Lighthouse in the Water Gallery at The Children’s Museum of Green Bay
Development: Joanna Fisher, Toni Burnett, Mike Tennity, Friends of the Fox
Design: Joanna Fisher, MurphyCatton Inc.
Lighthouse Fabrication: Algoma High School, Ganther Construction, WPI Modern
Boat Fabrication: Pacific Studio
Mural: Painting by Ron Cohen, Production by Olympus Group
Graphics : Design by Kraemer Design + Production, Production by Wild Blue Technologies
Learning is an adaptive process, a dynamic interaction between the learner and his or her environment and experiences. In informal learning situations, children are influenced by the personal context (what the learner brings to a situation, such as prior knowledge, interests, and expectations), the sociocultural context (the influence of people, including peers, family, teachers, and culture), and the physical context (setting, design). When presented with vibrant and authentic environments, children use their natural desire to explore and to understand the world around them to connect the varied contexts. When we provide opportunities to experience new places, objects and perspectives, they respond with efforts to investigate and determine relevance.
Modeled after the Grassy Island lighthouses, the Lighthouse is set within the Water Gallery, a place alive with the sights and sounds of the Fox River, Green Bay and the Great Lakes. The gallery includes three authentically styled scenario areas: a Fishing Boat, a Lighthouse and a beach area. Real objects, sounds and large scale murals help to transport visitors into these varied settings. The authentic places are illustrative of important touch points when people interact with these local bodies of water. Each area includes opportunities to explore properties of water and specific ways that people use water.
Visitors are encouraged to:
- Investigate a lighthouse and participate in its work.
- Better understand safety in and around the water.
- Climb, move, look and change elevations.
The exhibit contains:
- Lighthouse: Spiral stair access to top of lighthouse modeled after the pair at the mouth of the Fox River. The structure was designed by Murphy Catton and then built by a group of students from Algoma High School. There is some pretty tricky geometry here. The stairs are really steep, but visitors can go right up to the top for a view of the entire museum and out to the street.
- Light: Operable light that can be turned on and off by visitors. This light is really amazing. It was built by the folks at WPI in Green Bay. It turned out beautiful and of such high quality that there is little difference between this light and the real thing, except that little fingers can’t get trapped and its not glass so it won’t break.
- Operator desk/work station: This little desk gives us a place to explore some of the responsibilities of a lighthouse keeper before automation. Visitors get maps and charts, and there is the all-important log book. Keepers were charged with keeping a record of everything that happened at or near the lighthouse.
- Operator Controls, Top Level: At the panel, visitors can press the button to activate the ”CB” to communicate with the boat. This seems to be most exciting for adults, calling down to their families. The panel also introduces the impact of weather. Rain, wind and fog can make it difficult for ships to see or know where their destination is. If they can see or hear a lighthouse, they can avoid danger and safely navigate to their destination.
What I love most:
The lighthouse is tightly connected to a real place. The museum was able to draw on the experience and support of local enthusiasts to develop the environment and the character to be very much like the real thing. The exhibit contains what is most important and skips what it doesn’t need. The bits of content about the lighthouses, keepers, lights, and weather are concise and interesting without being “dumbed down.” These provide enough information to interest and engage adults and older children without being heavy-handed. This also helps adults to facilitate deeper play for their children.