May 17 - Concurrent Professional Development Sessions

All sessions will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center. Scroll down the page for sessions at 2:00 p.m.–3:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

10:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

New Strategies for Successful STEM Exhibits

How can you design a high-quality STEM exhibit that meets your museum’s learning goals, is highly engaging, and fun to the max, while involving your entire team in the process? This session will introduce you to Dimensions of Success (DoS), a STEM program quality assessment tool researched and developed at Harvard’s PEAR Institute. Presenters will share how they “tweaked” this tool to provide an entirely new way to think about children’s museum exhibit development! Share, brainstorm, and go home with the resources you need to ramp up exhibits with new partnerships, research-based credibility, and a recipe for the power of play!

Deb Dunkhase, The Iowa Children’s Museum
Aimee Mussman, The Iowa Children’s Museum
Gracie Brandsgard, Iowa Afterschool Alliance
Kristen Missall, PhD, University of Washington


Development Speed Dating, #1

Looking for money in all the wrong places? Then make a date to join us for a thought-sharing forum where both development professionals and those just starting off in the world of development can get together. Meet experts from the field who share insight, as well as encourage participants to share their own tips and tricks about individual giving, grant writing, sponsorships, fundraising events, and more. Attendees will participate in four quick paced group “speed dates” sure to provide real-world, implementable ideas. Development Speed Dating #2 is scheduled from 2:00 p.m.–3:15 p.m.

Carrie Hutchcraft, The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum (moderator)

Table 1 Individual Giving
Gwen Kochman, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Table 2 Grant Writing
Jeannette Thomas, Association of Children’s Museums

Table 3 Corporate Sponsorships

Lauren McMurtray, Mississippi Children’s Museum

Table 4 Fundraising Events
Linda Hunter, The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum


Creativity in Play: Arts and Childhood on the Exhibit Floor

Art activities can help children in all areas of development, from large and small motor skills, cognitive and social skills, to creative problem solving. They boost a child’s creativity and cultivate curiosity and imagination. This session will explore current research findings and practical application, as well as effective arts programming and take-home ideas.

Elizabeth Rood, EdD, Bay Area Discovery Museum
Tomoko Kuta, The New Children’s Museum
Alyssa Tongue, Children’s Museum of Tacoma

Brace for Impact: Three Ideas for Measuring Museum Value

It has become increasingly important for informal learning institutions to demonstrate the impact they have within their communities. In this session, presenters will share what they have done to measure impact and how you might start to measure your own. Learn about effective practices for measuring social impact, including working with partners, measurement how-to’s, simple research methods, report ideas, and working with policymakers, funders, and other key stakeholders.

Stephen Ashton, PhD, Thanksgiving Point Institute
Susan Foutz, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Cheryl McCallum, EdD, Children’s Museum of Houston


Co-Creation: Cultivating Relationships with Local Autism Communities

This session will explore how co-creation can help a project succeed, fostering deeper connections with your museum’s community while helping the museum remain relevant to visitors. Presenters will share how they co-created a project with therapists, advocates, and families in the autism community to support families affected by autism. They will share resources, ideas, and stories about how their work has helped families during museum visits and generated positive change in the museums.

Sarah Pratt, Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum (moderator)
Daniel Stromberg, Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum
Michelle Kortenaar, Sciencenter
Rachel Evans, Omaha Children’s Museum
Sarah Cohn, Aurora Consulting

Keeping Everybody Safe

In this fishbowl-style session, each presenter will address a specific topic in regard to safety within children's museums, from policy implementation and protocols to training engagement and working with outside agencies. Each conversation will provide the opportunity for audience input, as attendees come and go from the circle. No institution is too big or too small to have an opinion on safety, so come and share your ideas and learn what colleagues are doing to keep their young guests and staff safe.

Vito Gioia, Jr., Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago
Callahan Walsh, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Douglas Tilton, The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire


Kindness: An Approach to Professional Learning

Can kindness be a learning process? The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is currently engaged in a museum-wide professional learning initiative to use an evidence-based learning framework to support children and families’ engagement in kindness as a learning process. Learn about the embedded model of professional development the museum is using to enable and empower staff to identify, describe, and continually design activities to support kindness as a learning process across the museum. Attendees will participate in a mini-design jam to bring aspects of this process and tangible ideas for supporting kindness as a learning process back to your museum.

