Bronx toddler touching the “river.”
Every borough in the City has a children’s museum, and the Bronx is now joining the pack with the unveiling of its first ever exhibit called: River On the Go: Where is Justin the Beaver?
The museum debuted its new traveling exhibit highlighting the Bronx River, “River on the Go: Where is Justin the Beaver?” at events on September 24 and September 27.
The first to glimpse the interactive multi-sensory exhibit — housed in an updated school bus —were Saturday attendees at the Harlem River Festival at Mill Pond Park and the Annual Bronx Unity Day at St. Raymond High School for Boys.
On Tuesday, the bus stopped in at the Upstream Soiree celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Bronx River Alliance at the New York Botanical Garden.
About half of the 100 children who saw the exhibit over the weekend were asked if they had ever been to a museum or a river. Almost every one answered “no.” This exhibit was probably the first experience in a river habitat or a museum of any sort for many of the children.
To emphasize the connection to the Bronx River, the museum handed out a number of free passes to the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo. The river flows through the grounds of both institutions.
The museum has been piloting art and educational programs at community based organizations, at festivals and at health fairs throughout the Bronx since 2006, but “River on the Go” is the Bronx Children’s Museum’s first traveling exhibit.
“We are absolutely thrilled that the Museum has made yet another giant step toward opening its doors in 2014 in the South Bronx. This exhibit is a prototype of the kind of dynamic exhibit we plan to have in our museum when it opens. Exhibits are often tested in the field to ensure that they are in line with what a museum’s stakeholders want,” said BCM Executive Director Carla Precht. "According to the feedback we received over the weekend, we have our finger on the pulse of the families in the Bronx. Our work getting to know the community last year and our focus groups have really paid off!”
With funding from the Simon Bolivar Foundation and The Tortuga Foundation BCM’s new On-the-Go Bus has a busy schedule of visits to festivals, schools, block parties, libraries, shelters, and community-based organizations lined up.
“There is nothing that comes closer to the original dream of cleaning up the waterways in the Bronx than to have children engaged in learning about them,” said Congressman José E. Serrano, an early supporter of the museum.
The creation of the exhibit was overseen by a South Bronx-born and raised young woman, Luisa Escalera. "An experienced industrial designer and teacher in the South Bronx, Luisa knows better than anyone what makes children in the South Bronx tick." Precht stated.
Early childhood educator Nancy Maldonado and environmental educator Lilli Genovesi are working on adding an accompanying curriculum for teachers and resources for parents and caregivers.
Children — who enter the bus in small groups with their parents, caregivers, or teachers — are guided by museum educators through a variety of experiences. They sit on the foot bridge (the center walkway), close their eyes, and listen to the many things they hear.
Guides then ask them to find the flora and fauna they can see. Mounted stuffed animals are interspersed throughout the bus – under logs, in beaver dens, and in nests – for children to play a game called “Where are Justin the Beaver and his neighbors?” (Justin is a real beaver, sighted on the Bronx River in 2008). There will eventually be living specimens of animals and flora like turtles, frogs, and moss for children to observe and touch.
The bus exhibit will eventually incorporate a mobile “suitcase exhibit” that can be unpacked and displayed on portable tables for children to touch, observe, and learn more about the subject content immediately after they enter. The exhibit design team is also developing a curriculum and games, based on New York state science standards, to share with educators who can use them as they wish to deepen each child's experience.
River on the Go…Little Friends of the River Exhibit Team
Luisa I. Escalera: Fabricator, designer, teacher, River on the Go exhibit manager. South Bronx native and resident, Luisa is a special education teacher in the South Bronx. As an exhibit maintainer and museum educator for the Brooklyn and Long Island Childrens’ Museums, Luisa explored the construction and use of exhibits as teaching tools. She has been a Prototyper for Argyle Design, a Fabricator for The Children's Museum of Manhattan, an Exhibit Coordinator for the Stepping Stones Children's Museum, and a Designer for Thinc Design. Luisa has assisted in the production of environments and components that foster hands-on learning experiences. Luisa holds a BFA in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute. She is also a NYC Teaching Fellow with a Master's degree in Urban Education from Mercy College. Luisa is dedicated to the creation of spaces and objects of learning through exploration and play. River on the Go is Luisa’s first exhibit from the ground floor up.
