At the Bay Area Discovery Museum, we cover a range of creative topics with our on-site exhibits. We have an exhibit about boats and trains, one that encourages outdoor exploration, one dedicated to babies and toddlers. One thing we didn’t have? An exhibit about slides.
The four and five-year-olds in the Owl Class at The Discovery School—BADM’s on-site preschool—recognized this missing piece and saw it as an opportunity. They wanted to give back to the museum that serves as their second classroom by creating something that the site—and its visitors—needed. After brainstorming, researching, and voting on different proposed ideas, the students determined that their exhibit would be all about slides.
Once they had their topic, the real work began. They took some time to critically think about what an exhibit about slides would have to include, and decided that art on the walls, 3-D slide models, a slide-making activity for visitors, and exhibit signs would all be important. The class split up into three groups—the Slide Team; the Activity Table Team; and the Art, Models, and Signs Team—and each group worked with a museum counterpart to execute on their responsibilities.
Hear from the Owl Class about The New and Improved Slide Exhibit:
All of this hard work, thoughtfulness, and creativity is on display in The New and Improved Slide Exhibit, which opened May 15 and runs for two weeks in BADM’s Bridge Room. Danielle Dong, who teaches the Owl Class, further explained the journey from first day of school to exhibit opening:
How did this project come about?
Going into the school year, we wanted to make the museum feel like part of the school. The children really wanted to create something for the museum and this exhibit was a way for them to do that. We introduced the idea to the Exhibits Task Force and they immediately said yes. Their faith was really in the children!
What did the kids learn from working on this?
The main thing was the idea of giving back. The exhibit was a gift for the museum. It was something that they were creating for other children. They thought about everything. To see them make these leaps that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought they would has been amazing.
How did you come up with ‘slides’ as the exhibit topic?
We started thinking about what the museum needs. We put all of their ideas on a brainstorming list, and from there we voted. It was pretty unanimous!
How did the children work together?
We came up with a list of things to include in our exhibit: the slide*, art on the walls, signs, an activity for people to do. We came up with three teams. One was about signs, one was about the activity table, and one was about the slide. Each child got either their first or second choice.
What do you hope visitors will learn from visiting The New and Improved Slide Exhibit?
A lot of the ideas that the kids came up with, my immediate reaction was, “We can’t do that.” But I think saying yes allows the children to have a sense of agency and feel that what they’re doing is valuable. Thinking about what a four and five-year-old is capable of, I think it’s easy to say this couldn’t happen. To be there as a supporter and honor their ideas and show that what they’re doing is important is really special.
The New and Improved Slide Exhibit will run from May 15-May 24.
*Throughout the process of creating The New and Improved Slide Exhibit, TDS students engaged with BADM’s engineering design process of “Think, Make, Try.” They thought about each challenge that came up, made a prototype, and tried and retried their ideas. Even after the exhibit’s opening, that process continues. Though the children envisioned and constructed a fully-functioning slide to be part of their exhibit, there was no safe way for visitors to actively engage with it. The slide is now in storage, where it will remain for further prototyping!