The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) uses creativity and the arts to help kids learn, express, and grow. The Illumination Fund has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with CMOM with Laurie Tisch acting as a key partner in its inception and growth over the past several decades. Laurie continues to remain involved as the honorary chair of the Museum.
The Illumination Fund’s support in 2009 enabled CMOM to hire a health educator which launched a major new focus on childhood health. CMOM’s Health Education Initiative was designed to motivate and inspire children and families in New York City to maintain healthy and active lifestyles in order to prevent childhood obesity. In November 2011, CMOM launched the EatSleepPlay™: Building Health Every Day exhibit to reach children (ages 2-10) and their families with creative data and messages focused on developing healthy behaviors in areas that most affect obesity: nutrition, physical activity, and sleep. The exhibit is accompanied by family-based public programs and activities that reinforce and complement key health messages and programs from the New York City Department of Health and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Since opening, more than 500,000 people have visited the interactive 3,500 square foot exhibit. On average, two school groups—pre-kindergarten to sixth grade—per day visit from the five boroughs, Long Island, and New Jersey. In 2012, the EatSleepPlay™ model earned the attention of the Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge Competition which resulted in CMOM winning second place out of 15 nonprofit participants. In addition, CMOM partnered with the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College to evaluate the EatSleepPlay™ Exhibit, where over “three-quarters (78%) of parents rated the exhibit’s ability to teach their children about health habits as good or excellent.”
Since the initial investment, CMOM has been able to leverage federal funds, a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, and corporate support to develop this nationally-recognized, health-based arts and literacy program. They’ve recently partnered with NIH to develop a new early childhood health curriculum, EatPlayGrow™ to teach children ages 6 and younger and their adult caregivers how to make healthy nutrition and physical activity choices. This curriculum combines the latest science and research from the NIH with CMOM’s arts educational approach to engage parents and caregivers with interactive and creative lesson plans.
Support from the Illumination Fund has helped CMOM expand their EatPlayGrow™ model by transforming the Union Johnson Early Learning Center in East Harlem into a “learning hub.” This unique partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Union Settlement Association has enabled CMOM to bring museum-quality exhibitions and programs to a public housing facility, making them epicenters of lifelong learning, healthy childhood development, and community collaboration. Since this pilot site at Johnson Houses, CMOM has recreated parts of the exhibition at 13 NYCHA Head Start Centers and Department of Homeless Services Family Shelters throughout the city.
According to CMOM, “A set of four research studies evaluating the efficacy of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM)’s early childhood obesity prevention curriculum and program model for use with low-income children, families and adults who work with young children shows significant statistical behavioral changes in food selection and observational and reported increases in exercise and appropriate amounts of sleep.
The evidence suggests the success of the program is rooted in four core areas:
1) Working with young children at an age when habits are formed;
2) Working with families;
3) Using a pedagogy that employs cognitive and affective learning techniques; and
4) Connecting family activities to community-based programs, such as Head Start.
In addition, the research suggests that CMOM and its partners have created a program model of complementary components that can guide future policy, research and community-based initiatives.”