Discoveries Magazine

During my time managing public programs at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, I wrote dozens of short articles for their promotional Discoveries magazine. Here are three samples…

Students Enjoy “Night at Your Museum” Sleepover

As the sun set on May 11th, hundreds of students carrying sleeping bags, toothbrushes, and flashlights crowded into the Van Andel Museum Center. Their cheering and laughter joined with the usual chorus of nighttime sounds, from the ticking of the Museum’s City Hall clock, to the echoed footfalls of patrolling security guards. The first through fourth grade classes of Brown Elementary had met the goals of their annual reading program, and now they claimed their reward: the chance to spend an entire night inside the Museum’s exhibit halls.

This sleepover–the first held at the Public Museum in nearly a decade–provided students with a chance to explore the Museum’s treasures in a fun new way. Exhibits came alive as costumed characters roamed the halls, and themed activity stations throughout the building provided a combination of education and entertainment through hands-on activities and artifacts. Museum staff, volunteers, and an enthusiastic team of teachers all pitched in to make this event an unqualified success.

Between chatting with ancient Egyptian royalty and visiting with a living doll from the D is for Dolls exhibit, students screen-printed their own t-shirts, commemorating the sleepover event. Science experiments and scavenger hunts kept the excitement level high until snack time, when students were overheard raving about their carousel rides and planetarium shows. Deafening cheers marked the evening’s grand finale, a live-action medieval sword-fighting reenactment under the Museum’s whale skeleton. Sparks flew as the knights clashed, and after the queen declared a victor, students headed off to bed, imaginations reeling.

By the time buses, filled with smiling faces, departed on Saturday morning, staff members knew that this was a program worth repeating. Planning is currently underway for several overnight events later this year, including an overnight summer camp session open to all West Michigan families, and a pair of district-wide Girl Scout and Boy Scout sleepovers. If your school or organization has a large group interested in participating in an Night at Your Museum event, please call the Van Andel Museum Center at 616-XXX-XXXX for more information.

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The Making of “Stars of the Pharaohs”

There’s clearly something magical about ancient Egyptian culture. How many of us haven’t, at some point in our lives, been excited or inspired by a book, film, or museum exhibit about that immortal time and place? I’ve long hoped for the opportunity to bring a little of that magic into our own Planetarium theater. Now, with the coming of The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt, that chance has finally arrived.

No ancient civilization was so intimately connected to the sky, in so many ways, as the ancient Egyptians. They projected their magnificent visions of gods and goddesses onto the sun, moon, and visible planets. They celebrated the stars, too, and reverently aligned many of their most spectacular architectural accomplishments with patterns they saw in the sky. In ancient Egypt, mythology and science were uniquely intertwined in a way that allowed scholars to honor their pantheon, while simultaneously making great strides toward understanding the nature of their physical universe.

From the building of the earliest pyramids, through the prolific reign of Thutmose III and beyond, astronomy played a vital role in many aspects of Egyptian culture. We still feel this impact today; many ancient Egyptian discoveries are still surprisingly relevant in our modern world. The seeds of modern navigation were sown along the Nile Delta. Through diligent observations of the stars, and fueled by a vital need to plan harvests and predict flooding, the ancient Egyptians also invented the first accurate calendar (a more accurate version of which wouldn’t be created for thousands of years). Ever wonder why there are twenty four hours in a day? You can thank the Egyptians for that, too.

In our new planetarium offering, Stars of the Pharaohs, we explore all this and more. Using our own unique blend of light and sound, we attempt to illustrate what an enormous contribution Egyptian astronomers made to the ancient world, and what a remarkable effect their legacy continues to have on us today. Our sky theater will take you back in time, to the land of the pharaohs, during this thirty minute family presentation. You’ll learn about the mysteries and magic of the ancient Egyptian sky firsthand. We are proud to include Stars of the Pharaohs at no extra charge with your paid admission, and invite you to make it a part of your next Museum experience.

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“Camp Curiosity” Arrives, Registration Still Open

After much anticipation and preparation, the summer camp season is finally upon us. Temperatures are rising, and so is the enthusiasm of our summer camp instructors and support staff. With a robust schedule of camps for children ages 5-14, covering a wide range of cultural, historical, and scientific topics, Camp Curiosity is a sure bet for safe and educational summer fun.

Some of this year’s camps are returning favorites, such as Slimy Science, Young Wizards Academy, and Victorian Days. Other themes are brand new this year: Grandma’s Kitchen, American Pioneers, Ecology on the Grand, and more. For the very first time we’re offering a Night at Your Museum summer camp, where families are invited to an evening full of fun activities, followed by a sleepover in the Museum’s exhibit halls. It’s an exciting time of growth for our summer camp programming.

Two of our camps filled to capacity very quickly this year, so we’ve opened additional overflow sessions not originally listed on the schedule. An extra session of Slimy Science I, where children (ages 5-7) will explore all things ooey, gooey, icky and yucky in our Slimy Science laboratory, has been added on the afternoons of August 6, 7 & 8. On the opposite end of the gross-out spectrum, an additional session of Grandma’s Kitchen, where campers (ages 5-7) will make tasty recipes and explore domestic life in the historical Voigt House kitchen, has been added on the mornings of August 7, 8 & 9.

Many other camps still have openings available. The Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, long known for its innovative science programming, is once again offering its Reach for the Stars general astronomy camps, as well as Kites, Planes, and Rockets, and Planetarium Tech Team sessions. Tech Team members (ages 12-14) will learn about the technology that drives the planetarium environment, and will work together to produce their very own planetarium show.

The Public Museum’s wide range of camp themes is intended to appeal to the diverse interests of today’s students. If science and technology aren’t your child’s favorite subjects, then perhaps they’d enjoy learning about people and cultures from around the globe and throughout history in Festivals and Celebrations or Kids Through the Ages. Campers can learn about life in the 19th century in a historical setting at Victorian Days camp, or about the lives and traditions of Native Americans in West Michigan during Native American Life.

While some camps have already taken place this summer, and a few of our upcoming camps have already filled to capacity, most will remain open to new registrants until the week before camp begins. A few camps have already taken place, and a few are already filled to capacity, but many more are still open for new registrants. A full, updated schedule can be found on page [XX], or by visiting the Public Museum’s website. If you have any additional questions or wish to sign a child up for camp, please call the Public Museum at 616-XXX-XXXX.

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