May 16 - Concurrent Professional Development Sessions


All sessions take place at the Raleigh Convention Center. Scroll down the page to see the 1:15 p.m.–2:30 p.m. session descriptions.

10:30 a.m.–11:45 a.m.

Leading and Learning Toward a More Equitable and Inclusive Organizational Culture
Join three museum leadership pairs as they are interviewed about how they are leading and what they are learning as they move their museums toward a more equitable and inclusive organizational culture. This session will focus on their efforts through the Cultural Competence Leadership Institute process to look inward at their institutional values and commitments and will include successful strategies as well as failed ones. The session will reveal there isn’t one “right path,” that this process is about learning and continually moving toward an aspiration. A Q&A open to all session attendees will follow the interview portion.

Kathy Gustafson-Hilton, Hands On! Studio (moderator)
Jennifer Farrington, Chicago Children’s Museum
Saleem Hue Penny, Chicago Children’s Museum
Kate Treiber, Children’s Museum of South Dakota
Kati Hanson, Children’s Museum of South Dakota
Joe Hastings, Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum
Kristen Leigh, Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum


Skinny Marketing: Low- and No-Cost Advertising Ideas
Large budget, tiny budget, no budget? No problem! In this session, join other colleagues to share ideas and effective practices when it comes to low- and no-cost advertising ideas. From traditional strategies such as social media or community events to creative initiatives and everything in between, participants will walk away with ready-to-implement strategies. Children’s museums of every size can utilize “Skinny Marketing” to achieve greater impact in their community.

Michael McHorney, Children’s Museum of Eau Claire
Carrie Hutchcraft, The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
Lara Litchfield-Kimber, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum
Denise Bradburn, Discovery Depot Children’s Museum


School Readiness through Partnerships: Model for Supporting Children and Families 
Boston Children’s Museum works with museums, libraries, and community organizations to enhance their shared capacity to directly support school readiness for young children and foster family engagement, with support from a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In this session, presenters will describe the regional hub model used in Massachusetts as a mechanism for organizations to develop and implement activities for families across their communities. Presenters will share materials developed, successes, challenges, and lessons learned since the project began in 2016.

Jeri Robinson, Boston Children’s Museum
Kathryn Jones, Boston Children’s Museum
Stephanie Young, Woods Memorial Library

Play Is… Recent Reseach Findings and Their Applications
If you’ve been to InterActivity before, you’ve likely heard about the work conducted by the Children’s Museum Research Network (CRMN). Their second study focused on play and looked at definitions of play, types of play, characteristics of play, and measuring play, among other dimensions. Join network members in this workshop session as they help you develop your own plan—using a CMRN-vetted worksheet—for incorporating the research findings on play into your institution’s practices. This session will include individual work and lots of table discussions.

Stephen Ashton, PhD, Thanksgiving Point Institute
Alix Tonsgard, DuPage Children’s Museum
Melissa Swank, The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
Janella Watson, Providence Children’s Museum


Using Everyday Life to Inspire Extraordinary Learning
Remember the last time you went through a car wash? This everyday experience is both wild and adventurous and mundane. A new exhibit at the Minnesota Children’s Museum used a car wash as the foundation for an open-ended learning experience that is provocative, develops 21st century skills, and leverages intergenerational connections. Presenters will discuss how they achieved a shift in their creative process and will lead attendees through small group work using their “Everyday Learning” design development toolkit to explore different everyday experiences such as a laundromat, pet store, bowling alley, and more. Participants will break out into small groups to generate new exhibit ideas, which will be reviewed by attendees and presenters. 

Mary Weiland, Minnesota Children’s Museum
Tim Phillips, Gyroscope, Inc.
Barbara Hahn, Minnesota Children’s Museum


Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner: Giving Infants the Spotlight
In the early years of our field, many children’s museums and science centers catered to children ages two and up, if not older. More recently, museums have seen tremendous growth in attendance by families with infants and toddlers, just as child development research has yielded a wealth of information about early brain development and the importance of sensory-rich experiences during the first three years. Presenters from four museums will share innovative strategies to strengthen engagement with families with infants and toddlers, including programming, exhibits, professional development, evaluation, and a free membership program open to all first-time parents and their infants.

Kia Karlen, Madison Children’s Museum (moderator)
Alli Leake, The Discovery Museums
Becki Kipling, Museum of Science, Boston
Victoria Fiordalis, Sciencenter
Heather Davis, Madison Children’s Museum


Innovative Accessibility
Accessibility in children’s museums has a myriad of components! In this session, attendees will learn how different museums approach accessibility, including a program designed to offer museum experiences to children facing life-threatening illnesses, exhibit design strategies and facilitation techniques to engage visually impaired children, and a makerspace accessibility project. Presenters will provide practical tips for museums of all sizes, including how-to’s and ideas for funding sources. Attendees will come away with inspiration to create and sustain programs that offer high-quality experiences to children who otherwise might not be able to enjoy children’s museum experiences.

