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Helena Wright
Jul 27, 2020
In Research Reports
In my research to understand Canadian children’s literature, I learned that Canada only recently began to produce Canadian published literature in the late 20th century. Most of the stories written about Canada during the Victoria period were written by visitors who were traveling and visiting Canada. It was during this time that the image of the Canadian landscape became wildly known as being challenging, daunting, and dangerous. The Canadian landscape is quite different in comparison to the English countryside that is often referenced in literature. The pastoral and greenspace areas hold different meanings and connotations between either country. Canada’s diverse terrain and change in temperature had defined it as rigorous, raw, and only for the most skilled explorers. Whereas, the English countryside is seen as being peaceful, restful, and quiet. However, Canada’s adventure stories were unique as they heavily drew from the Indigenous ways of life. The Indigenous people navigated the mountains, ice, and water by being connected to nature. The concept of the “Canadian explorer” has drawn from many Indigenous skills of how to work the land and survive. The Canadian adventure did not mean battling against the struggles of mother nature but embracing the challenges and becoming attuned to the environment. The foundation of Canadian literature is deeply influenced by the geographical landscape of the country, and its relationship with the Indigenous peoples.
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Helena Wright
Jul 27, 2020
In Research Reports
Quinten and I have been researching the use of green spaces and urbanity in Canadian children’s literature. My current research is concerned with finding primary sources that use green spaces such as gardens, the countryside, fields, and forests as the setting for the plot. I found that most of my research had led me to Indigenous picture books because the indigenous culture inherently values animals, plant life, and nature. Throughout all the Indigenous picture books, the earth and the landscape have a symbolic significance of their cultural beliefs. There are many illustrated books on the Northern Territories, and the Arctic, which are written in various indigenous languages, such as Cree, Inuit, and Metis. For the most part, these stories are adaptations of the oral storytelling narratives that are traditionally shared generationally within Indigenous communities. Therefore, they heavily emphasize the desire for family, respect for the land, and the virtue of moral integrity. In the trilogy, My Arctic series written by Michael Kusugak, the main character Agatha is a young Inuit girl, and her experiences told in the books are heavily based on the experiences of Kusugak in the 1950s. Agatha shares the stories her grandmother told her about the raven, the experience she had going away to an English school, and the time when she saw an evil aircraft fly over her village. The narrative is a retelling of an indigenous child’s perspective during the Canadian industrial revolution. Kusugak reimagines the stories by empowering the young girl as being heroic, brave, and nurturing. The picture book series takes on a post-colonial perspective by giving a voice to the indigenous people and land that had been colonized.
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Helena Wright
Feb 18, 2020
In Research Reports
On December 16th the research team and I had made our way over to the Square one Dr. Seuss exhibit in Mississauga. My initial impressions of the exhibit were from the vast amount of advertising that was posted all over social media and the internet. Blogging sites were strongly advocating of the exhibit's Instagram worthiness, drawing similarities to the Happy Place and This is Eye Candy. Toronto has been getting pop-up spaces that are designed and created for the Instagram experience and social media feeds. As far as Instagram's worthiness is concerned, the Dr. Seuss exhibit did have lines and a waiting period so that personal photos were not overcrowded with people. The experience was undoubtedly set up as a ploy for picture-taking, but it did offer some fun and interacting activities for children. There was a maze of fixed colored spheres to look like balloons that would navigate the large space, and direct the spectators through the various rooms. The exhibit had different spaces that related to Seuss’s stories, like The Cat in the Hat, The Sneetches, The Lorax, and How the Grinch stole Christmas. The rooms had toys, games, carousels, and swings for kids (and adults) to play with. This included air pipes that allowed for objects and balls to circulated and be launched into the air. The Grinch room did offer the fun activity of fishing for presents with magnetic rods, with a festive ambiance from the strings of Christmas lights. One of my biggest criticism of the exhibit was that the writing from the books was often out of sight for the kids, and books were not a part of the rooms. I think that the exhibit would have benefited by integrating more of Seuss’s writing. The Lorax room did have pips that had an audio recording of some of the verses from the book that kids could listen too, which I thought was a fun way to incorporate some of the poetry. Despite the non-educational scope of the exhibit, I did find it to be fun, entertaining, and very Instagramable.
The Dr. Seuss Exhibit  content media
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Helena Wright
Aug 20, 2019
In Research Reports
It has not been uncommon in my research to find museums that make exhibits about different countries, particularly popular parts of Europe and Asia. However, I have yet to discover anything that is related to Africa or African countries - until I reached the Sankofa children’s museum. This museum is in Baltimore, Maryland and it has a project that is run by a woman called Esther K. Armstrong who works to encourage a welcoming and appreciative love of other cultures. She is a Ghanaian born citizen of the US and has lived in Maryland for 30 years. She first started experimenting with Black History Month by bringing Africa to groups of young people in elementary schools and she was met with so much positive feedback she decided to run her own museum. Students and teachers can learn about the past and present African cultures and the different aspects of their cultures, such as musical instruments, dressing up, tribal art, personal artistry and oral storytelling. The museum was built around four different regions of the continent of Africa; North, South, East, and West and explore the different countries and the varying environments and lifestyles. It explores the different ethnicities and cultures of the areas and different kinds of interactive arts that encompass this part of the world. This exposure to other cultures, that are non-Western can create a more accepting and diversified atmosphere, as well as foster an interest into other cultures.
