Outside the Box
Museums, once the dusty purview of boring, school field trips, have really come into their own.
Museums, once the dusty purview of boring, school field trips, have really come into their own. Today, museums are go-to destinations for a fun and educational afternoon. They provide a wider, more interactive learning experience than ever before—one that both children and adults can enjoy.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, celebrating its 50th year, is a community landmark on Main Street. There is an ever-changing array of indoor and outdoor exhibits and programs for all age groups, including artist talks and discussion panels to help visitors understand contemporary art. Young adults interested in art school and art careers benefit from the museum’s dedication to hiring interns for many departments. The museum also offers themed, week-long summer camps for grades one through ten, as well as family events and activities.
Fairfield Museum and History Center allows visitors to step back in time and explore the town’s Colonial past. Kids, teachers, and adults can participate in a variety of programs such as Colonial craft-making and scavenger hunts. The Ogden House, an extension of the museum, is a focal point. Originally built in 1750, the house and its traditional garden now offer an authentic glimpse of life for a Colonial family living in Fairfield. The museum also offers summer camp.
Katonah Museum of Art brings a varied array of art and culture to the public. Exhibitions expose visitors to pieces from around the world, exploring the artists, ideas, techniques, and time periods involved. An education department offers workshops aimed at incorporating the arts into classroom learning. Family-oriented programs include Thinking Through Art, Smart Girls, and the bilingual Arte Juntos (Art Together). The museum hosts lectures and guided tours and grants exclusive access to artists and private collections.
Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has it all—art, history, and natural science. Visitors of all ages can enjoy exhibits that include fine art, an aquarium, the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, dinosaurs and paleontology, and even a butterfly house. The museum hosts many educational programs to match this broad scope of subjects. For instance, Kitchen Ka-boom lets children become “mad scientists,” cooking up kid-safe experiments. The museum also has a summer camp and self-guided tours.
Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury has a mission to educate the public about Connecticut’s artistic and cultural history through its exhibits and programs. For instance, museum staff have designed activity kits for area teachers in order to encourage hands-on learning in the classroom. Permanent and seasonal collections for all age groups are presented using technological and conventional media such as speakers, interactive displays, film clips, and an interactive “Conversations Table,” one of only four in the country.
Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk is designed specifically for children. The museum’s success is based on the belief that kids learn from hands-on experience, play, and self-expression. The Early Language and Literacy Initiative (ELLI) Lab School introduces children, ages three through five, to elements of reading and language. Around the World allows kids and their parents to learn about a different country each month (without the costly plane tickets). Adolescents in grades six through 12 can take advantage of the Youth Enrichment program to build leadership skills and design kid-approved activities. The museum may be rented for parties and special events.