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Children's Museums

Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose

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By Linda K. Foster

I can't think of a better way for children of all ages to discover the world they live in than through hands-on, interactive exploration, and the Children's Discovery Museum offers just that. The Children’s Discovery Museum boasts a reputation as a “cornerstone facility for interactive learning for schools and families throughout the Bay Area” and has been named one of the top ten children’s museums in the nation by Child Magazine. Since it first opened in June, 1990, the Museum has become a center for learning and discovery for children, families and schools. The educational mission of the Museum encompasses the themes of Connections, Community and Creativity. As noted on the Museum website, the “…exhibit philosophy is rooted in its mission and responds to the distinctive need for children to learn through concrete interactions—touching, exploring, manipulating and experimenting.” In seeking to accomplish its mission, the Museum offers 150 interactive exhibits geared towards discoveries about self, friends and the world.

Children's Discovery Museum, San Jose
Click to visit the Children's Discovery
Museum's web site

Two of the newest exhibits showcased at the Children’s Discovery Museum are Dragons and Fairies: Exploring Vietnam Through Folktales and Secrets of Circles. Dragons and Fairies will be presented between October 21st and January 15th and is a perfect interweave of ancient stories and aspects of modern life in Viet Nam. It was created by the Children’s Museum of Houston as part of the Freeman Foundation Asian Exhibit Initiative with the belief that the best way to convey cultural information is through interactive activities and exhibits that “stimulate curiosity and motivate learning.”  Visitors to this exhibit will experience multi-media presentations of popular Vietnamese folktales through which they will discover traits shared with Vietnamese children as well as traits unique to the cultures. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the world of Vietnamese children through such activities as dance, games and dressing in traditional masks and clothing, and will surely come away from the exhibit with a much richer appreciation for the Vietnamese culture.

Secrets of Circles is the newest traveling exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum and is a work in progress comprised of a multitude of mini-exhibits all geared towards the celebration of the math, science and beauty of the circle. Circles are everywhere and the Secrets of Circles exhibit provides an opportunity for visitors to uncover the secrets of circles in nature, machines, art, cultures, etc. through a variety of hands-on activities. Just two of the many exciting and visually appealing mini-exhibits within Secrets of Circles are Circles of Light and Kaleidoscope. In Circles of Light, lights are placed on turntables and set spinning. A camera then catches the motion of the spinning lights and displays the circular images for all to see. In Kaleidoscope, visitors use mirrors to experiment with color and circular symmetry, often with spectacular and unexpected results.

For the much younger visitor, the The Wonder Cabinet is 3,000 square feet of sensory stimulating areas as the Woodland Puppet Forest, Giant Dragon, Sand Science Laboratory, Crawl-Through Tunnel, and more. These mini-exhibits found within The Wonder Cabinet, were designed specifically to allow infants, toddlers and preschoolers to "build, touch, create, listen, look, pretend, and laugh" as they discover new shape, sounds, and colors.

In addition to exhibits, the Museum offers parent/child workshops and youth programs and has both an indoor theater and an outdoor amphitheater for theatrical productions, dance, mime, arts, etc. The Museum has something for everyone and the ever-changing exhibits and activities make return visits just as exciting and stimulating as initial visits.

For additional information about the Children's Discovery Museum, please visit their website at Of special benefit to teachers visiting the site are the "connections" boxes on the upper right-hand corner of the pages. Links from these boxes will offer teachers some great pre- or post-museum visit projects as well as an exciting variety of online interactive activities. L.K.F.

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