Christine Day is a daycare provider and teacher-in-training. She began working with CASE in its first year (2003), and has been an active and creative participant ever since. She became a CASE ambassador, representing the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Christine is the mother of three children and ten grandchildren, and her entire family participates in CASE.

Takeaway Message from Christine Day:

[At our workshops] the parents and the children sit together and learn and play together. Then they might call you up with a question later, and say, "Where can I get that material?" or "How can I do more?" And then we always have books that we set out. And then I just say, "Come on and get the book." I mean, I'm not asking you to get out and buy nothing; if we have it in the kit, it's yours to share. And we make them sign it out, and then they bring it back, and it's wonderful because it's like bringing a museum to your home.

Christine has taken the science ambassador model and expanded upon the basic program to benefit her local community.

I'm a "Community Ambassador for Science Exploration." We learn workshops and we take it back to the community. For myself it's for underprivileged children who cannot afford to come to the museums. Maybe their parents don't know anything about it, can't afford to take them, or how you fit it in the budget as a single parent? So, we just give them a small version of the big stuff that's going on. In our workshops we actually have newborns right on up to old age, and it works out because we get to take it to all the different levels. The program is flexible, we don't have to be rigid or have a script, and we can give it to them the way they want it, let them ask questions, and feel free. I think if we give it to them right, they're going to want to come in and get more, and that's what I'm finding. What we did is buy the membership, and we share it, we pass it around. In the school that they attend, I asked the principal to buy a couple of passes, and now the parents share them, so I'm finding it's working for the greater community.

A lot of times we test our workshops out in our daycare program, and then when I do it in front of the big group I've already got it the way I want it. I know what to leave out and what to put in and I've already heard the questions. I've tested, to see if the bubbles work, to see if the thing is supposed to fly, to see if the tree is going to work, can I really make this paper. We're only required to run two workshops after each training, but sometimes we might wind up doing four. Sometimes you need two workshops just to cover the whole subject because the audience wants more, and—not that we're obligated, but I want to give them more because they're asking for it and I don't want to leave anything out.

I remember one of the workshops was about water, and we took the children on a trip on our own to the water plant because we wanted them to see the Philadelphia Water Works and how it works and what it's all about compared to what we said and asked them, "Did you think it was the same or different?"

Another time, we went to the park and we were talking about pollution and what it does to streams and water. And I took them to the clean end in Cobb's Creek to, to show them what it was like, where it was nice and clean, then I took them down to the other end, I said, "Now, what do you think is wrong with this picture?" And they pointed out tires or shopping carts or plastic bags, and I said, "Well, how does that mess up the environment?" And they had great answers. Like fish could die 'cause it choked on the bag, you know, or the tires slowed the stream down. Then when they went back to the community, we had a block cleaning.

For Christine, CASE is a terrific opportunity to connect with young learners, and to see that her work makes a real difference in how children and families discover science together.

Kids learn a lot from CASE workshops. They thought that if they put a triangle straw shape in the water and tried to make a bubble it was going to be a triangle shape, so it was amazing to let them find out that no matter what you put in there, it's always going to be round. They said, "I want a square bubble! Well, I want a triangle bubble!" We must have done that workshop for three hours because I don't care what I said, they just kept going up and down the street, finding all these different shapes, going, "I know what I'm going to do! I got a great idea!" And I don't care what they pulled out; it kept turning out to be a round bubble. And I thought that was the funniest thing. Because sometimes you can't teach it; they have to touch it and feel it and do it for themselves. I don't care how much you stand up there and say the bubble's going to be round—until they see it themselves, that's when they get it. And then you know the little thing went off in their head, and they said, "Always going to be round." And I'm going, "Yeah, you've got it!"

That bubble activity took place during my first year, and we weren't sure how the audience was going to take us. But, that group stayed with us. We're in our third year, and we still work with that same group of children, so that's really nice. And I've met a lot of new friends because of that. I've met their parents, their aunts and uncles, and their cousins. You never know who's going to drop off, who's going to pick up, or who's staying or who's leaving, so that makes it really nice. When I go to the mall, the movies, or anywhere in the community I see those same children, and they go, "That's the lady that taught us!" It's a lot of fun to hear how they know you, and the parents or somebody will come up—maybe they were the aunt—and they'd be like, "Well, how do you know her?" "She's the lady that made the bubbles," or "She's the lady that made the planes fly," or, you know, that's really nice. And it doesn't really matter what I'm wearing or, like how I am, they just accept you for who you are. And then they go, "That's the museum!" Sometimes they call me "the museum lady," or "the lady from the Zoo," so I have all these different titles because of different children recognizing me from different things, and that's really nice.

To make the entire CASE experience more enticing, Christine dresses in themed clothes and creates a party atmosphere.

