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Monday, April 9, 2018

The Power of Play

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Children create and discover at Sci-Port

museum at Sci-Port is officially back open and ready to introduce kids to a new level of fun!

“The Power of Play (POP) Children’s Museum in Sci-Port is a type of scaffold upon which kids can construct whatever type of creative, constructive play they desire,” Alan Brown, senior director of education and programs, said. “They could be farmers who pick their vegetables, bring them to Brookshire’s, weigh them, sell them, buy them back and prepare them as a meal for their parents in the café. Or, they can be bank robbers who steal the money from the bank and hide out in the tree house, secretly leaving to buy food for the animals who live in the tree house with them. Or, they can simply be engineers, constructing elaborate experiments in the water table or maker space.”

At POP, children have the opportunity to work independently or engage in collaborative, social play with new friends they’ve possibly just met.

“More importantly than what we offer kids, perhaps, is what we hope to offer parents,” Brown said. “Many parents don’t understand that play is the work of childhood. There is a growing tendency to schedule our kids’ lives, which limits opportunities to create and discover.”

Brown has been on staff at Sci-Port for seven years and brings 20 years of experience to the table in regards to formal and informal education settings.

“My favorite part of my job is that I get to learn something new every day, even if it is simply a new way to understand something I’ve known for 30 years,” Brown said.

The Power of Play at Sci-Port is geared for ages 8 and under and their families. “POP offers the opportunity to observe the most interesting animal in the world – young children,” Brown said. “As parents after a couple of years, we often take our kids for granted. But POP gives the tuned-in parent the opportunity to see their child in their natural environment – one carefully constructed to encourage nothing deeper than pure, powerful play.”

In today’s culture, play seems to be even more crucial for kids now that the temptation of technology lurks in every home.

Brown has an interesting take on the subject. “I’d follow the advice of professionals when it comes to children and screens, but it’s also important to note that not all screen time is created equal. Personally, my family’s lives have been greatly enriched by shows like ‘The Wild Kratts,’ the rebooted ‘Electric Company’ and ‘Thomas, the Tank Engine,’” Brown said. “You should be aware of what your child chooses to watch, and look for opportunities to engage your kids with what they chose.”

Brown suggests paying attention to what your child is passionate about, and helping them play in that manner. “If your child is interested in animals, get out in nature and see what you can see together,” Brown said. “Build a birdhouse, plant a butterfly garden or roll over a dead log. Whether parents choose to completely unplug or not, they should parent deliberately.”

Sci-Port is also excited about the reopening of the IMAX Dome Theater on April 6.

It turns out the power of play isn’t just for children, but also for students and adults who willingly invest time and effort into their community. “We aren’t in a position to offer a ton of scheduled programs at the moment, but we have community partners, such as the biology department of Centenary College, who come in and assist periodically with programs and activities their students have designed themselves,” Brown said.

It takes a village, and this local village loves Sci-Port.

Sci-Port is currently open Thursday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

–Betsy St. Amant Haddox

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