Children’s museum bridges differences

Most kids might not find museums very fun, but the Kidsbridge Children’s Museum is not your average educational facility.

The museum has an exhibit located on the first floor of Forcina Hall and the particular exhibit at the College is called “Face to Face: Dealing with Prejudice and Discrimination.” It first opened on March 29, 2006, and schools have already begun visiting.

As the name suggests, the exhibit was created to challenge kids to learn about and admire the differences in others and hopefully steer them away from discriminating and holding on to prejudices as they grow up.

As written on its Web site, Kidsbridge is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to the celebration of human diversity, (that) encourages the students, families and educators of the greater Mercer County region to understand and appreciate the strengths and opportunities that are inherent in the diverse, mosaic cultures of our community and our world.”

The exhibit is aimed at elementary and middle school-aged students. Different schools have already attended the exhibit and billboards displayed in front of the mini-museum contain quotes from some of the students who have experienced it.

“My favorite part was learning how to handle bad situations,” Sherae, a third grader, said. Another quote on the wall was from Cyan, a fifth-grade student, who wrote, “I felt the trip helped me understand what to do when people say and do things to you.”

But it’s not just open to classes. Other organized groups are also welcome to book time at the museum like day camps and scout groups, allowing kids from all over to experience the museum and its messages about prejudice and differences among people.

According to the Kidsbridge Web site, the “Face to Face” exhibit was first created and displayed at the Chicago Children’s Museum. Here at its home at the College it serves multiple purposes.

Besides allowing for the interaction with and the teaching of elementary and middle school students, education and psychology majors have parts to play. Education majors help to run the exhibit while psychology majors assess the results of the exhibit on the students who have gone through it.

“I think it’s beneficial to the education majors because they get to interact with the kids even as only freshman,” Jaclyn Bohan, freshman special education/math major, said.

Others feel some of the subject matter may be too mature for such a young audience. Danielle Paterno, junior psychology major, said, “I think that they might be dealing with age groups that are too young to be dealing with the issues they’re addressing.”

Different groups on campus are involved with the museum beyond just the education and psychology departments. The Teachers of Young Children Association sends volunteers to work at the exhibit while the Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement coordinates volunteers and has used the exhibit for a Community Engaged Learning day, which all students must complete during their freshman years in order to graduate.

The College also has a Web page dedicated to speaking about the new exhibit.

“The benefits of this partnership are monumental,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in an article on the College’s TCNJ Update Web page.

“Not only are our students gaining invaluable teaching experience, they are also playing an integral role in the character development of children in our community,” she said in the article.

Gitenstein continued, “I am pleased that the College has this opportunity to work with Kidsbridge, and that we’re doing what we can to increase the appreciation and understanding of our diverse society.”

The “Face to Face: Dealing with Prejudice and Discrimination” exhibit of the Kidsbridge Children’s Museum has now become an integrated part of the College campus, with collaboration from students, faculty and members of the community.