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Takin' It To The Streets 

For many people, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a hub of excitement and discovery. Kids and adults alike are granted a passport to a world of knowledge through interactive activities, special events, theater presentations and storytelling. Open since 1925, It has entertained and educated countless visitors, both at the museum and through several of its outreach programs.

Family Outreach Nights are a way for schools to host "a family night based on museum content," says Melissa Trumpey, director of Public Events and Family Programs for the museum. The eight topics currently available to schools are:

  • Puzzling Dinosaurs

  • The Wonderful World of Water

  • Take Me There: China

  • National Geographic Treasure of the Earth

  • Fit Minds, Healthy Bodies

  • Take Action: Make a Difference Today

  • Flight Adventures

  • Studio of Colors

This is the only American stop for the Terra Cotta warriors this year. - COURTESY OF THE CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF INDIANAPOLIS
  • Courtesy of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
  • This is the only American stop for the Terra Cotta warriors this year.

Treasure of the Earth, the National Geographic outreach program, is split into three sections, giving students the chance to explore a shipwreck near the coast of the Dominican Republic, tombs in ancient Egypt, and the Terra Cotta Warriors built to protect China's first emperor in the afterlife.

Information levels range from kindergarten to fifth grade and, Trumpey continues, are "our chance to take the museum out into the community and to schools who may not be able to come here for a field trip." Museum officials invite in different educators to work with kids on a daily basis.

Its outreach programs are also a way for the museum to collaborate with local creatives like ceramic artist Barbara Zech, who works on programming for families, homeschoolers and teachers. Zech has also worked with kids in the museum's afterschool program and the teen volunteer program on projects such as molding terra cotta warriors.

She says, "The Terra Cotta Warriors are a great topic for me; as a contemporary ceramic artist; I use terra cotta clay in my artwork." She brings the clay to the museum, teaches workshops and then takes the projects back to her studio to fire in her kiln. "We discuss how the clay was dug from the earth when the warriors were made, how it was fired in pits with wood, and how that differs from the clay and electric kilns we use today," she explains.

Zech's work as a visiting artist is to tie into educational themes through hands-on art projects. Children's Museum staff present a theme and then Zech (and others like her in the outreach program) designs an age-appropriate lesson plan for each group of students. She strives to "give the students an even more in-depth understanding of history, geography and culture, in addition to learning how to shape something by hand."

When education is done right -- when a lesson has been fun, collaborative and meaningful -- chances are good it will linger in the memory long after the lesson plan has been recycled. - COURTESY OF THE CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF INDIANAPOLIS
  • Courtesy of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
  • When education is done right -- when a lesson has been fun, collaborative and meaningful -- chances are good it will linger in the memory long after the lesson plan has been recycled.

Her current outreach program is more than just a little clay sculpting. Zech has participants looking at details on the garb worn by each Terra Cotta Warrior, the patterns of their clothing, and the poses in which they stood. A longtime consultant for the museum, she knows the programs and the detailed information they provide are beneficial: "I've seen some of these students grow into smart, responsible teenagers because of their immersion in the museum programs. They've gained a broader perspective of the world," she says.

Outreach programs are a great way to bring museum content to individuals and families who might not get a chance to experience special and permanent exhibits at the museum. The Terra Cotta Warriors are especially important as part of the Treasure of the Earth exhibit; they're only on display until Nov. 2. Additionally, The Children's Museum is the only stateside stop the exhibit is making this year.

When education is done right -- when a lesson has been fun, collaborative and meaningful -- chances are good it will linger in the memory long after the lesson plan has been recycled. May today's museum visitors and outreach program participants become tomorrow's artists and scientists, all connected by that one experience that lit a spark to just keep going.

For more information about The Children's Museum of Indianapolis and its variety of programs, visit http://www.childrensmuseum.org.

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About The Author

Chi Sherman

Chi Sherman

Bio:
Chi Sherman enjoys writing essays and poetry, being a documentary nerd, and hanging out with her family and friends. Her work has appeared in NUVO, The Huffington Post, and, sporadically, on her blog.

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