Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fish Stew

We're making new fish out of the same stuff that Nerf Footballs are made from -- squishy, but hopefully durable!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lizards in Kidcity? Yech!

Okay, they aren't real lizards. Ted Esselstyn is repainting the creatures that serve as the saddles on our Rainstick See-Saw. He notes that when the Musical Planet was built, we had help from Jeff Aten, who built the saddle to the North (pictured here) and he built the southern one.
To my eye, they're both wild! As soon as the paint's dry, we'll open the room back up and see how they ride.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kidcity Report Card

Here's a copy of our "Kidcity Report Card" that we occasionally ask visitors to fill out.  I'm posting it for other children's museums who are looking for "feedback" tools (we print it on oaktag-style paper, so it looks like an old-time report card).   We hand it out with a golf pencil when families enter the museum, and they usually drop it off before they leave.

By the way, if there are any Kidcity visitors who would like to print it out and send it to us (or just answer the questions in an email to us) that would be great!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Before & After Musical Planet

Here's a BEFORE shot:

Musical Planet with carpeting

And here's an AFTER shot:

That's a patch of sunlight on the new (old) floor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kids at Work

The new fish conveyor is up and running!  And Kidcity has a new camera, so I took this shot, but somehow I'm stuck on some kind of adjusted color -- yes the Fishery room is rather gray, but not this gray!  I'll have to get my kids to show me how to work the camera...

We think this section of the room is going to get lots more play, just with the simple addition of a bucket at the end of the "toddler conveyors".  Without that bucket, they just didn't have a destination for the fish, and kids would lose interest.  Now, it's an assembly line!  That kid in the middle is working so fast, it's just a blur.

(Thanks to the moms who let me snap their kids in this shot! Love those matching outfits!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ode to an Auger

We've known this day was coming, but it is still kind of sad.  

When we opened the Fishery last September, one of our favorite parts was the giant steel screw conveyor* that cranked the fish up to the ceiling, only to drop them down various chutes back to ground level -- we called this "The Auger".  After a few months, it began to stick, and the fish would jam, and the auger would lock up until Matt came along to un-stick it.  And more recently, it's been stuck more often than not, and (in spite of a few rounds of re-design) we've been forced to accept the fact that unless we want our visitors to be frustrated by a piece of broken equipment (we don't!), we have to come up with another solution.
So we're replacing the auger with a new slot conveyor, but we're keeping the horizontal crank, in case someone in a wheelchair comes along (from a chair, this is an easier motion than the vertical crank-wheels on the other conveyors...on the other hand, the horizontal one is pretty tough for toddlers, so we've got both kinds.)

We think this replacement is for the best, but we will really miss the Auger.  So I'd like to request a moment of silence for the Fishery Auger, born in the dog days of July 2007, which served faithfully through 9 months of hauling fish -- red, yellow and blue -- to their destination.  

* footnote:
As a children's museum director, I would be remiss if I did not inform you that the Auger was actually an archimedes screw and you can learn more about it all over the web.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kidcity on TV!

Mike Hydeck from the morning news at WFSB came to Kidcity with his wife and toddler. It was part of his series on "Family Fun for under $100". Here's the link:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Musical Planet Redux

I love the Musical Planet room, but can't help the feeling that it has gotten a little tired, and so we've targeted it for a little spruce-up.

Matt ripped out the carpet this week, and we're experimenting with staining the mismatched flooring we found underneath (3 kinds of wood!  Maple, Fir and Pine!).  It's really weird how the carpet made the room look bigger -- it now has a more intimate feel.  And the bare floor gives us a place to do a little fun faux-painting if we get around to it.  Also, a mundane little detail is that problems with our HVAC system seem to have made this room sort of musty -- we're hoping that getting rid of the carpet will help with that.  

Regular visitors know that we rebuilt the whole slide mountain in 2007.  We wanted a lower slide that wasn't quite so steep, since most of our visitors are tiny.  It took two tries, but I think the current design works great. Someday, we'd like to get around to replacing the pump pipe organ that used to be under the mountain.  And then we should invent something for the area behind the ropebridge that would fit with the room's theme, which -- if you didn't know -- is "World Music Instruments Re-interpreted as Playground Equipment".

The urge to spruce up this room came when I stumbled across this photo on the internet, by a Kidcity visitor who also happens to be a great Flickr photographer:  Lizzart?  When I saw this close-up of the saddle on the see-saw, I thought:  geez, we need to get in there and do some touch-up painting!  So I called Ted Esselstyn, the amazing artist who worked with me on our early exhibits, and he's going to stop in some time this summer to brighten these creatures up a bit!  By the way, you can see more about Ted's career in making lots of Connecticut places more funky at his website.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tiny New Exhibit in Development

For a couple of months, we've been thinking about what to do with the empty space near the first floor elevator (behind the green wall).  These ideas always change a lot on the way to becoming a play area, but right now, we are thinking about a Toolshed theme, where kids could pretend that they were building stuff.  Today we chalked out a possible room layout (it's only about 175 sq. ft.) with different counters for kids to work on.

What goes on in a pretend toolshed?   We're not quite sure!  Our rough idea right now is lots of small but uniform chunks of rubber that the kids could do stuff with -- and stations with various machines or activities.  Scott is thinking foot-powered polishing wheel, and Matt is leaning towards simple machines (like levers) and the kinds of things he has in his real workshop.  I'm thinking about how kids like to have an impact on the things they are working on (maybe that means that the blocks have holes and can be attached somehow) mixed in with real stuff like scales and measuring tapes.  I'm also thinking about lots of seating for grownups, right in the middle of the action, which is something I think we missed with the Fishery (we see a lot of grownups in there standing up for a long time, shifting around uncomfortably...ouch!).

It's a pretty small area but we'll try to create something fun there!  Just thought you'd like to know that we've started on something...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spring Cleaning at Kidcity!

We've had fun in the last few weeks sprucing up around here. Favorite bits: the bicycle planted in the garden and the new floor in the elevator! BTW, creating our own elevator floor was really fun! Matt bought a piece of sheet lineoleum at a certain un-named Big Box store and flipped it over to work on the rough side. Then he cut it to shape and painted right on the lineoleum and installed.

He says his feet are still purple a week later!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Grant from Aetna!

How can we make hand-washing fun, and in fact, irresistable?! We all know that 20 seconds of sudsing up is the best protection from germs in public places, but how often do we (or our kids) do it? We are designing a hand-washing station that will hopefully be SO MUCH FUN that kids and grownups will want to stop and scrub before they play at Kidcity. This may take a while, but we wrote a grant in January and just received word that Aetna is giving us $15,000 to get us started on this project. Our current plan is to create a hand-washing station in the lobby area, by shrinking the staff closet (near the pink flying saucer.) What will it look like? Well, that's a secret, but the current theme is "Coney Island meets Rube Goldberg."