-cultural heritage of the people of southern Alberta, links to our permanent gallery at the museum.  Parts of this program, learning about winter festivals of light around the world, were originally offered earlier this month and in December 2009.  We learned about how people from different cultures celebrate the new year in their culture.  Here families are preparing paper carnation garlands which are used to decorate for Diwali:  

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and displaying their garlands:

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This series of favorite programs has left me energised to complete my planning for 2011. I’m finishing up the details for the spring programs and pulling together ideas for topics for our summer and fall programs and really looking forward to the year to come.