Lisa Brahms, PhD, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Peter Wardrip, PhD, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Lacey Murray, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Robert Lindsey, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh


Uniting Community through Cultural Programming

In a divided political and social climate, many children’s museums in the U.S. are partnering with organizations that represent various cultures in their local populations. Presenters in this session will discuss cultural collaborations, exhibits, and programs that are helping to unify their communities, with programming to serve Latino, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese populations, as well as highlight the cultures of Myanmar (Burma), Mexico, and Yemen, and more. Attendees will take away ideas for new partnerships and outreach.

Lovely Qureshi, The Children’s Museum of La Habra
Norma Aguilar, Consulate of Mexico, Santa Ana, CA
Amelia Blake, Explore & More Children’s Museum


2:00 p.m.–3:15 p.m.

Renovation Revelations! Shared Success and Lessons Learned for Successful Museum Renovations

Are you ready to renovate your museum? Whether you are getting your own building at long last, or are moving into a great new space that needs some targeted TLC, renovation offers unique opportunities and challenges. Learn from museum staff who are in the trenches, those who have recently come out on the other side, as well as consultants who have advised museums across the U.S. through the process. Leave this session with information about scheduling, costs, and shortcuts that will lead to great buildings, systems, and exhibits in your new fixer-upper space.

Alissa Rupp, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, MIG|Portico (moderator)
Lisa Van Deman, Kidzu Children’s Museum
Kristie Akl, kidSTREAM Children’s Museum
Putter Bert, KidsQuest Children’s Museum
Jill Randerson, Jill Randerson Exhibit Management


Transgender-Inclusive Children’s Museums

Children and adults of all genders benefit from a gender-inclusive learning environment. This session will provide foundational information on gender constructs and expression. Through interactive exercises, attendees will increase their familiarity with gender-inclusive language, including practicing pronouns. A case study will explore staff training and policies, gender-inclusive labeling in your gift store, membership forms, and communications, along with other strategies to welcome transgender and non-binary gender visitors, both children and adults, and staff. 

Rob Hadaway, Duluth Children’s Museum
Margaret Middleton, Independent Consultant
Alicia Greene, Boston Children’s Museum
Ames Simmons, Equality NC


Beyond the Alphabet: Playful Literacy in Children’s Museums

As the importance of early literacy becomes more and more apparent, what can children’s museums do to promote its development in young learners? This session will begin with an overview of the key concepts of early literacy learning, followed by a close look at how three museums have facilitated parent engagement and embraced literacy-based activities through programming and exhibits. Time will be provided for attendees to engage in story acting techniques that connect literacy to pretend play, making connections between thoughts and written words and written words and actions. The session will conclude with a discussion period and a review of resources.

Penny Sander, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.
Cate Heroman, Knock Knock Children’s Museum
Kathy Parham, The Children’s Playhouse
Susan Garrard, Mississippi Children’s Museum


Development Speed Dating, #2

Ready to take this whole development thing to the next level? Designed for the more seasoned development professional, Development Speed Dating #2 expands on topics discussed in the morning session, tackling some of the bigger ideas and concepts in the development world. Get to know more as experts and your fellow attendees share their experiences and know how on the subjects of capital campaigns, endowment and restricted funds, planned giving, board development and more. Attendees will participate in four quick-paced group “speed dates” sure to provide real-world, implementable ideas.

Gretchen Kerr, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus (moderator)

Table 1 Capital Campaigns
Amy Burt, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Jane Werner, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Table 2 Endowment/Restricted Funds
Beth Fitzgerald, The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

Table 3 Development Policies
 Michael Luria, Children’s Museum Tucson/Oro Valley

Table 4 Board Development 
Deborah Gilpin, Madison Children's Museum


Exploring Parent and Caregiver Perceptions of Learning in Children’s Museums

This session will share the findings from a recent study conducted by the Children’s Museum Research Network. The study explored how parents and caregivers perceive learning in a children’s museum context. Presenters will share findings of the study along with case studies of efforts to engage parents and caregivers. Attendees will be invited to respond to the findings, share experiences, and reflect on how their own practice meets the needs of parents and caregivers.

