Starting Strong is happy to partner with The Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine in this years’ Talking is Teaching campaign. Since 2017 Starting Strong has worked to increase the number of partners who engage as “trusted messengers” in our campaign. This year, we are excited to work with The Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine as they work to connect Talking is Teaching to programming they do in the community. Recently we spoke with Lucia Stancioff, Deputy Director, to learn more about her and this work.
First, tell us about what brought you to the Children’s Museum and Theater.
I started my professional career as a preschool teacher. I found my greatest joy was in setting up the classroom as a learning playspace, and then observing the children develop through play. I saw incredible growth in my students occur through what many called “just play,” from developing coping mechanisms to approaching a question with scientific inquiry. Most significantly, I saw language and literacy grow dramatically through story-based, collaborative play. I came to the Museum & Theater because the organization has had the best track record of providing Maine children safe play spaces which promote learning, and I wanted to be a part of that.
How did you hear about the Talking is Teaching campaign? And once you did, what about the campaign got you interested in becoming a partner?
We heard about Starting Strong’s Talking is Teaching program through a connection with United Way, and we knew we had to get connected! In 2008, the Children’s Museum of Maine merged with the Children’s Theater of Maine, becoming the organization we are today: Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine. That merger brought with it a wonderful focus on early literacy as we utilized theater as a tool for language learning (among many other things). We also had a partnership with Raising Readers at that time which focused on literacy in early childhood. As we looked to the community to grow our partnerships in the world of child development, we thought Talking is Teaching was a wonderful fit for our organization because the Museum & Theater serves both children and their adults. Talking is Teaching (as with so many terrific early childhood programs) focuses on providing caregivers with tools needed for language development with very young children. We love the playfulness of the program and the opportunities it affords parents and caregivers to promote learning through daily activities such as play, meal times, travelling, and bath time.
How will the Museum and Theater reach parents with the Talking is Teaching Kits? How many families will you be hoping for and can you share more about this program?
The Museum & Theater started using the kits as a way to supplement English language learning during our weekly speaking classes. Since Fall 2018, the Museum & Theater has offered language acquisition opportunities for parents and caregivers. Participants work with our ESOL teacher while the children play in the exhibits and engage in guided educational programming. Over 90% of participants elect to receive a Museum & Theater membership and visit outside of class time. The kits are a wonderful way to keep parents engaging with their babies and toddlers throughout the week. We especially love that Talking is Teaching is very welcoming to all languages and puts the importance on speaking and singing to children so children develop a home language. The classes themselves served over 30 families this year. We were able to give out 15 kits to babies and toddlers in attendance.
Unfortunately, just as we were gaining momentum with using the Talking is Teaching kit and resources in class, the Museum & Theater closed due to Coronavirus concerns. However, this allowed us to think creatively about how we could use Talking is Teaching content. Just two days after closure, Museum & Theater educators began sharing virtual programming online. One such program features a blue monster puppet named Sully. This spring, the Museum & Theater’s Education & Theater Director and Sully will be hosting an online puppet show using Talking is Teaching resources, especially the “Let’s Talking About…” poster series. ON rainy Saturday mornings at 10:30, Saturdays with Sully will air and the accompanying Talking is Teaching resource will be published alongside the show so that parents and caregivers can reference it and use the ideas with their own children. We feel so lucky to be able to take our partnership online in this way.
The Children’s Museum and Theater is moving in the near future to a new location. How is the process going? Any news that you would want to share about plans and details?
Despite significant operational changes due to our current temporary closure, we are happy to report that the construction project at Thompson’s Point continues on schedule with no significant changes, at least as we share this message. That is certainly keeping all of us positive! The structural steel frame is up, and steel decking and concrete slabs have been installed on the 2nd and 3rd floors and the roof. The elevator shaft has been built, first floor underground plumbing and electrical wiring has been installed and back-filled, and the sub-grade foundation for our new theater area has been set. Over the next month, the framing will begin to fill in and wall systems will start going up. Our capital campaign has raised an incredible $12.7 million. With the benefit of the community’s amazing contributions, we are in a strong position to continue moving forward.