Tag Archives: DC Weekend Activities

Family Programs at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

An infant class recreates a landscape at the National Gallery of Art during a class on water

An infant class recreates a landscape at the National Gallery of Art during a class on water


[Note: This is a sponsored post contributed by Cynthia Raso of SEEC.]


Nestled inside the National Museum of Natural History and American History is a little known secret — the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), a school serving infants through kindergartners. Nearly 30 years ago, our founding director recognized the profound importance of a child’s early years and the benefits of learning in museums and the community. Today, it has evolved into a school that provides educational opportunities for children and adults, integrating innovative learning methods tailored to each learner.

“How do I enroll?” is a question staff hears a lot. Parents are encouraged to peruse the many options available. Responding to the high demand after years of limited space, SEEC recently began offering more and more classes beyond its full-time school. We now have weekend programs for children up to 3rd grade and a part-time program for families with children aged 18 – 24 months, the Smithsonian Early Explorers.

While our family workshop team is committed to high standards, they also know that these programs are about family, spending time together, and having fun. When you first arrive at a workshop, the classroom is set-up with several play options — play is learning for young children, and this free time is also a great opportunity for families to get to know each other. For the first half hour, participants move about the room while the children choose what most interests them. Each activity is carefully selected to introduce a concept and support developmental growth. Descriptive signs guide parents in how to encourage and engage with their child, ideas we hope they can take home and integrate into their daily routine.

A sensory table for infants during a recent class on birds

A sensory table for infants during a recent class on birds

Toddler practices fine motor skills while creating a pipe cleaner sculpture

Toddler practices fine motor skills while creating a pipe cleaner sculpture

After playing, we head into morning meeting. Different for each age group, they can include hands-on objects, experiments, interactive songs and books, and opportunities to wonder. From there, we often get together as a group for some art and a snack.

Two-year-olds imagine what it would be like to swing like monkeys from trees

Two-year-olds imagine what it would be like to swing like monkeys from trees

Toddlers get ready to see how powdered pigment can turn into paint using oil

Toddlers get ready to see how powdered pigment can turn into paint using oil

Next, we head out to a museum! These visits connect children to objects, literally bringing them to life. Often a combination of teacher-led and parent-led activities, SEEC educators introduce the subject using the same techniques as in morning meeting and encourage families to explore galleries together. Simple instructions help promote inquiry and observation in the galleries, a less-structured approach that helps keep young children engaged, bring families together, and give children autonomy in choosing in what interests them.

A simple basket plate helps connect this young child to the artwork while visiting the Renwick Gallery

A simple basket plate helps connect this young child to the artwork while visiting the Renwick Gallery

A mother and child stop at a painting before drawing at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

A mother and child stop at a painting before drawing at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

So many of our families have asked about programs for their elementary-aged children that we recently launched Artful Afternoons. One Sunday a month, SEEC’s art educator hosts an open studio featuring artful challenges around a central theme. This year we’ll be making Alexander Calder-inspired mobiles, exploring movement and food in art, and mixing in some theater, too! While these sessions don’t include a museum visit, each family is given a brochure outlining the activities and connecting them to objects at the Smithsonian and beyond. Parents enjoy the leisurely pace and are encouraged to bring siblings and make some art of their own.

Families make landscapes on sand paper with chalk and watercolors during a session on Impressionism

Families make landscapes on sand paper with chalk and watercolors during a session on Impressionism

Weekends are for family time and fun and SEEC staff really enjoy being able to share the Smithsonian collections with you. We hope that when you walk away from one of our classes, you and your child have learned something, had the chance to meet some great people, and enjoyed spending time with each other.

Come and join us sometime!
* Weekend Family Workshops: Children 4 months – 5 years and meet Saturday and Sunday mornings for 90 minutes
* Smithsonian Early Explorers: A 2 days/week program for caretakers and children aged 18 – 24 months on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 – 11:30am with a 12-week commitment. Fall trimester begins September 26 — two spaces are left
* Artful Afternoons: Elementary school-aged children meet most 3rd Sundays of the month 1 – 3pm
* Bring Your Own Baby: Beginning in January, a program for caretakers and their newborns
* SEEC Celebrations: Book a private event for your K – 3 grade child

A complete listing of events can be found here. You can also read a KFDC write-up about SEEC here.

