Kitetails Quarterly Newsletter - Winter 2012
In This Issue
News In Brief


Feature Article: From Idea to Exhibit
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Program Highlights 
Here's a sampling of the exciting events coming up this quarter.
For more, visit our Calendar of Events.

Lisa Redfern Live: Mini-Concert
Saturday, 1/14 
Award-winning singer-songwriter Lisa Redfern will visit the Museum & Theatre to perform some classic tunes from her childhood along with originals from her new album, Sing Me Goodnight.

Valentine's Day Social
Tuesday, 2/14  10:30am-12pm 
We're having a card-making party with tasty treats and delicious coffee samples from Coffee by Design. Now that's a social that kids and grown-ups will love!

Chemistry Club Show
Thursday, 2/23
Reservations recommended
Chemistry isn't just for the classroom! USM's Chemistry Club will put on a fun and explosive (but safe!) demonstration of the power of science. 

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie
Encore Performance
Friday, 3/9
Join Hattie and Pepper for their exhilarating journey west on the Oregon Trail in 1847. Their story is sometimes boisterous, sometimes moving and always unforgettable. Don't miss its rare return to our stage.
(Best for ages 6 & up)

Reconstructed Robots
Saturday, 3/24
Have you ever been tempted to see what's inside your radio? Where those wires on your television go? We'll take apart used electronics and recycle the parts to create unique robot art.

5% Day at Whole Foods Market Portland
Tuesday, 3/27
A fundraiser that's easy and delicious? That's the best kind! 5% of Whole Foods Market's net sales on March 27 will be donated to the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine. Happy shopping!



Corporate Exhibit, Education, Admission & Theatre Production Sponsors:
July 1-December 31, 2011

Ameriprise Financial

Andrucki & Mitchell, Attorneys at Law

Bangor Savings Bank


Burns Cleaning

Congress Associates, LLC

Fairchild Semiconductor

Flatbread Company

Gilman Electrical Supply

H.P. Hood LLC

Hancock Lumber Company

Hunter Panels, LLC

IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.

KeyBank of Maine

L.L. Bean

Life's Healthy Pleasures



Oakhurst Dairy

Pine State Services

Portland Pipe Line Corporation

Portland Volvo

Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution

TD Bank Maine



White Rock Distilleries

Whole Foods Market

Explore the Great Indoors
Now that winter weather has finally set in, even the most avid nature enthusiasts are spending more time indoors. That's not always a bad thing! Free from the fear of "wasting" a beautiful day, you can take the time to savor the indoor activities you love, from curling up with a good book to exploring a museum from top to bottom.

With that in mind, we've planned plenty of indoor fun for January, February and March. See a show, explore a new exhibit or even try some kid-friendly meditation. Savor your favorite indoor activities... and count down the days until the Shipyard is open again!

Thanks for reading and for being a part of the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine community!


New Exhibit: Meet Sandy, Our Town's Child Inventor 

Sandy is a curious problem solver - and a future engineer?When our new Child Inventor exhibit opens later this spring, it will be the result of hundreds of hours of work over the course of more than a year. Developing an exhibit - especially one this complex - requires research, planning, experimentation, creativity and collaboration. Working with a team of engineers from Fairchild Semiconductor, we discovered the playful side of engineering and found ways to translate that into a hands-on exhibit. In this issue of Kitetails, Chris Sullivan, our Director of Exhibits and Operations, invites us along on the journey from an idea to exhibit. 


Click here to read full story.... 


NEWS IN BRIEFNewsinbrief  


Wiley and the Hairy Man opens February 17With the February 17 opening fast approaching, the cast of Wiley and the Hairy Man has just begun rehearsing this wild, rhythmic adventure. The play, based on a Creole folktale, is set in the swamplands of Appalachia. As you visit in the coming weeks, you'll find programs that explore Appalachian culture, and you might spy some set pieces in the Dress Up Theatre that make you feel like you're in the swamplands! We've also developed a new opportunity for younger actors, Saturday Morning Live. This flexible program (you can drop-in or sign up in advance) is just for kids ages 6 to 11 who need an outlet for their comedy and improv skills. Older children (ages 8 to 17) are invited to audition for our spring show, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, on Saturday, March 3.  



