Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Lexicon at the Discovery Museums, Acton
The Acton Discovery Museums consist of a children's museum and a science museum tucked away off the main street of one of Boston's western suburbs. Sunday my team and the wonderful museum staff held a Lexicon Villages event there, with village stations scattered throughout the museum. At the door, Mr. Frank Lee Officious greeted visitors and gave them travel guides and pencils. Then he encouraged them to think of synonyms for Emily the Thesaurus. When they fed her he gave them Emily wristbands. Next the Mistress of Metaphor asked them to come up with metaphors to stir into her pot.
Upstairs, visitors found some math stations. In one they could measure and calculate pi; in another they used non-standard measures like paper clips to measure a book. They also had the chance to compare their stride lengths as they strode from one wall of the museum to another. Integrated into museum displays were two more stations where they could work on Tangram challenges or practice completing a maze while looking at it only in a mirror.
In a side room, my nephew Mat, a museum employee, and I staffed three word stations. In one, visitors constructed new words from Greek and Latin roots. In another, they formed flowers (sentences) from different colored petals (parts of speech). In the final station, they rescued words that had been discarded in Lexicon's village of Brevity. Visitors decorated the words - words like conflagration, iridescent, and rebellion - and carried them off to safety.
Two things were really fun about this event. First, the setting was great. The Science Discovery Museum isn't large, but every wall, corner, and staircase is crammed with objects for kids to explore, from the plumbing wall where you can direct water flow to the mist tornado to every kind of noise-making (musical?) instrument to hanging spheres that smash together to demonstrate conservation of momentum. Second, it's fun to see kids and parents interact over the Lexicon activities, which we can adapt on the spot to different ages.
Each time I hold one of these events, the volunteers come up with new twists and improvements, such as little signs describing the parts of speech or a chart made up of ribbon lengths visitors had cut for the diameters and circumferences of round objects they had measured. Eventually (soon) I'm going to be able to put the entire event guide up on the Lexicon website for anyone to see. That way schools or book clubs could either run their own event or know what they're getting into if they ask me to do so, and I'll know more kids and parents are playing together with words and numbers.