Cynthia Raso is Assistant Director of the Center for Innovation in Early Learning at SEEC. Her interest in programming for young children in museums began almost a decade ago when her own children were small. She makes sure to find time to teach a class once a month — it is the best part of her job.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under Art, Class, DC, Educational, Indoor Play, Museums, Schools, Sponsored Post, Weekdays, Weekend

Free Admission at the Smithsonian and Beyond During Museum Day Live!

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens is among the many places where admission will be free during Museum Day Live!

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens is among the many places where admission will be free during Museum Day Live!



One of my favorite things about this city is the free admission to so many amazing collections of art, nature, science, and culture through the Smithsonian Institution. Besides the obvious benefit to the wallet, it’s a wonderful perk for us as parents: We can take our tykes to the museums without feeling like we need to pack it all in on one day’s entrance fee — a nice thing with young museum-goers who may easily get antsy. It also makes repeat visits to the kids’ favorite exhibits easy to accommodate. (Trust me, I know this from LOTS of “Dinosaur Museum” experience.)

However, there’s a small downside: With all this free access, it can be easy to overlook the places that do charge admission, many of which are fantastic. But thanks to Smithsonian Magazine, we’ll have an opportunity to check out some of them the way we’re used to: Free of Charge. This Saturday, September 28, is their annual Museum Day Live!, when many museums that usually charge an entrance fee will waive it for guests. All you have to do is register to get your ticket and you can visit a participating museum of your choice for free. Tickets are good for two people, and you must print it and bring with you to receive gratis admission.

These are some of the participating area museums (that usually require a fee) that families will enjoy:

DC:
DAR Museum
Dumbarton House
Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
National Building Museum
National Museum of Crime & Punishment
National Museum of Women in the Arts

Maryland:
Annapolis Maritime Museum
Baltimore Museum of Art
Chesapeake Children’s Museum
College Park Aviation Museum
Ladew Topiary Gardens
Port Discovery

Virginia:
Alexandria Archaeology Museum

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Virginia, Weekend

Cook Up Some Fun with Kids in the Kitchen

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Want to cook up a good time with the kids? Then bring your junior chefs, miniature foodies, and fledgling fitness fanatics to the YMCA National Capital on Saturday, March 2, for a fun-filled day of exercise, games, food, and fun.

The Junior League of Washington is hosting its annual Kids in the Kitchen event. The free, kid-oriented healthy eating and fitness activity fair showcases ways for kids to eat smart and make healthy lifestyle choices.

The fun-filled day will offer games, crafts, hands-on learning, goodie bags, and exciting raffle prizes, all to celebrate and promote nutritional literacy. Fitness experts will lead kids in high-energy exercise sessions, celebrity chefs will host healthy cooking demonstrations, and certified nutritionists will be on hand to answer questions.

Kids in the Kitchen will take place from 10am – 2pm on March 2. The YMCA National Capital is located at 1711 Rhode Island Avenue NW. More information can be found at the event’s Facebook page.

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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Eats, Educational, Free, Weekend, Winter

“Ai Weiwei: According to What?” at the Hirshhorn

A starburst of Qing Dynasty stools at "Ai Weiwei: According to What?"

 

My kids and I have been admiring the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads sculptures on display in the Hirshhorn’s central plaza since they were installed there last spring.  They love finding our Chinese calendar characters, and we’ve spent several outings circling and discussing them all — the cool dragon, the happy dog, the mean tiger, the creepy bunny, etc. (That last one is my Donnie Darko-obsessed take.)

So, I was pretty excited to learn that the museum would be showcasing a new exhibit by Ai Weiwei, the artist behind the bestial works. “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” opened this past Sunday, and we stopped by for a first look.

