Embarking on a Yogic Adventure at The Magic House

By The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

In January 2015, preschoolers and their grown-ups grabbed colorful yoga mats and circled up at The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum for the inaugural session of The Art of Yoga. A seven-week series, this creative movement class was inspired by the book You Are A Lion!: And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo. It combined child-friendly yoga activities with corresponding art programming to offer yoga practitioners of all levels, both young and adult, the opportunity to connect to their bodies, engage in physical exercise, and enjoy special bonding time. As an active Let’s Move! museum, The Magic House aligned its newest class with the work of the Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens initiative to get kids moving.

child and grandparent warming their hands in a yoga class

Participants are warming their hands to bring energy to their eyes to see the postures and their friends around them, ears to listen to their breath and hearts to appreciate the people around them. Photo courtesy of The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class attended by adults, you might associate the practice with meditative quiet, building, and holding complex poses for minutes at a time, and the entire class moving in sync. Yet, if you’ve ever taught a yoga class attended by preschoolers, you know this doesn’t translate. In fact, it’s best to shed all preconceived notions of “yoga” in exchange for enjoying a vibrant class spent exploring the playful, celebratory (and sometimes noisy!) world of connecting our minds and our bodies.

Our activities were based in engaging families with the basic tenets of a modern yoga practice with kid-friendly application: keep breathing, listen to your body, get moving, and have fun!  We use our breath to float feathers in the air; stretched our arms into airplane wings and flew around the room en route to the jungle; and recreated the shapes, movements, and sounds of familiar animal friends.  The class didn’t always resemble a traditional zen-ready “yoga class,” but the heart and intention of the practice radiated through at every moment!

Children practicing the yoga bridge pose

Young yogis are in bridge posture as their elephant friends walk over their bridge. Photo courtesy of The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

After the yoga practice, the class paraded down to the museum’s Art Studio, where art educators led a unique program inspired by one of the animals the kids met on their yogic journey. From colorful butterflies to lion masks to slithering snakes, each student concluded the series with a safari’s worth of projects to take home and remember what they practiced.

A child participating in arts and crafts

Brayden creates butterfly wings after his yoga session. Photo courtesy of The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

The class was offered as part of “Fit for All Kids,” a two-year project supported by an IMLS Museums for America Grant to enable the Museum to become a more prominent family health resource in the St. Louis community. This was just one of the many initiatives that the Museum has implemented as a part of this grant.

As the museum prepares for its second session of The Art of Yoga, we look forward to welcoming 60 new big and little yogis into the all-ages art of yoga.

Posted in Early Learning, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens, Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Museums for America | Leave a comment

Museum, Library Investments in Digital are Paying Off

By Sarah Lutman
Lutman & Associates

During 2014, I spent time with museums, libraries, symphony orchestras, ballet companies, and other legacy cultural institutions to learn about their investments in digital media and to understand the impact these investments are having on programming, audience engagement, operational efficiency, and revenue sources.

Visitor using an iPad in an art gallery,

Visitor engages with interpretive content on an iPad in The Essential Robert Indiana. Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The result is a report and web gallery titled “Like, Link, Share: How cultural institutions are embracing digital technology.” The Wyncote Foundation-sponsored research project details five key themes from across the organizations visited and studied. The web gallery provides information, work samples, and links to 40 leading organizations and their media work. Notably, many institutions are finding significantly larger audiences via media than for their physical productions, performances, and exhibitions, and are experimenting with new revenue models enabled by their digital reach.

Here are the report’s five key themes—or “takeaways”—drawn from findings common to the organizations studied:

Strategy: Know the Game Plan: Leading organizations are aligning digital strategy with overall organizational strategy. They have clear intentions about their media and technology investments and the metrics that will demonstrate their progress. Strategies for organizations will differ; one size does not fit all.

Build Capabilities Not Projects: Organizations realize that they are building long-term capabilities, not short-term “cool projects.” While the majority of funding is awarded on a project basis, a much longer-term organizational view is needed so that projects can be sequenced for structured trials and learning.

Shake Up the Org Chart: Job responsibilities and organizational charts are in flux as organizations prioritize serving the digital audience. The immediacy required for social media and for sharing work in progress with the curious audience is a challenge for organizations whose experts are highly trained and schooled, and who are accustomed to painstaking curation of their final products.

Audiences First: Digital audiences search for information and programming using tools that result in non-linear, on-demand content, while most cultural institutions carefully script a linear in-person experience. Learning to put the habits and interests of digital audiences first within the digital environment is challenging the ways organizations think about presenting programming.

