MuseumLab for Museum Professionals Announces Inaugural Cohort Awardees

Five projects developed by children’s museum professionals recognized for outstanding ideation and planning

The Association of Children’s Museum (ACM), the world’s foremost professional society supporting and advocating on behalf of children’s museums, and those who work at and otherwise sustain them, together with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP), is pleased to announce the MuseumLab for Museum Professionals (MLMP) 2024 cohort project awardees. An eight-month professional learning program, MLMP is designed to spark creative innovation that will make museums nimble in proactively adapting to our communities’ changing needs. Five outstanding project prototypes and implementation plans developed by MLMP participants from children’s museum were selected among the inaugural cohort.

Play-Goh Travel Activity Set –Traci Buckner, Executive Director, Akron Children’s Museum

A Tale of Two Projects: The Disk-O and the Chaotic Reveal  –  Daniel Guyton, Traveling Exhibits Manager, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Mobile Museum Pods – Brennon Land, Executive Director, Alaska Children’s Museum

The Brainstorm Savita Madan, Makerspace Coordinator, Kidzu Children’s Museum

Willow Whispers: The Joy of Connection – Rachel Towns, Director of Exhibits, Miami Children’s Museum

Each project was awarded $2,000 to be paid to their respective museums with a notation that it is to further the implementation of their projects.

Hosted through a collaborative partnership of ACM and CMP and guided by a steering committee of established leaders in the museum field, MLMP melded synchronous in-person and online learning with personalized coaching from experts. The program was developed to guide children’s museum professionals as they turned deep questions into actionable implementation plans. Through MLMP, participants received customized support in prototyping and budgeting those plans within their organizations and beyond.

A volunteer selection committee anonymously reviewed the plans at ACM’s annual conference, InterActivity: Flourish!, on May 17, 2024. Like the cohort, they represent small, medium, and large museums, a variety of positions and experience, as well as geographic locations.

The review committee included:

Cindy DeFrances, Executive Director, Lynn Meadows Children’s Museum
Madai Favaro, Manager, Program Team & Delivery, Glazer Children’s Museum
Robin Gose, EdD, CEO, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation
Roxane Hill, Executive Director, The Regnier Family Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City
Lauren Kaye, Special Projects Manager, Children’s Museum Tucson
Margo Malter, Director of Exhibits, Long Island Children’s Museum
Conrad Meyers, Head of Facilities & Exhibit Production, Bay Area Discovery Museum
Kimberly Stull, Chief of Building & Making, DuPage Children’s Museum
Vi Tran, Exhibit Designer, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

More about the winning projects:

Play-Goh Travel Activity Set (Buckner)

Play-Goh offers an opportunity for children to learn through play when traveling. Buckner’s Play-Goh was inspired by the partnership the Akron Children’s Museum developed with the Akron Canton Airport. The museum was presented with the opportunity to increase its presence with items for young travelers placed in retail space, which is how Play-Goh came to life. The process used for developing and testing the Play-Goh idea included multiple ideation sessions with museum educators, parents of young children, and the MLMP cohort members. As a result, Play-Goh was identified as a STEM-centered activity set that offers multiple uses and new experiences. This project matters because it extends the museum’s reach beyond its walls. The project also fulfills one of the four Akron Children’s Museum pillars: STEM education. The museum wants to be part of the solution for parents who want activities for their children to use creativity through play and think critically when outside of a formal learning setting. Visiting the museum on a regular basis may not be viable for most families; Play-Goh offers an informal learning opportunity to occur wherever the child is.

A Tale of Two Projects: The Disk-O and the Chaotic Reveal (Guyton)

The MLMP process for Guyton was a lesson in the art of pivoting based on time and resources therefore yielding two concepts. The Disk-O—still in ideation—is a multi-layered exhibition that experiments with using a unified form factor of manipulative play-pieces to offer expansive, immersive opportunities for inquiry-based experiences at varying developmental stages. This exhibition will explore the benefits of cross-pollination of integrated play pieces, creating opportunities for deep learning, and discovery. The Chaotic Reveal is a visually pleasing and intriguing exhibit that can utilize any type of visual media to create a layered interactive experience with a depth of possibility. A passive engagement experience with no electrical or mechanical feedback, this exhibit relies on the user’s curiosity and drive for discovery for engagement. The Chaotic Reveal has seen two rounds of prototyping and is poised for various implementations both within the museum walls and out.

Through these initiatives, the aim is to bridge the gap between early childhood exploration and more advanced educational experiences, ensuring that every visitor’s journey through the museum is both enlightening and enchanting.

Mobile Museum Pods (Land)

Alaska Children’s Museum started as a low budget mobile museum-without-walls by partnering with local organizations and providing activities at a few events—which has quadrupled over time. The need for something easy to transport and set-up while remaining unique and engaging quickly emerged. The solution was a concept for a self-contained modular mobile museum pod system that uses flight-case style boxes that are designed to be interactive outside and in, with specific themes so that they become an “exhibit in a box.” When open, the boxes themselves create the museum “walls” and can be mixed and matched for different occasions and audiences. The final version of the pod project will be an exhibit system that can be customized through collaborations with artists to create unique mobile exhibits that combine art and education. This allows the museum to create more custom exhibits, engage and uplift local artists, lend exhibits to other museums, offer children’s museum pop up programming to Rural Alaska communities, and provide a scalable option for any museum, library, school or other institution needing movable, semi-permanent exhibits and activities.

The Brainstorm (Madan)

The Brainstorm is a multifaceted, interactive antechamber to a Makerspace that inspires creative ideation and intentionality in maker-based learning experiences through four cohesive mechanical and digital exhibit elements. Makerspaces have become a quintessential part of informal education environments because they provide an excellent venue for young learners to develop and improve a myriad of skills pertinent to their interests, goals, and future outcomes. However, these opportunities could be significantly more impactful with The Brainstorm, which seeks to provide young learners with more meaningful experiences through personalized scaffolding, real-world context based problem solving, and opportunities to collaborate and be inspired by peers.

Each of the four elements in this antechamber allow guests to contribute to a communal ‘Brainstorm’ of ideas through multimodal, adaptive, and interactive exhibits that can then be used as a jumping off point for Makerspace creations by emphasizing a child’s potential for creating in an impactful way. Research indicates that learning is better internalized when done in a real-world or personally relatable context. By creating a space for Makers to dream big, be inspired by their peers, make connections between ideas, and anchor these ideas in meaningful work, not only are they given the best chance at a profound learning experience, they are supported in becoming tomorrow’s leaders, changemakers, and innovators.

Willow Whispers: The Joy of Connection (Towns)

This project is an extension on a prototype called “The Joy Box” which evoked joy by connecting items with the senses. The Joy Box morphed into an experiential sensory willow tree focused on the themes of joy, memory, and connection. Willow Whispers is envisioned as an immersive, sensory, and contemplative exhibit through which guests are invited to lay amongst the roots of a large willow tree in zero gravity moonpod like beanbags, look up to see the rhythmically pulsing lights and hear the soothing sounds of high vibrational music, while experiencing a soft rain fall of bubbles and light scent. Additionally, guests will create a memento of their experience by writing, drawing, or stamping their own creations on a ribbon that they can tie on the tree or take with them. An opportunity for delight and healing, the exhibit creates a space to be present in a memorable, meaningful, and much-needed way.

A complete list of all the MLMP participants and a program overview may be found at