The exhibit begins with "Forever" in the lobby

The exhibit begins with “Forever” in the lobby

On the surface, the exhibit is actually quite whimsical, with many substantial installations that use everyday objects as art mediums. Bicycle frames are welded together to create a quirky circular sculpture displayed in the museum lobby.  A snake fashioned from green school backpacks meanders along the second-floor ceiling. More than 3,000 porcelain crabs are piled up on the floor. Ancient Chinese vases are splashed with brilliant paint colors.  A large expanse of steel rods laid out in a long expanse resemble a boardwalk or rolling terrain.

A backpack snake slithers through the second floor

A backpack snake slithers through the second floor


In case you were wondering what a pile of 3,000+ crabs looks like

In case you were wondering what a pile of 3,000+ crabs looks like

But reading about the works — the meaning behind them and, in some cases, the origins of the materials — provides a completely different, more serious, and sometimes somber perspective of the exhibit. The bicycle sculpture, entitled “Forever,” is an updated version of Weiwei’s “Forever Bicycles” piece that symbolizes cultural changes in China. “Snake Ceiling” honors the victims, many of them young students, of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  The crab heap called “He Xie” is a statement about censorship. The vases doused with paint represent the clash between traditional and contemporary culture. The steel rods, nearly 40 tons worth, were salvaged from the earthquake rubble and straightened to make “Straight.”

Desecration of ancient relics or bold progression?

Desecration of ancient relics or bold progression?

Nearly 40 tons of salvaged rebar from the Sichuan earthquake comprise "Straight"

Nearly 40 tons of salvaged rebar from the Sichuan earthquake comprise “Straight”

There are many more large installations, about 25 total, along with photographs displayed on walls and smaller works that are equally profound and thought provoking — when you delve into them. On aesthetic alone, the art doesn’t necessarily convey its weighty intentions, and most of the works are quite extraordinary and fun to view. This is why I’d recommend it for adults and kids alike; regardless of whether children will “get” it, there is a good chance they will enjoy it. Though I should warn: This isn’t an interactive exhibit like Suprasensorial was, and we heard alarms going off everywhere as curious visitors got too close to the works.

A close look at the noggin

Don't miss "Cube Light" on the third floor, above the main area of the exhibit

Don’t miss “Cube Light” on the third floor, above the main area of the exhibit

I’ll definitely be checking out “According to What?” again (and again) while it’s here.  And I need to make at least one visit sans kids… those alarms that were going off, a couple of them were due to my overzealous babes.  :)

Ai Weiwei: According to What?” will be on exhibit as the Hirshhorn through February 24, 2013. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

 

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Filed under Art, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Gradeschoolers, Museums, Preschoolers, Preteens, Teens, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

A Free for All at Local Museums

We Washingtonians are spoiled when it comes to museums.  Not only do we have some of the nation’s — no, make that the world’s — most wonderful museums right in our backyards, but many of them are free. It is one of the things I most appreciate about living in Washington, DC, and raising a family here.

However, there’s a tiny downside: With all this free access, it can be easy to overlook the places that do charge admission, many of which are fantastic. But thanks to Smithsonian Magazine, we’ll have an opportunity to check out some of them the way we’re used to:  free of charge.  This Saturday, September 29, is their annual Museum Day, when many museums that usually charge admission will waive the entrance fee for guests.  All you have to do is register to get your Museum Day Ticket and you can visit a participating museum of your choice for free. Tickets are good for two people, and you must print it and bring with you to receive admission.

These are some of the participating area museums (that usually require a fee) that families will enjoy:

DC:
Dumbarton House and Gardens
National Museum of Crime & Punishment
Newseum
The Kreeger Museum
The Phillips Collection

Maryland:
American Visionary Art Museum
Annapolis Maritime Museum
B&O Railroad Museum
Chesapeake Children’s Museum
College Park Aviation Museum

Virginia:
Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

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Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Museums, Virginia, Weekend