Dené Mosier, Kansas Children’s Discovery Center
Jocelyn Knauf, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Jarrett Grimm, Kidzu Children’s Museum


STEM Gaming in Museums – Making the Right Moves
Are you interested in adding fun gaming experiences to your museum that help visitors explore STEM topics, but not sure where to start? Learn about successful STEM gaming examples from a full range of museums and materials, and hear what works. Card games, board games, full-body games, social games, and digital games all can be great tools to learn about STEM topics, dive into the design process, and reinforce critical thinking skills. Final round: using the tips of game designers in the room, you and your fellow attendees will be challenged to create a new game on a current STEM topic.


Darrell Porcello, The Lawrence Hall of Science
Max Cawley, Museum of Life + Science
Tomas Durkin, NISE Network

Getting the Building You Need, Want, and Can Afford
Building design has a significant impact on the visitor experience and operations of a children’s museum. An architect/exhibit designer will interview three museum CEOs about what working with architects and other consultants as part of a new building, expansion, or renovation project. Their stories will help attendees establish a proactive process that ensures their own building projects address visitor, operational, and exhibition needs. Attendees will have time to ask questions following the interviews.

Greg Belew, Hands On! Studio
Suzanne Olson, Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
Dolores Beistegui, Papalote Museo del Niño
Joseph Cox, Museum of Discovery and Science 


Full STEAM Ahead: Attracting Teens to Children Museums
This session will provide multiple examples of how children's museums can best attract older demographics through STEAM-related programming of all kinds. From after-school sessions with under-privileged kids, to outreach programs exploring architecture and geometry, to scholarship competitions for tweens and teens, these programs will give every size and shape of museum ideas for how to attract teens and share the power of STEAM with them. You’ll leave this session with numerous ideas for programs to start immediately at your own museum to engage new audiences with STEAM topics.

Marissa Gill Keyzer, Lincoln Children's Museum
Amelia Blake, Explore and More Children's Museum
Claire Flynn, Long Island Children's Museum 

1:15 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

Flip This Museum! Real World Techniques That Turn Struggles into Success
While children’s museums are nonprofit institutions created to serve their communities, many facilities underperform or ultimately fail due to a variety of financial and operational issues. In this engaging and interactive session, attendees will first hear from two museum directors who have taken on such challenges and transformed their museums into institutions built for long-term success. Next, two economic and management consultants will share how to identify and solve various financial and operational problems. Attendees will then test out new knowledge by examining a fictional case study of a struggling museum.

Shawn McCoy, Jack Rouse Associates (moderator)
Sally Edwards, Marbles Kids Museum
Ainslie Brosig, expERIEnce Children’s Museum
Sarah Linford, AECOM
Ray Giang, Management Resources


DIY Exhibit Design for Tight Budgets
This session explores why you might consider doing exhibit design yourself—whether for budgetary or aesthetic reasons. The session is designed to empower internal teams to design their own exhibits and follow through on making exhibits in-house. Presenters will facilitate discussion about the principles of good design and will provide ideas for durable and easily sourced materials. Presenters will cover both the pros and the cons of DIY exhibit design, and when it may or may not be the best solution to go this route.

Collette Michaud, Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
Phillip Heiman, Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
Matt Niland, Kidcity Children’s Museum
Kara Mackey, Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center


Building Capacity through Social Justice Principles
Learn effective practices for building your museum’s institutional and individual capacity from social justice-informed museum workers spanning the spectrum of museum roles. This session will explore three major areas: self-assessment, action planning, and resilience planning/sustaining change. Topics include accountability, advocacy, diversity/inclusion/affinity groups, retention, self-care, professional development training (internal & external), building coalitions, and managing “up and across” to advance change.

Sage Morgan-Hubbard, American Alliance of Museums (moderator)
Margaret Middleton, Independent Consultant
Sandra Bonnici, Madison Children’s Museum
Saleem Hue Penny, Chicago Children’s Museum
Alicia Greene, Boston Children’s Museum


Avoiding the Trip-Ups of Field Trips: The Value of Play
How often have you heard, “It’s just a day off for students to play”? A common trip-up of field trips at children’s museums is schools not understanding the power of play as a learning tool. Join presenters from small and medium museums as they share their field trip models and how each emphasize the value of play. Then, participate in a reflective working session to co-develop potential pathways for museums to convey the value of play-based field trips to external stakeholders such as parents, teachers, school administration, and funders.

