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.
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 rounduntil 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!"
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, becausewho 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 homeworkit'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.
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 Academyother 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!"
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 workshopthey'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.