Money & Business

Children’s Museum Group Bolsters Members’ Efforts to Welcome Immigrants and Refugees

By / Mar 6, 2017 The Chicago Children's Museum recently updated its entrance signage to emphasize diversity. (via the Museum's Facebook page)

The Association of Children’s Museums’ 90 Days of Action campaign celebrates its members’ work with immigrant and refugee children and families.

Children’s museums welcome immigrant and refugee children and their families to their communities. To promote and support these efforts, the Association of Children’s Museums has launched a campaign called 90 Days of Action.

The campaign, which runs until May 8, urges ACM’s museum members to share stories, photos, and videos about their cultural education and engagement efforts through social media, using the hashtag #WorldTheyDeserve. It also encourages them to tell their local leaders, newspapers, and customers about what they do—and to further develop their outreach. In addition, 90 Days of Action provides tools—such as templates for press releases, fact sheets, and blogs—to help museums communicate about their efforts.

As part of the campaign, ACM is surveying its members to learn more about the programs they run that serve immigrant and refugee children and families. Early findings show that most already use specific strategies to reach immigrant and/or refugee populations. More than 75 percent reported they are considering new opportunities to serve and support immigrants or refugee populations.

After the Trump administration’s initial immigration order in January, “we received a number of communications from members asking what action the association might take in response,” said ACM Executive Director Laura Huerta Migus.

As part of its strategic planning process, ACM decided that it would work to build members’ ability to respond to social issues, and 90 Days of Action is a way to do that. “Inclusion and equality are core values of our industry and community,” Huerta Migus said.

ACM’s member museums engage with immigrant and refugee communities in several ways, including outreach to childcare providers with enrichment opportunities, special programming to bridge cultural gaps, and art or exhibits that focus on a cultural theme or a theme of tolerance.

For example, the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, Texas, brings undocumented and unaccompanied minors who are being held in detention centers to the museum somewhat regularly. The Chicago Children’s Museum is changing its entrance signage so that it says more explicitly that all children and families are welcome there, Huerta Migus noted, while the ImagineU Interactive Children’s Museum in Visalia, Calif., unveiled a mural dedicated to world peace.

The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, Calif., runs Family Evening Meals, which brings different ethnic communities together by hosting family meals focused on shared ingredients in their foods—one centered around the tomato. The meals have brought together immigrant families from China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam, Huerta Migus noted.

Children’s museums engage children in meaningful play, and they also bridge gaps between language, culture, and community, the campaign points out. “When issues arise that can negatively affect the health and well-being of children,” the children’s museum community can be a resource and can step in and help, said Huerta Migus.

In deciding what kind of initiative would be the best way to support its members, the association was careful to make it “broad enough for members to feel comfortable with it, not alienated,” Huerta Migus said. 90 Days of Action “made sense for members and felt like a value add.”

Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. More »

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