Sun Sentinel Opinion Section | Wednesday, March 9, 2022
Children's museums not just entertainment. They teach kids about diversity.
By Deborah Spiegelman
With all that our community, country and world are experiencing today, the role of children’s museums is more important than ever. Our newscasts are filled with acts of hate stemming from racism, antisemitism, discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, Indigenous peoples, Asians, Latinos — the list is endless. Our children are listening!
From a child’s earliest days, children’s museums encourage children and teach acceptance among the most diverse of populations. Children’s museums provide an environment that is both safe and educational. We embrace the diversity of our communities and reach out for understanding and comfort. Through programming and outreach, we work to bring children and families together to celebrate the many cultures who visit us. Children’s museums are not just an interactive play space for children and their families.
They are safe spaces, community hubs for families where we welcome everyone regardless of race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or disability. It is a place of learning, where we not only model diversity and inclusion, but we also educate children about the importance of diversity and inclusion through our programming.
At the Miami Children’s Museum, diversity has always been at the centerpiece of our programs. We just celebrated Black History Month, and every year, we join a variety of additional national heritage celebrations, including Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month.
In June, for the eighth year, we will be celebrating all our rainbow families during Pride Month. In December, we celebrated holidays from around the world, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Bodhi Day and Yalda Night. We have consistently been a leader in embracing children with disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum with our Sensory Friendly Saturday program and Snoezelen Room exhibit.
Children’s museums are committed to seeking and amplifying local and national voices from underrepresented and marginalized communities to continue to increase representation in our programming. Our museum has worked to create more authentic virtual programming by inviting guests from NASA to help us celebrate Black pioneers during Black History Month, advocates for disability rights Temple Grandin and Haley Moss during Autism Acceptance Month and the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine-Cava, for Women’s History Month.
We invite special guests to not only read storybooks live, but to share their experiences and answer questions from children all over the country. The children’s books we select for our story times reflect diverse cultures, religions and family makeups all while promoting literacy in children. Miami Children’s Museum joins with children’s museums internationally as a place where every child can see themselves reflected in one of our unique theater productions, in our featured artist and science projects, or in the cultural programming done every month.
Coming to a children’s museum is an opportunity for respite for children and families who, once inside the museum, can take a break from worry and stress, if only for a few hours.
Children’s museums are not the only answer to the terrible diseases of racism, antisemitism and hate, but we do shine as an integral part of the solution. We will continue to act as a beacon throughout our communities to promote the love of our country’s rich vibrant diversity. We invite all of you to join us. Together we can make a difference.
Deborah Spiegelman is CEO and executive director of the Miami Children’s Museum.
Read op-ed in the Sun Sentinel: HERE