Madison Children’s Museum

Madison Children’s Museum’s Rooftop Insect Hotel - 2018

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Madison Children’s Museum’s Homing Pigeon Program - 2016

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Madison Children’s Museum’s Entomophagy Project - 2015

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Madison Children’s Museum’s Hmong Garden - 2013

November 1, 2013 Report for the Dane Council Environmental Council

Funds from the Dane County Environmental Council supported the purchase of seed starting supplies, organic mulch, plants, and soil amendments for the Hmong Garden on Rooftop Ramble, Madison Children’s Museum’s 7,180- square foot, four-season outdoor exhibit. MCM welcomed nearly 85,000 visitors during this year’s growing season; an estimated 28,000 made their way to the Hmong Garden. At any point in the season, they might have seen seeds growing in the greenhouse, new plantings taking root, full harvest enjoying the summer’s sun, or seeds drying in the Clubhouse. The highlights of showcasing the garden in context with local Hmong culture were the Summer Harvest Festival in July and the Hmong Fall Harvest Festival in October.

A significant outcome of the Hmong Garden came from the Coordinator Julie King’s visit to the Hmong Market in St. Paul to purchase the plants. She describes in a journal entry below the prediction of a lasting relationship with the Hmong Community, and her thoughtful stewardship of their resources.

I found a Hmong elder woman who seemed to be in charge of the plants for sale. We were able to communicate using simple English words, we also used hand gestures and other body language to communicate about the plants. I explained to her what I was doing (educating children about traditional Hmong plants and cooking at MCM). She understood and wanted to help me. Right away I became aware that selling plants to non-Hmong Americans was a rare occurrence at the market. I think some Hmong people want to protect their traditional ways and don’t want their culture taken over by mainstream American culture…I bought about 12-15 trays of traditional Hmong vegetable and culinary herbs. I also bought about 20 different medicinal plants. She explained what the uses and preparations were for each of the medicinal plants. She asked me to come back next year as I pulled away and I felt so honored. I know I will learn even more when I go back next year.

Many Hmong people supplement their incomes and support their families’ food gardens by selling produce at Farmer’s Markets throughout Wisconsin. They seem to grow the most common vegetable varieties for the American market. Traditional Hmong vegetable and herbs are reserved for the Hmong people themselves. I think this is partially to preserve Hmong tradition and culture. I understand this feeling, but also think educating the public about the vast, unique culture and history of the Hmong people is a very important part of Wisconsin culture…Hopefully, someday Hmong growers can sell traditional produce at farmer’s markets in order to preserve these unique plants. My sense is that many of these plants are slowly becoming extinct. Seeds must be saved each year and if the crop has a bad season, whole strains can be lost. I don’t believe there are any seed companies that sell Hmong seeds. I also learned at the “Working with Hmong Farmers” conference in La Crosse, that trading seeds between families is not a typical practice. During this project one of my main priorities continues to be saving Hmong seeds and plants from year to year.

MCM again thanks the Dane County Environmental Council for the generous gift. It truly made a difference to the Hmong Garden project—one that will serve the community well for years to come.

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Madison Children’s Museum’s Solar Ovens - 2012

November 1, 2013 Report for the Dane Council Environmental Council

Funds from the Dane County Environmental Council have been gratefully accepted by Madison Children’s Museum (MCM) to purchase three solar ovens/cookers for Rooftop Ramble, the museum’s 7,180-square foot, four-season outdoor exhibit. A very hot and dry summer made for a good pilot year for the new ovens, which were put into use nearly every day. MCM welcomed approximately 62,000 visitors during the peak summer months of July through August while the museum was open seven days a week. While visitation numbers are not tracked in specific exhibit areas, a reasonable estimation of the number of visitors encountering the solar ovens might be around 10,000.

Food is a very easy vehicle for capturing the attention of visitors of any age, who will line up to see how bread, for example, is being baked without supplemental energy—on the rooftop five stories high! Visitors came away from the cooking demonstrations with a powerful visualization of the sun’s energy and how it can be used for a routine task, such as making breakfast eggs. Having access to the ovens also allowed staff to make use of other Rooftop Ramble exhibit elements such as eggs from the resident chickens and organic herbs from the gardens. For one event, staff collected and saved sixty chicken eggs for a large-scale baked-egg cook-off. Finally, the professional-grade solar ovens served as models as kids in the Rooftop Ramble summer camp created their own pizza box solar ovens.

