May 4 - Concurrent Professional Development Sessions

10:30 a.m.–11:45 a.m.

Daring Experiences: Museums and Visitors Taking Risks
Panel/Town Hall: Children's museums operate in an increasingly competitive environment. To stand out and deliver remarkable experiences that remain on-brand and fun, museum teams are challenging old assumptions about their audience, and themselves. Hear from museum professionals about recent exhibits that took risks. From spaces that put dangerous tools in kids' hands, to provocative topics that confront cultural expectations, panelists will share what it took to bring these projects to life, and the lessons learned along the way. This session will culminate a town hall discussion about what it means for a museum to take risks and the pros and cons of pushing boundaries.

Guiding Your Museum to Greatness through the Museum Assessment Program
Panel: Need budget-friendly help to strengthen operations, meet standards and best practices, and plan for the future? In this session learn how the Museum Assessment Program (MAP), an IMLS-funded excellence program, can provide your institution with concrete feedback. MAP's roadmap, a one-year process of self-assessment and peer review, addresses challenges with collections stewardship, community engagement or overall operations. Hear about the value, process, and results of MAP from actual program participants and an American Alliance of Museum's program officer and leave armed with the details and motivation to apply.

Responsible Screen Time in Children's Museums?
Firestarter: As digital technology becomes a ubiquitous part of family life, what role can children's museums play? Should museums be screen-free zones or are there responsible ways to model good screen time behavior for families? In this session, hear how science and technology centers have used (and misused) digital technology, gain perspective from an educational researcher on what youth outcomes one may expect from educational media, and take the pulse of children's museum professionals on this hot topic.

Dia de los Muertos: Collaboration and Community Building
Panel: Creating partnerships with institutions that have different goals and missions can be a challenge. How does each organization/institution define success? Misunderstandings of this core concept can bring down a partnership. When collaborating on a project, museum goals can be different from community organizations and non-brick-and-mortar partners. This session will identify the differences and show how seven organizations worked with these challenges by incorporating different interpretive models, at multiple sites, with a non-competitive schedule and a team approach. The result? Success for all! And, exposure to new audiences and community building.

The Empathy Story: Growing Empathy in Exhibits
Talk Show: As children's museums focus more and more on social-emotional learning in exhibits, "empathy" rises to the fore as one of the key component goals of many exhibits. Connecting with other cultures, people in our own communities, and family and friends all draws on empathy. This session includes a deep dive into empathy to better understand it, and how it can get eclipsed by human nature. Discover why young brains veer toward empathy, and why older brains veer away, and how to playfully override this conundrum.

Bringing Fun to All Families
Panel: All children's museums strive to provide positive play experience for visitors. Play is fun, and fun is therapeutic! Although everyone benefits from fun experiences to improve their health, play and fun are especially important for families who have children with special needs, are financially struggling, or have social barriers such court-separation. However, such families are often unable to visit children's museums. In this session, panelists will examine different ways in which museums endeavor to bring fun to the families who are often harder to reach, yet need it the most.

Early Learning and STEM—Opportunities Ahead!
Talk Show: Early Childhood Learning has and continues to be a high priority for federal agencies as well as other state and local stakeholders. What are some of the resources and opportunities related to Early Childhood and STEM available to children's museums? In a talk show format, staff from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Department of Education, and museums will share insights on funding opportunities, partnerships, and field-tested prototypes striving to make an impact on the STEM pipeline.

Getting Serious about the Value of Play in Children's Museums
Firestarter: Play is vital for children's development, but children's opportunities to play are diminishing. Children's museums are uniquely positioned to support play, but face many challenges and pressures in doing so. This discussion-focused session will address the complex factors that shape how individual institutions talk about play and incorporate it into their practices, as outlined in a large-scale study on this topic conducted by the ACM Research Network. Talk with peers to gain new insights on the value of play, as well as glean practical ideas for discussing play in your own institution.

Shake It Up! Re-Engaging Teachers
Workshop: It's important to keep things fresh even when they are working well. Long Island Children's Museum reevaluated its school partnership efforts to create a new model that re-engages teachers, responds to district needs, and creates collective impact measures that provide new funding opportunities. Teachers value this new educational model, which creates a flexible framework that puts real-world needs front and center, as well as demonstrates the museum is a true partner in achieving classroom goals.

Creating Spaces to Foster Creativity and Innovation
Workshop: Museum professionals want to provide opportunities for visitors to be innovative and creative. But how can spaces be designed that are both functional and inspiring? This session focuses on the elements that go into successful creative environments: ones that foster innovation while also being practical for those working in and managing the spaces. Research findings from the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation on innovative environments will be shared, as well as how the lessons learned from inventors and innovators can be applied to a museum setting.