When we run workshops, we're dressed up with the theme. And it makes it a little more exciting; it brings the whole thing together. The first thing we always say is our name, then we tell them what CASE is, and why we're there, and then I'll say, "We're going to have a party," and I'll go around and say, "Has everybody been to a party before? And what is a party all about? Okay, now we're going to have a paper party, and I'm going to show you how it's done, and then you tell me what you want to do at the end and then we'll do that if we have enough time." So they like it, because—who doesn't want to go to a party? Parents like it because it allows them to come and be with their children, sit back and relax. They can take that mommy hat off for a minute, and just have fun with their children; they don't have to be so stressed. So, it's not like going to school and learning homework—it's a whole lot different than that. You're learning, but it's a lot of fun. And we leave it open for talk; it's not like we're saying, "Shh! Be quiet!" You want to ask a question in the middle, we just stop and give them time. Some of them take a little longer to get their words together, get their thoughts together, but there's always somebody else in the crowd who says, "Oh, I know what they mean!"

CASE is also an opportunity for Christine to build her own skills, knowledge, and contacts as a professional teacher.

Teaching is my profession, and this is just one more thing to get out there and practice your skills, and give the children what they need, and it helps me in my business, and it helps me in the social field. It's just something that you can just carry with you all the time. I've learned a lot of things that I didn't know; you know things that you think you know. I'm in college and I still learn things from CASE, and that's really nice. It makes me want to investigate and learn more. I think if I ever go into the field of [elementary school] teaching, or leave family daycare, I will be ready, that's for sure.

One of the classes we just took through CASE was about fundraising and how you can get the children involved. A lot of the ideas that we learned in CASE I would like to put into action—maybe get a funder to give me money to expand, and get a bigger kit with more supplies in it, take all the stuff I learned at the Zoo, and go out places, and then just give it away to the community and say, "Look, I'm going to teach this lesson. Then when I'm done you're going to be able to take this whole thing with you and then take it back to your school or wherever you are and share it with other people."

In my community, families don't have the money to do for themselves. That's why CASE is so important. When we show up, they always know it's going to be a party, 'cause they know we're going to have fun, we're going to enjoy ourselves. And then we're going to laugh and talk about what we did, and they get a chance to chitchat with each other. I can say, "What did you like the best about this particular workshop?" And you always get enthusiastic answers. You don't get the "Mmm hmm, I'm not sure." Everybody's talking to me at the same time. That says that it was a success and everybody had something from it, from the parents to the children. Some children have to do projects in school, and they'll ask for the materials to do a CASE project. And we just show them and put it in a plastic bag and let them take it to school.

Christine has some specific ideas for helping her community to engage more fully with PISEC museums.

I would like to see the bus come into the community to pick the children up, maybe once or twice a year, and take them to the museum, versus them trying to get there on their own. Believe it or not, a lot of parents can't afford the transportation cost as well as the admission cost, and it just would be a little extra something to look forward to. I would like to see them have the whole behind-the-scenes tour. And then...I would like to have more time, and a permanent space where I could do the workshops. I think if we had a permanent place where we could come, I would bring the children down and say, "Come on! I'm going to show you the real thing. I mean, I did a small part, but let me show you the real thing." And I know they would like something like that.

Before PISEC, neither Christine nor her family took part in science-related activities. Now, science is central to their lives.

If we'd do anything it was watch home movies, or we'd go out to the movies or to one another's houses. My kids are 26, 28, and 30, and honestly, of the four museums, we went to the Zoo. I don't even know if the Aquarium was there when they were little, but The Franklin Institute, the Academy—other than a school trip, I don't think I ever took them on my own. I really don't remember that; I really don't. So, for me, it was a pleasure to come inside and see it. It was like, "Wow! This is what goes on in here!"

Now, my daughter bought a membership to the Zoo that she shares; one goes to the Aquarium once a month. I [don't] want my grandchildren to come away thinking that it's closed doors. It's open to everybody, you know, and the more they see it, the more they're going to like it, the more they want to go, and then when they see the signs change on the outside, even if you don't read the paper, you know what's going on on the inside. If you go by enough, something's going to catch your eye.

What makes CASE special, Christine feels, is its focus on community. Instead of simply teaching science, it helps families to feel as though they are part of a "family" of people who care about learning together. CASE expands their idea of community.

We serve food, and the children get to socialize with other groups of children that aren't from their school or from the immediate block that they live on. They might be children that live across town. When they arrive, they'll ask, "Is Johnny going to be there? Is Susie going to be there?" You know, when you hear that kind of a conversation, you know they're not only anticipating the workshop—they're anticipating their friends at the event; they want to see them again. New families are coming together that would not have met if it wasn't for CASE. So that's really nice.

Or, my granddaughter will come in, and she'll say, "Ah, I went to the park today, and remember, at the Zoo workshop? I saw that girl again!" So, it's the little things like that, they're excited when they connect. To me that's important because a lot of children aren't social because the parents tend to hold back. Everybody's worried about violence and children being hurt. They take those barriers down when they get a smile on their face and say "Oh, now I do remember her. My daughter's right; she was at the workshop. I didn't remember, but she reminded me."


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