Jack Cesareo: Painter, sculptor. Jack currently works in the Exhibitions Department at the American Museum of Natural History as the Senior Principal Preparator. He makes models and paints diorama backgrounds for permanent displays and traveling exhibits. Jack studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1975-1977. Over the years he has created hundreds of paintings, drawings and three-dimensional pieces. In recent years he has collaborated on performance work and has begun experimenting with digital video. He takes his Pop Art Bike and Cupcake to sites around New York City. River on the Go is his first exhibit in a bus.
Lilli Genovesi: Trout in a Classroom (TIC) Coordinator. Before starting with TIC in 2008, Lilli was the Lead Outreach Educator for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County where she helped design mobile environmental exhibits for small children. She has taught science-based and environmental lessons to students of all ages for over 6 years. Lilli earned her BS in Marine Biology from the University of California Los Angeles in 2005 and is currently enrolled in an Environmental Science Master’s program at CUNY.
Damian Griffin: Bronx River Alliance Education Director. Bronx resident, Damian is a former NYC public school teacher who now works to help teachers make the river an extension of their classroom, as well as coordinate the Bronx River Stewards and Recreation Program. After beginning his career as a carpenter, Damian joined the US Peace Corps as a Vocational Education Volunteer and decided to make education his focus. He holds a BA in English with a minor in Spanish from Baruch College, as well as a Master’s in Bilingual Education from City College. Living in the South Bronx with his wife and two children, Damian uses his bicycle as his main mode of transportation to save money, conserve the environment, and focus on the communities that he serves.
Nancy Maldonado: Early Childhood Teacher, Professional Development and Teaching Supervisor, author, speaker and Associate Professor, Lehman College of the City University of New York. Bronx native, Nancy is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Early Childhood Graduate Program at Lehman College of CUNY. She has a BA in History and a Master’s degree in Education, Specialization in Early Childhood Education, from Lehman College and a Doctor of Education Degree in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Nancy’s research is centered on children’s thinking, specifically in the area of problem solving using jigsaw puzzles and manipulatives. Her research has resulted in numerous articles and monographs in national and international journals. Nancy has more than 30 years of experience in the early childhood field with a specialty in multicultural and lingual education. She lives in the Bronx and is a Bronx native.
Claudia Senior: Artist, sculptor.
Tats Cru: Muralists. The TATS CRU is a group of Bronx-based professional muralists Whose work in aerosol has changed the perception of graffiti as art. Twenty-five years ago, three teenagers Wilfredo (Bio) Feliciano, Hector (Nicer) Nazario, and Sotero (BG183) Ortiz began their artistic Careers by creating subway graffiti. What began as recognition Tactic has evolved into a powerful, expressive style that has brought The TATS CRU to the forefront of mural art. Their work is Recognized throughout the world as leaders in graffiti advertising And mural painting. (From www.themuralkings.com)
Natalie Wood: Artist, arts educator. A recent Lehman College MFA graduate, Natalie Wood is a teaching instructor with Creative Classrooms, a fine arts organization that places professional artists in schools that do not have arts education. She has taught arts education classes in the Bronx for the last 3 years, combining art history and studio art for grades Pre-K through 8th grade. Natalie earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited her own work in Berlin, Rome, and most recently at the Bronx Museum of Art. Natalie has been the Program Manager of the Bronx Children’s Museum Dream Big summer program for the past two years and will be managing the River on the Go program.
Matt Volpe: Carpenter.
Photos: Sarah Schuman
Bronx Childrens Museum
For further information, contact Sandy Shalleck
For questions regarding the museum and its programs please contact:
Richard Stein, press liaison for the board.