bapplegate
Wednesday 5th , 2012
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738Our mission at Kidspace is to promote education and enrich the lives of children, families, and the community through interactive experiences in science, art, and the humanities.  Each day at the museum, we see smiling faces, busy hands and eager minds exploring the worlds the museum represents.  While we try to reach all different types of audiences, ranging from girl scouts to special needs students, there remain some populations with little access to places like children’s museums.  Hospitalized children represent one of those populations.

739 This is why Kidspace has partnered with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to bring the museum to the hospital.  Through the generosity of a grant from the Ann Peppers Foundation, we have been spending Mondays at the hospital, sharing everything from dinosaur fossils and sea shells to African drums and physics experiments with patients and their families.  Each week, we bring a different set of interactive items to share, and set up this “mobile museum” in different areas of the hospital.  These areas include both public and more private spaces.  Some of our days are spent in waiting rooms, where children awaiting for appointments and procedures can explore, and also where their siblings, who would otherwise be sitting in a quiet, still waiting room all day, have the chance to explore as well.  Other days we are on the hospital floors in special family-rooms, where in-patients can escape their room for a day to visit us and explore to their heart’s delight.  Still other days are spent in the rehabilitation ward. 

It goes without saying that this work has been incredibly meaningful to the Kidspace team.  Seeing the faces of children struggling with illness light up at the sight of magnets repelling, watching as their siblings stare in amazement at a bug under a microscope and knowing that we are carrying the Kidspace mission beyond the walls of the museum and out into the real world, to a place where children have little access to the natural world, is a priceless experience.  Perhaps the most inspiring aspect to this work is seeing the hospital transform from a place of fear and trepidation to a place of wonder and intrigue- Last week, after several hours of assembling a dinosaur fossil, creating a food chain and exploring the properties of different liquids, a 9 year old girl, who was on one of her frequent visits to the hospital while her brother received physical therapy, exclaimed “This is the best day ever!  I’m going to tell my dad to come back here with us next time!” 

709 While we can always measure the amount of joy a child is receiving from our presence at the hospital, it is sometimes more difficult to gauge the experience of a parent, as many of them sit quietly in the waiting rooms, reflecting on many things far beyond the realm of bugs and fossils and volcanoes.  Every now and then, however, we receive confirmation of how our hospital outreach program is impacting those parents.  We were recently approached by a mother who was with her healthy 5 year old daughter in one of the waiting rooms, while her other daughter was receiving her weekly treatments at the hospital.  Clearly tired and worried, she turned to us and said “I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Kidspace is here today.  We come here every Monday for my other daughter’s 8 hours of treatment, and it’s always such an awful experience for my 5 year old to have to sit with me in this waiting room.  It always makes me feel so guilty.  But today- Today she’s in heaven with you all here.  Thank you for what you’re doing.” 

In the spirit of giving thanks, I’m thankful to be able to work for an organization that can have such a measurably positive impact on the world, one child at a time.  I’m also thankful for the generosity of donors who make our outreach programs possible.  If we can inspire just one child to forget about the worries of their or their family member’s condition and transcend into a world of joy  and adventure, and transform a hospital into a playground of wonder, we have done our jobs.  We hope to continue this relationship with Children’s Hospital, and to one day extend these types of programs to many other populations in need of a little inspiration. 

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Blog Entry by:

Brooke Applegate is an Education Manager at Kidspace Children’s Museum, with a long history of developing children’s programs in the arts, humanities and sciences.  She comes to us from the La Brea Tar Pits, where she managed the school visits program. She has also taught international dance to children in her spare time and lived in Madrid, Spain to teach English as a second language.