Toward New Business Models: Organizations are actively experimenting with new business models that will bring new revenue to support digital “channels.” Common investigations include loyalty programs based around membership and subscription to digital content, syndication of content to third parties, fees-for-service for online educational projects, and crowd funding.

A woman in a museum using an iPad

Visitors can learn more about the bird specimens in The Field Museum’s Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds using iPad technology. Videos, photographs, maps, and interactive activities geared toward young children are loaded onto iPads located throughout the exhibition.
© The Field Museum

Across the arts disciplines, museums and libraries are in some ways further along the path to digital innovation and engagement than their performing arts peers. The nature of museum and library collections means that content can be more easily catalogued and shared digitally than it can be in the performing arts, where, even when video or audio documentation exists, union contracts often prohibit the same ease in public sharing of these assets. On the other hand, performing arts institutions are pursuing highly creative and innovative audience engagement strategies that are helping build ticket-buying and online audiences through social media, and giving patrons creative opportunities to connect behind the scenes.

IMLS staff helped identify the museums and libraries that are making significant digital investments and achieving noteworthy results. Their recommendations, along with those from other grantmakers, journalists, peers, and thought leaders, helped shape our group of leading institutions. IMLS has been a key supporter of many of the organizations profiled, providing important support for media in an environment where fewer grantmakers are interested than might be expected (or hoped for). Also key to our discovery process was the 2013 report that museum and library staff should peruse. Growth in Foundation Funding for Media in the United States also includes a companion website with an interactive map of top funders and recipients.

A girl uses an app to translate exhibit sign.

Using mobile technology and QR codes, visitors to the Exploratorium are able to translate select exhibit labels into multiple languages. Gayle Laird, (c) Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

The next step in our research is to seek out and listen to responses to our research from field-wide practitioners, and to attend and present at meetings and conferences to amplify our findings. We’ll be at the AAM Annual Meeting in Atlanta, in a session about R&D in the cultural sector, and will be participating in other national arts and grantmaking meetings this year. Please read the report and share your thoughts. And thank you!


Posted in 21st Century Skills, Education Support, Information Infrastructure/Systems/Workflows, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy) | Leave a comment

Be Smart: Check the Background of Your Financial Professional During CFTC’s SmartCheck℠ Week

By Joshua Bailes
Consumer Content Specialist
U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

Ed note: As a part of Financial Literacy month, IMLS is sharing financial education tools and best practices with the public library field. Click here for more information about financial literacy in public libraries.

CFTC SmartCheck Logo


When was the last time you checked the background of the financial professional who manages your investments? If you are like most Americans, the answer is never. Yet, failing to conduct a simple check could expose you and your investments to a level of risk that most investors would find unacceptable. During SmartCheck Week, April 6-12, 2015, you’re encouraged to use the tools at SmartCheck.gov to check the background of your financial professional.

Much like you check the batteries in your smoke alarm on a yearly basis, or get a vehicle history before you purchase a used car, you need to ensure your financial professional is properly registered and doesn’t have disciplinary actions pending. Research indicates that most fraudsters are not registered/licensed, or have had past disciplinary actions with regulators. A simple background check would raise enough red flags to prevent many consumers from trusting these fraudsters with their hard-earned financial resources.

SmartCheck Week is part of the larger CFTC SmartCheck outreach effort. CFTC SmartCheck is a national campaign of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) created to empower you to identify and protect yourself against financial fraud. SmartCheck.gov, the campaign’s website, enables you to practice and strengthen your ability to spot fraudsters and check the background of your financial professional.

SmartCheck.gov is:

  • An easy-to-use website, providing access to information to help you make smarter investment decisions.

SmartCheck.gov features:

  • Quick access to essential free databases to search a financial professional’s background in one place.
  • Interactive and fun videos to practice your ability to spot a fraudster.
  • Updated news on emerging frauds.

SmartCheck.gov helps you:

  • Improve investment decisions with cutting edge educational tools.
  • Increase your sense of security from knowing you can review a financial professional’s background quickly and easily.
  • Save time when searching for investment resources.
  • Protect your money by learning how to avoid fraudsters and their offers.

Access these features of SmartCheck.gov to improve your investing decisions:

Remember, check your financial professional’s background once a year, and every time you engage a new one. Put a reminder in your smartphone calendar, check out SmartCheck.gov, and help protect your investments from fraud.

Joshua Bailes is a Consumer Content Specialist with the Office of Consumer Outreach at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau | Leave a comment