ACM Interactivity 2016 Notes: Collective Impact
Just came back from the Association of Children’s Museum (ACM) annual conference — always a highlight of the conference year for me, the main national gathering of children’s museums. The overarching theme: creating “collective impact” through museums. Here are a few quick notes — when I have time, I’ll double back and write more extended posts on some of these:
- Activist Orientation: ACM is positioning children’s museums as activists on behalf of children — in particular focusing on narrowing the achievement gap among children (news story here).
- Collective Impact: Keynote address by Jeff Edmondson, director of StriveTogether, a “cradle to career” organization created to have collective impact in communities. A key image in my mind: collective impact is different than “collaboration” — it involves focus on a larger community vision that organizations rally around. (Reminds me of the groundbreaking Charm Bracelet Project).
- A focus on social emotional learning. Many museums, especially science museums, have been focusing on STEM learning — important work. But focus on social emotional learning has been undervalued (and under-developed I think) in our society.
- Messaging in commercial environments. Interesting to hear about the Daily Vroom project and Children’s Museum of Denver’s collaboration getting messages about early childhood brain development on products used at bath time in the home, for example. There’s an additional tie-in now with Mind in the Making, training staff at museums on approaches to parents on development of early learning skills among children.
- Messaging in grocery stores. In a total diversion from the conference, enjoyed visiting the local Stew Leonard’s grocery store, complete with animatronic singing vegetables, and a visible milk production bottling plant. This raised a thought for me: what other ways might grocery stores become partners for a contemporary program on social emotional learning for families? A sign I read at KidCity Museum points to an approach: “Thank your farmers…thank your food.” What if going to the grocery store became a moment for thankfulness and appreciation? How might we use museum and media techniques to encourage this? (More ideas coming here…)
- Messaging at festivals and events. Stepping Stones Museum threw a great event (aka, party) for us, and combined it with a community festival focusing on family learning through movement, technology, and activity. A noteworthy highlight: a huge line of people waiting to go into the animal rescue truck — a moment of empathy and social emotional learning.
- Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone gave an inspiring talk after receiving the Great Friend to Kids award, tying back to the theme of collective vision and narrowing the achievement gap through community approaches. I liked his emphasis on “making education meaningful and joyful.”
- KidCity Museum. I enjoyed a stop on the drive back at KidCity Museum in Middletown, CT. What a great environment for what founder/director Jennifer Alexander calls “narrative imagination play.” The one-of-a-kind environments are created by a local team that has been jamming together (I’m thinking of them as jazz artists for environments) for years, creating spaces like “Middleshire”, “Space Age Road Trip”, and “Toddler Sea Caves”.
Cloudy skies and rainy days were good for the tulips
Long line the Stepping Stones festival for the empathy-focused visit with animals
Talking cow at Stew Leonards’ grocery shows messaging potentials beyond the museum
Our new booth backdrop with projection announcing our “StorySpaces” initiative
KidCity Museum “Montshire” exhibit
KidCity Museum Montshire panorama (click to enlarge)