We were thrilled to receive support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine for  Play Our Way: Private Playtimes for Families Affected by Autism. The series begins this Friday, January 13, with an after-hours playtime beginning at 5:30pm (share it on Facebook). We created this program to provide children on the autism spectrum a safe, comfortable environment in which to explore and to give families facing similar challenges a place to connect. These monthly playtimes are free and will alternate between mornings and evenings through June 2012. To spread the word about Play Our Way, print and share this flyer with anyone you know who could benefit. For more information, contact Louisa at or 207-828-1234 x227.  



Tiger illustration by Rebecca Q. Yankes
Tiger illustration by Rebecca Q. Yankes

This winter the Stair Tower Gallery will come alive with color as we feature collections from a series of talented artists and illustrators. Pause on your next trip among our floors to admire the vibrant work of local artist Dave Marshall, featured through February 19. Up next is our Drawn Together exhibition, featuring the work of illustrators Rebecca Q. Yankes and Nathan Walker. Yankes' Digital Animal series is inspired by her love of natural science. Walker's bright illustrations have appeared in Highlights for Children and the children's book Floaty Feet. Keep an eye on our blog for Q&As with the artists. 


We've also recently updated the Book Nook with new curtains and fresh paint colors - stop in for a story some time! 



Despite the frozen ground and frigid temperatures, we're be sowing the seeds for our spring gardens all winter long. You'll leave January's spring flower bulb-planting workshop with a pot full of hyancinths-to-be; follow it up with February's worm bin composting workshop to get the tools and skills you need to provide your flowers with rich, fertile soil. We're also excited to introduce a new series of programs, Meditation and Play, with guest artist Anca Gooje, a dancer and meditation expert (share it on Facebook).  



The Development team is hard at work preparing for the Annual Auction on May 4, 2012. There's a little extra excitement in the air as we prepare to hold the event at a new venue: the beautiful Ocean Gateway on Portland's waterfront. The event wouldn't be possible without the hard work of our Auction Committee, which will convene for an Auction Committee Kick-off Meeting on Wednesday, January 18 at 7pm. Interested in helping out? We have room for volunteers of all kinds, whether you have a little time or a lot. Come to the meeting or contact Alicia at or 828-1234 x242 to learn more.  


In other fundraising news, the Museum & Theatre has just become part of the Clynk/Hannaford Community Cash program. Clynk makes it easy for our staff, visitors, members and friends to raise money to support our recycling efforts. If your family generates returnable bottles and cans, you can Clynk for the Museum & Theatre. Stop by the front desk to pick up bags and bag tags, or visit our website to learn more about Clynk.


Our printable calendars are an asset to any family fridge or bulletin board. Print them at home (click each image below) or pick up the current month's calendar on your next visit.

Our events schedule is subject to change. For the most current schedule, as well as online event registration and ticketing, visit our calendar of events page or follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates.

Meet Sandy, Our Town's Child Inventor

Coming Soon: Sandy, Child InventorA new exhibit is opening in Our Town this spring, but plans have been underway for more than a year. Get the inside scoop on how an idea becomes an exhibit from Chris Sullivan, our Director of Exhibits and Operations.


Fairchild Semiconductor dedicates its philanthropic efforts to early childhood science education for many reasons, one of them very practical: they need engineers! They are eager to hire Maine engineers, which means they need Maine kids to get excited about math and science early so they'll pursue higher education and careers in the field of engineering. They have supported the Museum & Theatre's science programming for years. In November 2010, we began discussions with their philanthropy committee regarding a new exhibit: a hands-on engineering exhibit that would reach children outside of the classroom, placing engineering in the context of imaginative play.  