Some of the things cooked in the solar ovens include:

  • Baked eggs
  • Baked potatoes
  • Bread
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Cornbread
  • Corn muffins
  • Omelets

Besides daily drop-in demonstrations, the solar ovens were used in several large-scale events, including:

  • Rooftop Ramble summer camp
  • Exploring Alternative Energy
  • Wisconsin Corn Festival
  • Green Rooftop Festival

Madison Children’s Museum again thanks the Dane County Environmental Council for the generous gift. It truly made a difference in this past summer’s programs to emphasize renewable energy and take advantage of the Rooftop Ramble’s harvest. They will serve museum visitors well, in mind and appetite, for years to come!

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Madison Children’s Museum’s Environmental Activity Kits - 2010

Activity Kit for Kids

Funds from the Dane County Environmental Council have been gratefully accepted by Madison Children’s Museum (MCM) to purchase equipment for two environmental activity kits for Rooftop Ramble, the museum’s new 7,180-square foot, four-season outdoor exhibit. Having evaluated exhibit and visitor needs, as well as immediate visitor use of Rooftop Ramble since opening on August 14,2010, MCM Rooftop Coordinator, Julie King, selected themes for two kits: Urban Wildlife and Plant Biology. To maximize the programmatic potential of Rooftop Ramble, the Urban Wildlife and Plant Biology kits will provide inquiry-based public programs, as well as facilitate open-ended outdoor play to enhance informal educational experiences. At the same time, the kits provide tools for MCM volunteers and interns that reinforce their teaching experiences and reach visitors of various ages and abilities.

The Urban Wildlife Environmental Activity Kit complements Rooftop Ramble's existing live native animal collection of fish, turtles, snake and frogs, and eight resident homing pigeons. This kit helps to foster respect and a new understanding of the animals that live side by side with the citizens of urban environments. Through use of the kit, children will gain first-hand knowledge of the life cycle and habits of some of the most recognizable urban animals. This activity kit includes:

  • Urban wildlife puppets (squirrel, raccoon, bee, opossum), especially for pre-K children
  • Animal tracks moulds for study and with which to create new prints (in the soil and snow)
  • Books
  • Board games
  • Scat specimens
  • Plans for dramatic play and movement activities for grades pre-K-2 (e.g. animal dress-up and role-play)

The Plant Biology Environmental Activity Kit incorporates Rooftop Ramble activities such as searching to identify plant specimens in one of the many gardens and looking at them through a digital microscope in the Rooftop’s Clubhouse. This activity kit includes:

  • Picture books and seed matching games for pre-K children
  • Grow-kits, hand lenses and observation charts for grades K-2
  • Dissection tools and graphing tools for longer-term observations for grades 3-5
  • Board games
  • Scat specimens
  • Guidebooks on berries, nuts, seeds, trees, leaves, bark, wildflowers and blossoms

Because MCM has yet to secure the staff and financial resources necessary to run the Why Guides program as described in the proposal for the activity kits, it has not been implemented as a youth volunteer program. However, the response to the new children’s museum has exceeded expectations, and that success has translated to great interest in the Rooftop Ramble and the museum’s environmental programming. Since reopening, MCM has welcomed over 68,000 visitors and Rooftop Ramble now employs the assistance of seven college student interns and twenty-three volunteers, ranging in age from eight years old to retirement. These volunteers will use the activity kits to lead drop-in programs for visitors in the same way as was outlined for the Why Guides. To date, museum visitation and participation in Rooftop Ramble public programs and volunteer opportunities demonstrate that the Urban Wildlife and Plant Biology Environmental Activity Kits will further Dane County Environmental Council’s goals of "fostering environmental protection and education" through targeting a wide audience.

Lisa Johnson
Dane County UWEX Horticulture Educator
5201 Fen Oak Drive, Rm 138
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: 608-224-3715
Fax: 608-224-3727

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