Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Children's Museum, and the Children's First Formal Interview

I've mentioned before that we're regular guests of the Paleo Lab in the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, volunteering to clean and prepare some of the less complicated, less scientifically important fossils in their collections so that the paleontologists and more skilled volunteers can have more time to work on the superb pieces.

See, here we are doing that just last month!

Thanks to one of the paleontologists, I finally have a photo of ME here! See, I can work on fossils, too!
 One of the paleontologists suggested, however, that we might enjoy volunteering with the Children's Museum in a more formal capacity, and after researching it, I agreed. I'm always on the lookout for meaningful volunteer opportunities for the children, ones in which they're treated respectfully, given important work, and allowed to take ownership of what they're doing. From what I've seen at the Children's Museum, everywhere from inside the museum galleries to out in South Dakota at a dinosaur dig, that is exactly how those at the Children's Museum treat children.

This also applies, apparently to the application process! Of course the application process for volunteering in a children's museum is rigorous, including references--I haven't had to ask for references since I was 21 years old, I don't think!--and it also includes a formal group interview. On the appointed day, the children and I headed up to the museum, met with two other applicants and the volunteer coordinator, and sat down together for a real, live interview.

I wasn't sure how involved the children would be in this interview, so I brought colored pencils and blank paper for them (actually, I bring those items everywhere, and use them often, both with my own kids and the misbehaving children of total strangers) to keep them occupied while the adults talked.

In truth, however, the children were VERY involved, with interview questions all their own! The interviewer mostly asked them about their favorite things in the museum, what they liked to do in their free time, etc., but still, the children were required not only to talk with the interviewer, but to do so in front of the other applicants.

It. Was. Wonderful!

You know that I'm all about real-world experiences such as this, and I was over the moon at this opportunity for the children to stretch their social skills. And, of course, it was all very casual and friendly, because the interviewer knew how to speak to children to draw them out. Syd was more reluctant, giving short answers and not really wanting to elaborate, but she did draw pictures with the materials that I'd provided, and then show them to everyone to be admired, so it remained a positive experience for her, I think.

Will, however? I was shocked. I know that she's a great big girl of eleven now, but in my heart she's often still that five-year-old child who had never spoken willingly to an adult in her life, who had the same two teachers for three entire years at Montessori and NEVER spoke to them without a damned good reason, who, when asked a direct question by a friendly adult, would simply stare at them, pretending as hard as she could that whatever was happening was sure as hell not happening in her world.

Um, this kid? I'll be damned, but she was charming! She told everyone all about her desire to be a pilot, then lightly bickered with me about the appropriate age to start flying lessons. I raved about the family dino dig, then handed it over to her to tell about the pachycephalosaurus tooth that she'd discovered, and she happily told the tale. As she spoke about digging for dinosaur fossils, one of the other applicants asked her about the type of dinosaur that was there, she explained that it's the edmontosaurus, the applicant asked what that looks like, and so Will got up and turned away from the table, showing the back of the dinosaur dig T-shirt that she happened to be wearing, which INCLUDES A DIAGRAM OF THE EDMONTOSAURUS.

It was so cute that one of the other applicants actually giggled and clapped her hands.

There isn't actually currently an "official" opening for volunteers in the Paleo Prep lab (so keep mum about what we've been doing for the past two years!), but both children were VERY enthusiastic about volunteering in the Dinosphere gallery, and so that's where we've been tentatively placed for our six-week trial run, to begin sometime next month.

Here's to new opportunities!

We actually had to book it back to Bloomington for ballet class afterwards, but obviously not before playing just a *little* bit in the museum:

I swear, this museum never gets old for these kids.


Tina said...

Oh my gosh that is so exciting and fun! We looked for appropriate volunteer opportunities here, but never had any real luck. I'm excited about moving because I have already discovered that the kiddo can be actively involved in taking care of animals at the shelter in East Lansing. Here, it would have been me working with the animals and her watching from a safe distance.

I'm excited to see all the cool things you and the girls will get to do as volunteers at the museum!

julie said...

That is going to be so fun for her! I think Michigan is going to be a really great place to live--so many things to do in Detroit, and places like Toronto and Niagara are in driving distance, and every now and then I can come and see you!

The only negative to the Children's Museum idea is that if we do decide to volunteer there regularly, they'll want us every other week, which means that I think we'd need to quit the food bank. I'll be super sad, because *I* love the food bank, but if the kids like volunteering at the museum as much as they like visiting it, it could end up being an even more meaningful volunteer experience for them.