Nicole Rivera, EdD, North Central College
Kari Ross Nelson, Thanksgiving Point Institute
Barbara Hahn, Minnesota Children’s Museum
Jessica Luke, PhD, University of Washington


Best Program Ever! Tools and Techniques to Create Great Programs, Part 1

This high-energy, hands-on double session provides an overview of effective practices in educational program development, delivery, and evaluation. Participants will work in small groups to share their experience and improve their skills. The sessions, appropriate for educators at different stages of their careers, will encourage collaboration among participants. Participants will also receive ready-to-use resources (both printed and online) to take home, including tools and guides for program development, peer review, presentation skills, universal design, and iterative formative evaluation. Part 2 is scheduled from 3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Ali Jackson, Sciencenter (moderator)
Rae Ostman, PhD, Center for Innovation in Informal STEM Learning, Arizona State University
Stephanie Long, Science Museum of Minnesota
Nora Thompson, Port Discovery Children’s Museum
Brad Herring, Museum of Life + Science


Collaboration: Building Authentic Museum Experiences in Non-Museum Environments

Children’s museums’ missions can address children and their adults wherever they are, within their museums or elsewhere. There are opportunities throughout our communities where children are receptive and in need of playful learning: hospitals, homeless shelters, airports, even prisons. These places have their own set of constraints that can challenge our understanding of what best aligns with practice within our museums. Standards of maintenance, levels of engagement, and tolerance for risk can range widely across institutional settings. How do we meaningfully collaborate with these institutions to create rich learning environments that meet divergent operational demands?

LaNeshe Miller-White, Interactive Mechanics
Emily Saich, Universal Services Associates, Inc.
Jennifer Farrington, Chicago Children’s Museum
Tom Barry, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex


Engineering an Engineering Experience: A Museum-University Partnership

Tinkering is meant to be tinkered with. A museum-university collaboration involves looking for that sweet spot when "making something" becomes a powerful STEM learning experience. Hear some intriguing research findings that help answer common questions about open-ended, hands-on experiences in museums: How do we design activities and train staff to bolster caregivers' capacity to support children's engineering processes? How can visitors' conversations at the museum make learning visible while deepening the impact of tinkering experiences? This session will explore engineering as an iterative design approach, providing  important implications for many tinkering and maker experiences for young children.

Kim Koin, Chicago Children’s Museum
Tsivia Cohen, Chicago Children’s Museum
Catherine Haden, PhD, Loyola University Chicago
Maria Marcus, Northwestern University


Cultural Exhibits in Children’s Museums: Stories Behind the Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit Series

Cultural sensitivity and authentic experiences are important at any age. In 2013, five museums set out to create memorable, high-quality exhibits that introduced U.S. children to their counterparts in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Their exhibits have traveled around the country, stopping at forty five different venues over four years. Presenters will share their process, lessons learned, and guiding principles in creating exhibits that bring Asia to America, and discuss the importance of cultural exhibits. 

Brendan Cartwright, Association of Children's Museums (moderator)
Jenni Martin, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
Beth Hasek, The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
Leslie Bushara, Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Leslie Swartz, Boston Children’s Museum

3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Defusing the Threat of Changing Retail

A technology-fueled revolution in retail is underway, with developers, property owners, and brand managers scrambling to reinvest their shopping centers, malls, and mixed-use developments with “experiences” sure to attract their most reliable crowd—children. In an age of “open source” thinking, how do mission-centered nonprofit children’s museums respond to growing commercial competition from the new breed of well-funded “discovery” attractions and neighborhood for-profit “museums”? What competitive advantages can children’s museums use to preserve the quality of their services while also retaining market share? Three experienced children’s museum CEOs and leadership at Roto will share their insights, predictions, and good news for museums willing to embrace change.

Joseph Wisne, Roto
Andy Ackerman, Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Nene Spivy, Children’s Science Center
Michael Yankovich, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus


Best Program Ever! Tools and Techniques to Create Great Programs, Part 2

Part two of a double session that provides an overview of effective practices in educational program development, delivery, and evaluation. Attending Part 1 is highly recommended, but all attendees are welcome.

