So we have come to the final day of our trip - and it was a really inspiring finale - particularly to see two spaces that had under 4 spaces that were so central to their aims. They were aesthetically very different (one bold and bright, the other neutral and natural), but both contained some really interesting things, and in particular we got lots of practical ideas (etch-a-sketch, magnadoodle pattern printing, Buddha boards, IKEA furniture, sorting activities...) Laura Matzer showed us around the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, which opened in 1978 during the first wave of Children's Museums. They have no collection, although the curator works with Laura to choose work to have on loan during exhibitions. They also take touring exhibitions and had one from Brooklyn Children's Museum about pattern. They are also about to have one about Studio Ghibli which has been touring many venues for a long time with some serious thought behind it - Laura gave us papers about its theoretical underpinnings which I look forward to reading. She also suggested several other places that we could look into online, and was also interested in Reggio Emilia approaches... Lots of food for thought (yet again! - need to find some thinking time!)
Then we went to the Children's Museum in Phoenix - it took some finding and a few near misses, but it was worth the wait. Lots of ideas about using space: so a wind machine coming from a floor vent, a jungle of spongey rubber trees, bicycle courses, a supermarket and a pizza kitchen were just some of the activites. They were also just building a massive climbing frame from recycled materials which is being created by volunteers using found objects. The recycling and reusing theme is SO strong in almost all the places we have visited.
Anyway, we'd better go and pack now as it's back to reality (via a few airports first) tomorrow.