Marbles Kids Museum unveiled the latest improvement to its Around Town gallery today: the new Ready, Set, School exhibit.
The popular first floor gallery, which got a major revamp earlier this year, now features Marbles' version of a kindergarten classroom complete with cubbies, a book nook, activity tables and more. Ready, Set, School sits in the back corner of Around Town next to the play farm.
Pam Hartley, Marbles' vice president of exhibits and education, tells me that the exhibit anchors the museum's long-running school readiness initiative, which aims to prepare kids for kindergarten.
For years, the museum has hosted Kickoff to Kindergarten, now in the spring for year-round students and summer for traditional calendar students. The free event lets kids hop on a school bus, walk through a pretend lunch line and participate in a gym class, for instance. Marbles also opens its doors free on special nights each year for students who attend Title One summer and preschool programs.
"Now we have a footprint with this," Hartley said of the exhibit.
Marbles staffers worked with Wake County school system early education experts to design Ready, Set, School. And, since the spring, they've been testing a variety of activities, first in the second floor Think Tank room and later in the spot where the exhibit now sits.
The exhibit is funded, in part, by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the first national sponsor for Marbles. Marbles also is collaborating with five other science and children's museums around the country, including the Boston Children's Museum and COSI in Columbus, Ohio.
At Ready, Set, School, kids can play with a light table, a sensory table, blocks, letter magnets and pattern blocks, all common features in a Wake kindergarten classroom. There's a book nook with books about kindergarten and exploring feelings for quiet time.
Hartley said some of the activities will switch out. And staffers are working on a slate of programs for the space. Look for activities about twice a week.
But Hartley said the exhibit is as much about getting kids ready for kindergarten as it is helping parents prepare themselves for the big step. Next to the cubbies, for instance, there's a schedule of a typical kindergarten day, but there's also a list of a typical morning routine at home. On another wall, there's a big graphic of a clipboard where parents can learn more about what kids need to succeed and how they learn in kindergarten.
The message to parents is that you don't need fancy video games and apps to get your kids ready for kindergarten. It's all about building those social skills and making sure your child can do things like ask for help when needed, not give up when something is challenging, take turns and control themselves.
"These are the social and emotional skills that are the ones that are the most important in getting ready for school," Hartley said.
And how can parents help their kids be ready?
It's simple, Hartley said. Just playing with your child.
If you've been to Around Town in the last month, you probably noticed that the ambulance has a new look complete with a 911 call simulator, new lights and much more. It looks great! The kids love the 911 simulator (which is very realistic!).
And there's more. On Nov. 23, right next to Ready, Set, School and the ambulance, Marbles will unveil a play news helicopter, which kids will be able to climb into. Its helicopter rotor will actually spin.
For more about Ready, Set, School, which I'll add has some beautiful, fun graphics, watch my video interview with Hartley and check out the image gallery.
Go Ask Mom usually features places to take kids on Fridays. And this week, we'll have two. Check back for another feature on Friday.