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The Role Of Objects In Children's Development

Madison Childrens Museum
The "Wildernest" at the Madison's Childrens Museum

As Wisconsinites, we're lucky to have access to some really stellar museums. Our state boasts nationally and internationally recognized institutions like the Milwaukee Art Museum, Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot and Madison's Chazen Museum of Art, while researchers travel far and wide to look at artifacts and materials like the Racine Art Museum's renowned collection of contemporary crafts and the Wisconsin Historical Society's vast Civil War holdings.

We know what we as adults can learn from museums and similar institutions. But what is the role of a museum when it comes to the youngest of us? Is it to expose them to historical artifacts or to help them develop a sense of who and where they are in the present?

For some answers and help, material culturalist Gianofer Fields went to the Madison Children's Museum, which features a unique early learning area. The Museum's staff, including early learning coordinator Cheryl  DeWelt, are experts at introducing children, even infants, to objects during a crucial point in their development.

The Museum is in the Old Montgomery Ward Building near the capitol and many of the exhibits are created from materials from the original store. DeWelt told Fields that the museum's goal is reuse materials found, made and grown in Wisconsin to help the state's youngest residents develop a sense of the place where they live:

Gianofer Fields studies material culture at UW-Madison and is the curator of "It's a Material World" - a project funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.

Original air date: 03/30/13

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.