Ali Jackson, Sciencenter (moderator)
Rae Ostman, PhD, Center for Innovation in Informal STEM Learning, Arizona State University
Stephanie Long, Science Museum of Minnesota
Nora Thompson, Port Discovery Children’s Museum
Brad Herring, Museum of Life + Science


Are You on Track? Measuring Impact on a Variety of Audiences

It is obvious to children's museum professionals that our institutions positively influence the lives of the children and families we serve, but what is the true nature of our impact? Explore the impact children's museums have on a variety of audiences through case studies from two institutions. Following discussion, attendees will work in round tables to investigate what you can do. Delve into the possibilities with peers and discuss ways of measuring and communicating the valuable contribution your museum makes to your visitors and community. Leave the session with resources to help you get started and contacts to answer questions along the way.

Marina Di Leva, Early Start Discovery Space
Aubrey Henriksen, Creative Discovery Museum
Martha Johnson, Early Start Discovery Space


Shark Tank: Developing Interactives That Do More Than Tread Water

Treading water to stay afloat in the ocean of interactive possibilities? Creating a new interactive can be a daunting task. With so many possible experiences, today’s hot exhibit can quickly grow cold. Dive in and explore the world of interactive exhibits and how to select the best option to meet your museum’s learning objectives, budget, and maintenance capabilities. Presenters will share effective practices in a “Shark Tank” format as two “contestants” try to keep their heads above water while being drilled about why their interactive approaches are worth the investment. The session will wrap with time to devise solutions and share recommendations.

Caithlin Bradley, Maltbie – a Kubik Company (moderator)
Sarah Myers, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Sarah Macey, Discovery Place
Scott Wolfram, Working Studio
Trent Oliver, Blue Telescope


Decoding Early Coding: The Latest Practices and Research in Computational Thinking and Early Coding

Attend this session to learn how to create computational thinking and coding learning experiences that are meaningful and accessible to all children and adults, including those with disabilities. Play with screen-free and screen-based coding tools and sample materials from programs that have been implemented in a variety of settings, including a museum without internet access. Join us in connecting the latest research in children’s technology and media, computer science, and child development to educational practice, as we all work to develop digital fluency.

Tamara Kaldor, TEC Center at Erikson Institute
Becki Kipling, Museum of Science, Boston
Rebecca Attia, Museum of Science, Boston
Ericka Farag, Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago


Keeping Our Spaces Safe and Secure

Our collective goal is always to protect the children that visit our environments. However, there are many challenges to keeping the children who visit our museums safe. What are the ways that we can prevent or mitigate the potential threats to our play-filled, learning environments? In this session, learn the importance of identifying potential threats through vigilance by utilizing the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign. Does your museum have a Safety Committee? Learn about the importance of creating one. Where do you look for funding? How do you build relationships with your local law enforcement? We want to hear from you, so join us for this important, informative session that will help you secure your space.

Mike Jacabacci, Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Lauren Kaye, Kidspace Children’s Museum
Jon Handwork, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Caleb Quezada, U.S. Department of Homeland Security


How to Thrive in Your Job

You are a hardworking, skilled, creative, and invaluable member of your museum’s team. You’ve got a new project that you are excited about but you can’t seem to get to it. Are you buried by emails and too many meetings? Do you always feel like you don’t have enough time? Join this fishbowl conversation to identify how to better manage your day-to-day duties so that you can successfully accomplish your goals. Identify unproductive habits, learn new techniques, and break out of sluggish work routines. Also, share what you know and practice with others so that the entire field benefits.

Tomoko Kuta, The New Children’s Museum
Shelly Hanover, Children’s Discovery Museum
Kelley Fitzsimmons, Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Scot Sedley, Stepping Stones Museum for Children


Capturing Childhood: Visual Storytelling in Your Museum

Whether you are new to visual storytelling or love to share photos on Facebook and Instagram, museum professionals of all abilities can learn how to showcase visitor experiences using photography and videography in this interactive session. Professionals in Marketing and Digital Media, as well as Children’s Media Consultants, will share quick tips and tricks for creating compelling photographs and videos that capture children exploring and learning through museum exhibits and programs and how they can be used to reach first-time visitors, museum regulars, and potential funders.

Lindsay McMurtray, Mississippi Children’s Museum
Kimber Kuhl, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Alexandra Pafilis Silverstein, Chicago Children’s Museum