News Column

Children's museum in Cherry Hill opens a hospital-themed exhibit

June 14, 2014

By Clark Mindock, The Philadelphia Inquirer

June 14--Children, one of them draped in a real stethoscope, moved around pieces of a puzzle depicting a full-body X-ray on a backlit table. A friendly looking patient -- a doll -- lay nearby. A bright red model ambulance and a model helicopter stood at the ready.

A map of the skeletal system on a wall watched over it all.

That was the lively scene at the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill Friday morning as it opened a new exhibit intended to take the dread out of visiting a hospital or emergency room.

The exhibit, replacing one focused on nutrition and well-being, continues the museum's eight-year partnership with Cooper University Hospital.

When pink hospital gauze -- a substitute for the traditional ribbon -- was cut, the focus changed to an exhibit intended to help children be emotionally prepared should they have to visit a hospital.

"The experience is to discover things on their own and experience the real world . . . at their own pace," said Karyn McGrogan, a preschool teacher at Lower Mayfair Preschool in Philadelphia, whose students were visiting the museum.

"My first impression was that it was great. The kids and the parents were having a good time," Dr. Gary Stahl, the vice president of pediatrics at Cooper Medical, said. "The more that kids are exposed to different things, play becomes for some kids, careers."

The museum has been constructing the exhibit for about two months, and planning it for four. Everything in the exhibit, according to Mark Orleans, the exhibit manager at the museum, is thought of and constructed in-house.

"Everything we build we have to fit through a single doorway," Orleans said, motioning to the bright red doorway that opens into the Discovery Museum's workshop.

The workshop is packed with saws and tools, as well as oddities on the walls and floors, such as a baby doll perched above the door with a spear, breakfast-food cutouts stuck to the wall, and a palm tree cutout leaning against shelving.

"This is our art studio, I would say," Orleans said.

And everything created in the bizarre backroom studio, Orleans said, is designed in hopes that children will enjoy it.

The children, on Friday, seemed to be enjoying the variety of exhibits already on display in the museum.

"It was fun. The dinosaur part was fun," said 5-year-old Andrew Hall, who had come with his mother and other children from the Lower Mayfield Preschool. He is graduating to kindergarten this year.

Around next Memorial Day, the Discovery Museum is planning to open also in Atlantic City. The theme of that branch will be 1920s Atlantic City, and will include displays related to the Miss America Pageant, 1920s Atlantic City pirates (bootleggers), and other exhibits on local history.

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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)

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