Saturday, June 28, 2008

Urban Sprouts Loves Philly

I recently got back from a weekend trip to Philadelphia. Christine Manoux of the UC Botanical Garden asked me to join her for a conference at the Franklin Institute. The Franklin's BRIDGES conference asks about 50 cultural institutions from around the country — like science museums, children's museums, zoos — to bring a community partner and share how they work together to make the museums more accessible and exciting for new audiences, like the families we serve.

Christine and I presented on our shared work of supporting school gardens in the Bay Area, and I was excited about the idea of connecting families more to our botanical gardens. What better way to get inspiration for your home garden? Botanical gardens can be a fun and educational way to connect families to the garden-based education we're doing at schools. Thinking back . . . that was always one of my dad's first stops in any new place!

The format of the conference was very interesting - it was like a giant focus group to gather best practices on making museums accessible to more families. I loved what folks from the American Museum of Natural History in New York said, about empowering the youth in their programs to explore the museum, equipped with flashlights and the gear of scientists, so THEY feel like the experts and like they belong in the very grand museum. Folks from the Boston Children's Museum shared about exhibits created not by white-scientist-experts, but by members of the city's immigrant community, to share stories and history from the city's diverse voices. I know I am often turned off by museums presenting generalized archeological information about a culture as if all its members were the same and all now dead.

A very thought-provoking conference, including a visit to the Real Pirates exhibit at the Franklin. So much fun! I highly recommend it. We also enjoyed our time in Philadelphia, a truly beautiful, historic and fun city! Go there, if you can!

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