Published: May 25, 2010
to resist the curiosity within, several UT faculty members leaped
head-first into the web-like cage of steps that simulate the cycle of
water, in this case the path of leaves a raindrop uses to get from cloud
Glazer Children’s Museum President and CEO Al Najjar
gave education department assistant professors Patty O’Grady and Pattie
Johnston and Professor Hunter O’Hara a tour through the museum slated
to open Sept. 25.
“Everywhere the children go, they’ll be
educated without them knowing it,” O’Grady said. “That is key.”
streets and street lights, similar to the museum’s North Boulevard
precursor, Kid City/Safety Village. A kitchen will include international
play foods. There is a wind tunnel for testing paper airplanes. Six
reading libraries, a stage for theater productions, a Port of Tampa
mockup and art lab all focus on children birth to 10.
and O’Hara have been working on the museum’s education committee at
Najjar’s invitation. Najjar said 36 percent of the museum’s staff is
devoted to education.
In terms of assessing if children are
learning like planned, Najjar said the tools can be as fixed or casual.
Johnston, whose specialty is assessment, said the tools used will be
informal like observing children playing. Either way, Najjar said his
interest is what happens down the road.
“They are discovering on
their own, experiencing on their own,” Najjar said. “We want kids to
start discovering the unexpected. To look for solution in the ‘wrong’
places. It’s not about the exhibit. The ultimate exhibit is the child
O’Grady’s background in exceptional student education
made her a perfect fit for the museum’s disability taskforce and special
projects subcommittee, planning summer camps, parents’ night out and
impromptu exhibits. O’Hara is on the exhibit’s subcommittee, helping
with details like signage and the role of staff within the exhibits.
most powerful thing you can give a child of any age is relevance,”
O’Hara said. “All these exhibits are in their world. It’s very
Located across the river from UT at 110 W. Gasparilla
Plaza, the proximity to the University and the opportunities for
hands-on learning for its own students make the multi-million dollar
children’s museum a rich, creative, educational tool.
of the museum as an urban playground,” said O’Grady, who can picture her
students coming on Sunday morning when the museum will open only for
children with disabilities. “It becomes a learning lab for our students
with an infinite range of opportunities.”
outside the classroom benefits both children and young adults. It allows
for interpretive and improvisational education, encouraging them to be
fully engaged in their learning, O’Grady said. This is experiential learning
at its fullest definition.
And not just for education students.
O’Grady, O’Hara and Johnston see the opportunities for campus-wide
involvement. From nursing students leading health talks to chemistry
students demonstrating labs to film students engaging children with
video cameras, they see the possibilities as endless.
“This was a
chance for the education department to pioneer this
relationship,” O’Grady said.
“The most important thing is that
there is so much opportunity we can’t even imagine it all,” O’Hara said.
“By the end of the summer, a lot of us will have plans to be
over there,” Johnston said. “We’re so excited. We just want to go and do
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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