May 18 - Concurrent Professional Development Sessions

All sessions will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center.

9:00 a.m.–10:15 a.m.

Common Ground: Designing Inclusive Outdoor Environments

Are you ready to take play and learning outside? Many children’s museums are tapping into the benefits of nature and looking for ways to engage visitors of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds in meaningful experiences outdoors. Whether you are planning a brand-new outdoor exhibit or looking for ways to bring more people into existing settings, the experts on this panel have valuable insights to share. Presenters will introduce guiding principles for the design, implementation, and management of inclusive natural play and learning environments. They will also demonstrate how several museums have put these principles into practice to serve the diverse needs of their communities.


Rebecca Colbert, RLA, MIG, Inc. (moderator)

Robin Moore, DiplArch, MCP, Hon. ASLA, North Carolina State University

Stephanie Ashton, Greensboro Children’s Museum

Patty Belmonte, Hands On Children's Museum

Jenni Martin, Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose


Mistakes Were Made

Resources squandered, stakeholders alienated, deadlines missed. We honestly admit our biggest blunders and what we learned from them. A crowd-sourced contest finds the biggest mistakes in the room and we award the ACM Epic Failure Trophy of 2018. Sharing is the first step in learning!


Kathy Gustafson-Hilton, Hands On! Studio (moderator)

Neil Gordon, The Discovery Museums

Joseph Knight, Hands On! A Child's Gallery

Charla Fields, Discovery Place

Ainslie Brosig, expERIEnce Children’s Museum


Costumes: “Wear,” When, and Why

Come, dress up! In this interactive session, evaluators, researchers, and exhibit developers pull back the curtain on costumes. Together attendees and presenters will articulate field-wide assumptions around costume use in exhibits, and discuss research and evaluation that explore these assumptions. Presenters will facilitate discussion about how costumes can bolster pretend play and influence adult-child interactions. Attendees will be encouraged to consider what a costume does, rather than what it is, as a means of thinking more intentionally about costuming experiences in museums.


Kaleen Tison Povis, PhD, Independent Consultant 

Susan Foutz, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Valerie Grabski, Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Anne Fullenkamp, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh


Beyond Surveys: Creative Methods for Data Collection in Children’s Museums

Children’s museums are lively, engaging, and experiential. Surveys can feel lifeless, mundane, and commonplace. This session will demonstrate how data collectors can capitalize on visitors’ expectation that their museum experience will be full of playful activities. Discover out-of-the-box evaluation methods that match the personality of the children’s museum experience, including card-sorts, magnetic mind-mapping, voting buckets, sticker charts, and talk-back paper chains. Learn how museums across the country have used these methods at their institutions, and see real-life representations of what these methods look like on the floor while you gain hands-on experience as a participant.


Aubrey Henriksen, Creative Discovery Museum

Melissa Pederson, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Kari Ross Nelson, Thanksgiving Point Institute


Bringing Science Experts into Your Museum – Why, How, and Wow!

In this lively session, we’ll focus on why and how to bring science experts into your museum to inspire young children and families to become passionate about STEM and the world around them! We’ll give you strategies and tools for making the experience successful for you, the experts, young children, and their families. Presenters will share their experiences and preparation tools for amateur astronomers, volunteers, college student chapters, chemists, astronauts, and more!


Catherine McCarthy, PhD, Science Museum of Minnesota (moderator)

Michelle Kortenaar, Sciencenter

Christina Leavell, Science Museum of Minnesota

Becky Wolfe, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Celeste Kathleen, Marbles Kids Museum


Connecting Families to Complex Content in Museums

Sometimes there is hesitation when it comes to families visiting museums to explore exciting yet challenging content, such as hard-to-conceptualize art and science topics, gender roles, culture, race, and civil rights. Adults may wonder: will I be able to support my child to process what they are experiencing? How will the museum handle sensitive and complex topics in a thoughtful and respectful way? When we connect families to complex content, experiences can be even richer. Attendees and presenters will explore how museums and families can engage with multifaceted, complex content together.


Tony Lawson, Cincinnati Museum Center

Lindsay Newton, Missouri History Museum

Lindsay Genshaft, Denver Art Museum


Community Catalysts: A Model for Assessing the Economic Impact of Children’s Museums

Museums are complex organizations, regardless of their size—as employers, contractors, vendors, and grant recipients. Assessing their economic impact requires far more than reviewing an IRS 990 tax form. In this session, presenters will review the results of ACM’s recent economic impact study of U.S. children’s museums project, funded in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Attendees will be asked to comment on the draft report and its value to the field.


John Fraser, PhD, AIA, New Knowledge Organization Ltd.
Nicole LaMarca, New Knowledge Organization Ltd.
Jennifer Rehkamp, Association of Children’s Museums


Making the Case for Play

As children's museum professionals, we believe in play. But are we truly sharing the value of play in a way that not only benefits the children we serve, but also grows attendance, rallies the community, and builds sustained support for our organizations? Hear from a spectrum of museums about how they've successfully made the case for play in their communities. What's inspiring guests, partners and funders to invest? And how are they moving the needle from "play is fun" to "play as a necessity for strenthening children, families, and our communities?"

Emily Bruce, Marbles Kids Museum (moderator)

Audrey Dean, Kids 'N" Stuff Children's Museum
Tanya Durand, Children's Museum of Tacoma
Kerri Fox, The New Children's Museum