the next generation of engineersPhase One: Engineering Crash Course


Before we could find a way to introduce engineering concepts to children, we had to understand them ourselves. When our work began, we had no idea what semiconductors are, how integrated circuits work or why there are eight bits in a byte. A committee of Fairchild staff members - volunteers from departments across the company - was assembled to help us. With their guidance, we toured of Fairchild's testing, development and fabrication facilities, engaged in hands-on experimentation, saw how silicone is grown, and learned about the chemical and physical processes that transform it into a chip. We learned that even one task requires the work of many different types of engineers. For example, if Fairchild is creating a chip that allows high definition movies to play from a cell phone without increasing the phone's size, someone will need to design a new chemical process to create the smaller chip, and someone else will coordinate where the new machines will be placed for smooth production. Then, even after the chip is made, other engineers will continue to test and experiment with it to see what other uses it might have. Soon we had a new appreciation for the cutting edge work these individuals are doing and how many different types of thinkers are required to do it effectively: electrical engineers, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, machine operators and technicians.


robotics - soporoboticsteam
Our staff attended a demonstration by the South Portland Robotics Team and left amazed and inspired. The final exhibit will have a robotics component.

Our own understanding of engineering grew quickly, but our ultimate goal still seemed daunting: how could we make this comprehensible and interesting for children? The answer came from the engineers themselves. When asked what had interested them as children, they had all loved solving problems. Whether they were solving equations or dismantling the family television set, they'd been curious about how things worked. Now, as engineers (whether they use a computer or a wrench), they apply that natural curiosity and creativity, along with math and science skills, to discover and define how things work.


We had found our starting point, the essence of engineering itself: problem-solving. When presented as an opportunity to experiment, rather than a science test, engineering naturally appeals to children's creativity.


Phase Two: Causing Problems         


Sparking children's curiosity is a natural fit for our work, so we were excited to get started. The challenge: today's technology is so pervasive and integral to daily life that children may be less likely to question or investigate it than they were in decades past. More sophisticated technology also presents fewer opportunities for experimentation. (How would you go about taking apart an iPod, or a DVD player mounted in the back of a car seat?)

Circuit board component requires plan and prototype
Before going forward with fabrication plans for a circuit board (top), we try out a low-tech prototype (bottom).


We were determined to create opportunities for experimentation - to give children problems to solve. To make these problems inviting and integrate them into Our Town (itself a well-used, curiosity-inspiring area), we created Sandy Fairchild, Child Inventer. Her laboratory, which will be installed in the former vet clinic space, will feature several hands-on experiments designed to assist Sandy's Our Town neighbors with practical problems. Children will apply science, math, spatial reasoning and technology skills to devise creative, open-ended solutions. Our collaboration with Fairchild gives us a team of engineers who are ready to help us implement the technological aspects of the exhibit.


We're now in the midst of designing interactive components to fill the space. We start with intensive prototyping work. These prototypes are low-tech and designed to gauge children's response to the component's concept. Have you ever been to Museum and seen a staff member inside a cardboard box, acting like a computer? Were there others nearby, jotting down notes? You helped us develop an exhibit! Observing your child at play helps us determine our next steps. Prototyping involves a lot of research, brainstorming, false starts, critical dialogue and plenty of trial and error. These prototypes are rough, but they help us anticipate and resolve some technical kinks and discover the concepts and challenges that keep young visitors engaged.


Phase Three: Nuts & Bolts & Beyond


As our prototyping phase draws to a close, we enter the fabrication stage when we create and install the pieces that will become Sandy's laboratory. Informed by our prototype observations, we'll finalize our design plans, keeping in mind factors like visual appeal, safety and durability. We determine which pieces can be fabricated by our own staff and work with external designers and fabricators for some of our more complex components. For Sandy's experiments, we'll be working closely with engineers at Fairchild to ensure that the technology we use is safe and will stand up to heavy use from visitors nurturing a love of scienceof all ages. We also spend this time researching and writing text for the exhibit signs that will enhance the visitor experience. Soon, Sandy's lab will be open for hands-on exploration of robotics, communications technology, circuitry and more. 


The exhibit is expected to open in late spring of 2012, nearly 18 months after our process began. (Stay subscribed to our email list for the opening announcement.) Sandy is an active inventor, so we'll continue to work with Fairchild to develop and introduce new experiments periodically. We're excited to offer our visitors a new way to play and explore, and we're even more excited to think about the bigger implications of Sandy's arrival. How many bright engineering minds will this exhibit inspire? What technologies will they invent? How will those inventions change the world? How big an impact can one small exhibit have? We can't wait to find out!

Questions? Feedback? Contact Chris Sullivan at