Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's The Alternative?

This is the fourth post in a series on the names of children's museums.

49 ACM members have invented words in their name.  In addition, a number of other organizations have whimsical, playful, names that use real words.  In all, I counted 103 alternative names - that is approximately 30% of all ACM member names.  That's a lot.

Once again they seem to fall into five main categories:


So for instance, 28 ACM member organizations describe their site using a word that signals this is a place but using a word other than “museum.”  Moreover, the types of places that these organizations are comparing themselves to tend to be ones that kids would choose to go to. Examples include: EarlyWorks, Fairytale Town, and InterActive Neighhborhood for Kids. These names communicate that this is a visitor center, rather than a program or public service, and that it will be a favorite place for kids.

2. Games Kids Play

The Children’s Favorite Games category is small, only 7 that I could see, but they describe a wide range of activities from telling jokes - Knock Knock Children’s Museum – to imaginative play - Pretend City – science games – Kaleidoscope – perennial favorites - Marbles Kids Museum – physical play - Stepping Stones –mind-bending problem solving - The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum – and creative self-expression - Young at Art.

3. Learning Happens Here

The 10 names that emphasize that visitors will have a Learning Experience during their visit are sometimes explicit about this, as in Schoolhouse Children’s Museum, Imagination Workshop, and Sony Wonder Technology Lab. At other times these names are indirect about the style of learning and focus instead on the fact of learning: as in The Children’s Metamorphosis, Above & Beyond Children’s Museum, and Bakersfield Adventure for the Mind. 

This is an interesting category because many children’s museums have staked out playful, joyful family learning experiences as the core of their business.  At the same time, many of these organizations have focused on process learning and skill building.  Yet ten museums have decided to emphasize that kids will learn from their relationship with the organization. And a number of those have referenced a fairly formal learning model - schools and labs.

4. Audience

As I noted previously, 28 Museums refer to audience in their name using a word other than children.  Of those, many use audience playfully as in MY Museum, Kidsenses Inc., and Habitot Children’s Museum.  The goal of these names seems to be communicating age appropriateness.

5. The Visitor Experience

57 of the alternative organizational names are based on a description of what it is visitors will do – the main experience: EdVenture, I play Children’s Museum, Wonderscope, and Great Explorations, are a few of these. Many of these, not surprisingly, describe inquiry-based experiences.

Next Up: Following the Trends

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