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Helena Wright
Aug 20, 2019
In Research Reports
Something interesting that I have found is the attention to detail concerning safety and emergency practices for young children. The Bayou County Children’s Museum has an exhibit that directly focuses on the education of safety practice through narrative and storytelling for children between the ages of 2-5. They have weather safety that shows children the kind of kit and accessories needed for storms and other weather-related emergencies. They also teach children how to deal with a fire in an emergency, beyond the stop, drop and roll – they are taught how to plan to exit a smoke-filled room, particularity while they’re sleeping. They also go over dog bite prevention and the steps needed to be taken when being approached by an animal. Additionally, children go over firework safety where they learn how to use sparklers and lighters responsibly and what they should do if their clothes were to every get caught on fire. These are all extensive safety practices that are being taught to very young children. It is often assumed that children that young are incapable of understanding challenging emergency situations or that children will always have an adult around in the case that it might occur. It is enlightening to see that parents and adults are giving their children lifesaving skills and knowledge, despite the challenge of maturity and comprehension. It's better to learn emergency procedures and never use them, than to be in an emergency and not know the procedures!
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Helena Wright
Aug 20, 2019
In Research Reports
Many museums are engaging children in geography through new technology that can landscape the topography of a sandbox. This is a new advancement in interactive play that uses sensor and light to materialize visuals onto raw material, making it a highly advanced form of interactive play. The Lawrence Hall of Science has an exhibit called Augmented Reality Sandbox which projects different colored bands that show the varying levels of sand in the box. These bands act as indicators to the depth of the sandbox as it would if one was looking at a map with mountains. This develops and understanding to complex and abstract depth and level perception. These projections change as the children shift the sand in the box. Water can also be added, and the visual representation of stream will appear as the children add different bodies and movements of water. This is integrated into the fluidity of the sand and it teaches children how water moves across earths surfaces and its effects on the ecosystems. Through the demonstrations of valleys, mountains and plateaus children can learn about the results of rain and water conservation. As well as why conserving water is so important in relation to different environments and areas of the world.
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Helena Wright
Jul 15, 2019
In Research Reports
Many children’s museums are using textile and sensory experiences for young children between the ages of 4-9. The Children’s Museum of Phoenix has an exhibit called BlockMania that has various different kinds of blocks with different colors, sizes, materials, and textures. The raw material helps children develop abstract thinking and can help teach spatial awareness through building and balancing. They also offer another exhibit called Noodle Forest that is an immersive sensory experience with dozens of vertically standing noodles. There is a large emphasis on hands-on learning to teach children new skills and coordination. The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County also has an exhibit for young learners called the Dynamic Sensory Bin that is filled with sand and magnets and it is used to learn about different tools, funnels, and shovels for stimulating play. It also includes images and graphics next to the station so that children can have a visual representation of how much it takes to fill up a cup.
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Helena Wright
Jul 15, 2019
In Research Reports
Many of the children’s museums have exhibits that detail and explain the surrounding ecosystems of their environment. The Children’s Museum of the Shoals in Alabama has an exhibit called the Singing River that is a replica of the river passing through that area. The makeshift river is detailed with plant life and has running water that flows from one end of the garden to the other. It allows children to learn about fossils and mussels as well as the animals that habitat near the river. The Museum of Discovery in Arkansas also has an exhibit called Earth Journeys where children can explore the creation and formation of different weather patterns. Arkansas is known for its tornadoes and this exhibit is specially set up to explain how they manifest with the use of a demonstrative miniature tornado replica. This is inclusive of tornado safety, which teaches children the safety procedures in case a weather warning is dispatched. They also have a Tornado Alley Theater which gives museum visitors a seven-minute demo of the tornado that went through downtown Little Rock in January 1999. The tornado ripped through the town and destroyed many of the buildings and houses. It also killed three people while injuring many others. The theater plays TV footage as well as the testimonies of citizens that survived the attack and were greatly impacted by its harm.
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Helena Wright
Jul 15, 2019
In Research Reports
I am currently working on sorting through and re-categorizing the previous literature review concerning children’s museums in Canada. This is inclusive of permanent galleries throughout the provinces as well as temporary/changing exhibits that have been put on display through the museums. They are alphabetically categorized by province and I am making the addition of any recent and new exhibits that have been installed. I am continuing the research beyond Canada and extending our exploration into other countries. A museum in Alabama named the Children’s Hands-On Museum of Tuscaloosa is paying tribute to the Indigenous land native to that location through an interactive exhibit called the Choctaw Indian Village. Children can explore some of the cultural practices known to the indigenous peoples, such as playing with animal furs, making shell necklaces and learning how to do pottery. Children also have the opportunity to learn how to read the hieroglyphics of a pictographic map, which is a different form of writing that uses symbols to convey meaning. This allows children to foster respect and interest surrounding Native cultures and practices. The museum also teaches patrons how to speak a little bit of Choctaw and encourages visitors to practice basic phrases. The Children’s Museum of the Shoals also has a similar exhibit called Tribal Trails that shows that the Chickasaws and Cherokees were the first tribes to claim land in the Muscle Shoals region. Children can also dress up in Native American attire and partake in imaginary role play.
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Helena Wright
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