SCSU Students Support Great River Children’s Museum’s Curious George Exhibit by Creating Language and Literacy Extension Activities
By Janet Tilstra, Associate Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders, St Cloud State University
It’s been an exciting spring semester! Students studying language development and disorders worked with Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM) to create activity packets to extend the children’s museum’s traveling Curious George exhibit.
This project is a model of community engagement, where SCSU students partner with a community organization to apply their newly acquired knowledge and serve a community need. The project involved several steps threaded throughout the semester:
Step one: Meet our community partner.
Cassie Miles, Great River Children’s Museum’s Executive Director, visited our class Zoom room in early February to talk about the children’s museum and the Curious George traveling exhibit on loan from the Minnesota Children’s Museum. She shared her vision for the project and other activity examples from other GRCM activities.
Step two: Develop language/literacy activity modules.
For their assignment, students were asked to develop an extension activity for the Curious George exhibit focusing on one specific area of language development. Activities were designed to be fun, build language and literacy skills, use the Curious George theme, and be appropriate for 2- to 6-year-olds.
Students were asked to keep materials simple and culturally sensitive to match a wide range of families and care settings.
Project topics included:
- Vocabulary building (e.g. nouns, concept words, action words);
- Social/pragmatic use of language (e.g. labeling emotions, taking turns);
- Language structure (e.g. past, present, future tense or singular vs. plural words);
- Language letters and sounds (e.g. rhyming words, counting syllables, matching letters/sounds)
- Narrative language structure (e.g. stories include characters, setting, problem, actions, ending).
Step three: Pitch ideas to the community partner.
Cassie returned to our Zoom classroom mid-March to hear students pitches and see activity demonstrations. There were many excellent ideas. From all the pitches, three group’s ideas were selected to be refined and used in Great River Children’s Museum’s preview space and shared online.
Step four: Refine the ideas to match needs of the community partner.
In April, the selected groups refined their ideas into deliverable instructions and materials for Curious George extension activities. Other students created instructional videos of how to do each activity. The rest of the class designed a caregiver handout with ideas for promoting children’s language and literacy in everyday life.
Step five: On-campus scholarly presentations.
In late April, all student groups presented as part of SCSU Husky Showcase, an annual event that celebrates University and community research, creative works and scholarship across all disciplines at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our students presented as examples of community engagement and applied learning.
Step six: Visiting the Curious George exhibit!
A final highlight to our semester will be visiting the exhibit in person. It will be exciting to see the full scale of the exhibit and how our classroom contributions support the children’s museum.
Thank you Cassie Miles & Great River Children’s Museum for partnering!