Mindy Porter, Scott Family Amazeum (moderator)
Hillary Saalfeld, Omaha Children’s Museum
Joy Caver-Pirtle, Tulsa Children’s Museum Discovery Lab
Sarah Weeden, Scott Family Amazeum
Katie Kizziar, Thinkery


Making Observations: Evidencing Learning in Museum-Based Makerspaces
Making and makerspaces are increasingly popular in children’s museums as well as other informal and formal educational settings. But how do we measure and assess making as a learning process? In this session, presenters will share a suite of empirical tools to identify evidence of learning in a museum-based makerspace, designed collaboratively by museum educators and researchers. Presenters will discuss how these tools can, and have, been used for practice, evaluation, and research in three museums across the U.S. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to brainstorm how these tools can be used to inform their own institutions’ goals.

Lisa Brahms, PhD, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (moderator)
Annie McNamara, University of Pittsburgh and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Sherlock Terry, Montshire Museum of Science
Keith Braafladt, Science Museum of Minnesota
Peter Wardrip, PhD, University of Wisconsin - Madison


Play Is Universal: Establishing a Community Museum for Everybody
This session will put you in the shoes of a child as presenters discuss how you can build a bridge to your community. Kidzu Children’s Museum has embarked on a “Play Is Universal” initiative to better serve its community’s accessibility and diversity needs. Leave this session with an action plan for tomorrow, as presenters “open source” their model to fit your museum through hands-on activities, presentations from community collaborations, and more.

Katie Hudson, Kidzu Children’s Museum
Rose Bequet, Kidzu Children’s Museum
Barbara Tyroler, FRANK Gallery
Marian Kaslovsky, LRT/CTTRS, Town of Chapel Hill


Multi-Museum Math Mashup
Help parents and care providers harness math moments in everyday experiences to build children’s early numeracy. Early math skills are one of the strongest predictors of later academic success, yet they are often the weakest subject on kindergarten entry evaluations. Learn how three Washington State children’s museums teamed up to infuse early numeracy strategies for region-wide impact. Discuss approaches for infusing early numeracy strategies into existing exhibits, onsite programs, and outreach programs, as well as evaluation methods. Learn about the benefits and challenges of multi-museum collaboration and how you can start a similar approach in your region.

Kimberly McKenney, Children’s Museum of Tacoma
Jamie Bonnett, KidsQuest Children’s Museum
Teddy Dillingham, Imagine Children’s Museum
Alyssa Tongue, Children’s Museum of Tacoma


Better Together: Navigating Partnership Challenges
Creating and sustaining truly effective partnerships can be tricky. What if results don’t exceed initial expectations? What do you do when, after a while, it becomes clear your goals don’t match your partner’s? What happens when you realize that you are not making the most out of a partnership you have had for years? In this session, presenters will share effective practices for building strategic and more effective collaborations that will make your institution stronger. Participants will also collaboratively analyze and discuss three scenarios that present a variety of partnership challenges encountered in the museum field.

Isabel Diez, Sietecolores Ideas Interactivas
Guillermo Loza, Sietecolores Ideas Interactivas
Erika Kiessner, GSM Project
Patti Reiss, Mississippi Children’s Museum


Digital Distractions: Using Technology to Engage Families
Attend this session to practice using mindful media tools for engaging families that have been tested and researched in both museum and home settings. Presenters will discuss and share lessons learned through two research-based projects to engage and empower families to play and learn together, with and without technology tools, in and outside of museums. Presenters will share field-tested scripts for engaging families in the appropriate and meaningful use of technology in museums. Participants will also practice how to be media mentors in museum and educational programming.

Tamara Kaldor, TEC Center at Erikson Institute
Meghan Farrell, TEC Center at Erikson Institute
Alexandra Pafilis Silverstein, Chicago Children’s Museum
Maureen Leary, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center


How You Do What You Do: Staffing Is Key
As the first point of contact with visitors, every museum needs well-trained, creative, and playful front-end staff! In this session, representatives from a small, a medium, and a large museum will share tips and tricks for hiring, training, and retaining an engaging team. Presenters will also explore different approaches to successful floor team interactions with both adults and children. Participants will leave with concrete examples of practices to implement in their own institutions when hiring, training, and retaining a front-end team.

Jon Handwork, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus (moderator)
Carl Chisem, Kidcity Children’s Museum
Nicole Ortiz, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Caroline Rinehart, The Sandbox: An Interactive Children’s Museum


How to Inspire Humans, Not Donors
Attend this hands-on workshop session to generate ideas, clarify missions, and create talking points and collateral materials in bold, succinct ways to drive engagement and affinity. This session will help enable children's museums to get their messages delivered clearly and definitively—from the development team, to communications, to volunteer leaders. How we speak and write matters.

Jennifer Harris, PhD, Graham-Pelton Consulting