For years, visitors to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum were greeted with, "Please don't touch that. You can get into that bobsled, but that's the only thing to touch." As you might suspect, this did not create a welcoming environment for families and our young visitors. It became more obvious to staff that we needed to create more hands-on activities and child friendly programs when they started to feel like a recorder on repeat saying, "Don't touch" over and over again.
Knowing that children learn through exploration and discovery and love being able to participate actively when learning about their world, we began brainstorming ways we could meet the needs of this audience. In 2012, the museum participated in the Holiday Village Stroll by offering ornament making inspired by Olympic medals. Children paid close attention to the designs of the medals that were on display, learned from objects they saw in the exhibits around them, and they crafted unique medals that could be worn around their necks or used as ornaments. We discovered this to be a successful program and held this activity again in December, having more than 160 participants.
Through objects in a museum's collection, a simple concept or idea can be expanded. For example, in our recent exhibit about Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie, we interpret the theme of "Artistry and Beauty" in the figure skating world. As an active learning experience for visitors and to stress the use of costumes in figure skating to charm spectators, we created magnetic Sonja Henie dolls. Much like the widely produced Sonja paper dolls in the 1940s that girls loved, playing with the magnetic dolls and dresses that can be changed by visitors has become a favorite activity for all age levels.
Lake Placid Olympic Museum coloring champion Lili Draper, age 6, poses in front of the Sonja Henie exhibit. (Photo provided)
As the museum celebrated the exhibit opening for "Sonja Henie: Perfection on Ice," we invited our young visitors to participate in our coloring contest sponsored by the Lake Placid News. Children age 12 and under were asked to cut out the Sonja Henie skating picture from the newspaper, color it however they wanted and bring it to the museum to become our first coloring champion to win a skating party at the Olympic Center. The pictures were dropped off and mailed, and children crossed their fingers.
Last week, we gathered three judges to select a champion along with two age division winners, and we are excited to announce 6-year-old Lili Draper, of Lake Placid, as our coloring champion. A figure skater herself, she took this contest seriously and edged out her competition by dazzling the judges with glitter, much like Sonja Henie did. The age division winners: Grace Ericson, age 8, and Ava Lee, age 6, will receive admission for four to public skating and the museum. By allowing the children to gain insight from the personal experience of coloring, we were told by the parents that the young artists began asking questions about three-time Olympic skating champion Sonja Henie.
Making a conscious decision to expand opportunities for hands-on exploration at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, we created "Museum Curling." While we educate our visitors about the sport of wheelchair curling in an upcoming exhibit on the Paralympics, the physical learning experience of playing out the game will also enhance the exhibit.
In 2014, the museum will continue to seek ways to enrich learning opportunities in our exhibits and programs. The Lake Placid Olympic Museum offers a unique environment to engage a young child's mind. Whether you are a parent, teacher or Olympic history enthusiast, we invite you to learn more about our resources on the Olympic Games and Lake Placid's rich winter sports' history.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ironman Sunday.
For more information about the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, see our Facebook page.
Alison Haas is the museum manager at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, located at the Olympic Center on Main Street.