Teaching through Touch: The Connecticut Children's Museum
Imagine walking inside the great, green room in the beloved children's book "Goodnight Moon" where there is a telephone, a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon. A room complete with the famous "comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush," allowing you play by the fireplace, lie down in the bed or open a cabinet filled with clocks and wind them all up. Well, at the Connecticut Children's Museum in New Haven, you can.
The innovative museum created in 2001 was designed around Harvard psychologist Howard Garner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Each of the rooms is dedicated to one of the eight intelligences Garner theorized: Musical, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Bodily- Kinesthetic, Linguistic, and Naturalist.
Geared toward children ages 3 through 9, the museum integrates its comprehensive collection of 450 children’s picture books into each exhibit and uses books to anchor all of its events. The building itself has been designed with children with disabilities specifically in mind accommodating wheelchairs, and children with both visual and hearing impairments.
Housed in a historic building tucked in the cultural 'corridor' of the city's Town Green District, the museum is centrally located at the cross section of the New Haven Green, the downtown business area and the arts district of Audubon Street.
Visitors are welcomed by four life-size, two-dimensional metal sculptures of children frolicking right side up, upside down and in a wheelchair on the grassy lawn. Once inside, head through the foyer, turning right and proceeding up the stairs to one of the two floors of the Museum. Each landing offers a map directing visitors to each of the museum’s rooms. The maps are mounted in tactile and in Braille—a nod to the TEXTured Literacy Template the museum is based on.
Each room features a hands-on station where children can make something to take home as well as a quiet reading corner filled with books to enrich that particular exhibit. Once inside the rooms, you’ll find bold and vibrant illustrated murals, life-size touchable floor sculptures, musical instruments - like a wall-mounted saxophone mounted a child-height, or a wooden gear wall beckoning budding engineers.
The Spatial Room invites children to don construction hats and get to work planning cities complete with bridges and skyscrapers. The Interpersonal Room invites little guests to become postal workers and use a Perkins Braillewriter to write a letter, weigh it on a textured scale, and determine its destination with a tactile globe. Then inside the pint- sized post office, your child can mail his or her carefully crafted message in an authentic, wall-mounted metal mailbox.
Kids can listen to 10,000 buzzing honeybees in the beehive or use the super magnifiers to help them spy on the queen bee inside the Naturalist Room or play a game of Tic-Tac-Toe crafted from tree branches and wood slices.
Each week, the museum offers a new Creating Readers program on Saturdays at 2 p.m., where performers, artists, and educators visit the museum offering dramatic read-alouds for children. Through this literacy project, each child who visits the museum leaves with a book in either English, Spanish, or Braille.
The museum sponsors a TEXTured Literacy Project creating custom-made tactual TEXTured Story Kits for children who are blind or visually impaired that include a high-quality picture book, often transcribed in Braille, in addition to interactive objects and a custom-recorded CD with sound effects from the story.
The Children's Museum is open on Friday and Saturdays from 12 - 5 p.m.