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March 17, 2022 / News & Blog
|This article is part of the “Children’s Museums and Climate Change” issue of Hand to Hand.
Click here to read other articles in the issue.
By Langley Lease and Paige Childs, National Children’s Museum
Engaging children and their families in a meaningful dialogue around climate change can be tricky, to say the least. How do we playfully introduce children to this serious topic and inspire them to take action?
Answering this question became a priority in 2018 during the early stages of developing the newest iteration of National Children’s Museum, which opened in February 2020 in Washington, DC. It was evident that climate change lacked representation when assessing the landscape of children’s museum content at that time. As an institution that combines children’s museum experiences with science center content, it felt both natural and necessary to dedicate exhibit space to such a timely and critical science topic.
With the help of educators and experts, the museum developed its Climate Action Heroes framework, which empowers young activists to defeat climate “villains” while exploring the science behind climate change. Located in our Innovation Sandbox space, this exhibit will live in our museum for at least the next two years. (More can be learned about the museum’s in-person and virtual Climate Action Heroes experiences in the November 2020 issue of Hand to Hand.)
Since the museum’s reopening to the public in September 2021, the in-person Climate Action Heroes experience has been named a favorite exhibit by 28 percent of visitors who complete a post-visit survey. The climate science-dedicated space in the museum has influenced our on-site and digital programming priorities, community partnerships, and future exhibit development. In fact, a Climate Action Heroes experience will soon make its debut at Dulles International Airport, where children will be invited to discover climate-friendly travel tips and challenges. Content is continuously added to the digital experience at www.climate-heroes.org, including monthly missions that share small ways young activists can help protect the planet.
At National Children’s Museum, our mission is to inspire children to care about and change the world. Our changing climate is one of the most important issues facing our world today. As stewards of the next generation, we believe it is our duty to empower and inspire young innovators and activists. This means committing to and expanding upon our work in climate science. Climate change and the important role today’s children will have in tomorrow’s solutions will remain an undercurrent in every facet of National Children’s Museum’s work, from our daily operations to the programs we offer. Climate Action Heroes is just the start.
Langley Lease is exhibits + experience manager and Paige Childs is communications + digital specialist at the National Children’s Museum in Washington, DC.