“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela
As the Week of the Young Child comes to a close, we sat down with Wendy Blackwell, the National Children’s Museum’s Vice President of Visitor Experience, to learn how she and the Museum have worked to make young children a focus and priority.
Why is it so important to focus on early childhood education (ECE)?
ECE sets kids up from the very beginning and prepares them for the rest of their lives. In addition to the academic benefits, it’s a critical time where children learn the fundamental skills needed for success – how to listen, how to interact with others, how to speak in public. Without that foundation, it’s like building a house on sand.
Do you think enough attention is given to ECE?
There can never be too much attention given! Resources today make it possible for parents to empower their children to learn more than ever before.
How does the National Children’s Museum focus on ECE?
Young children have needs regardless of their backgrounds or socioeconomic status, and NCM should and will continue to offer programs that support all children and families. Our 3 & Under gallery directly supports the development of our youngest visitors, catering to children as young as six months. Additionally, we are in the process of developing programs that support the needs of military children and special needs children. We also recognize the importance of empowering teachers to better support their students – in addition to recommended reading lists and other resources, the Museum plans to offer a certificate program for teachers that provides training on family literacy.
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
I began working with young children while employed by a school district in Baltimore, where I developed and designed the Transition Academy, an educational program for failing middle school students about to enter high school. The program, piloted at Port Discovery Children’s Museum, won the 2002 Promising Practice Award presented by MetLife Foundation and Association of Children’s Museums. My experiences working in the school district and with Port Discovery led me to working in museums ever since!