Toys and Games Show Cultures of Japan, China, Indonesia to Kids
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 9, 2006
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Gina Logue, 615-898-5081
(MURFREESBORO) – High above the children, an open-mouthed white carp with green and gold scales and a bright purple butterfly share the ceiling. A flaming red dragon with a flowing tail and sunburst mane seems to be crawling up the wall to join them.
These are only some of the creatures awaiting young visitors to the new Asian exhibit at the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro. With generous donations from Toshiba, Nissan, the Foreign Ministry of Japan and the Japan-U.S. Program of MTSU, curators have formed an environment that transports the imagination to Japan, China and Indonesia.
“We’re trying to help kids understand the different parts of these cultures that they’ll be experiencing,” Steve Hoskins, Discovery Center exhibits director and Ph.D. candidate in public history at MTSU, says. “This is the kind of thing that we feel good about being able to do because it really does give the kids a chance to … stop and realize just how big their world is.”
Of course, a large dose of fun makes learning more appealing. The 20-inch LCDTV with DVD player donated by Toshiba America Consumer Products not only plays kabuki theatre and changes of seasons. It also introduces the American children to Astro Boy, whose jet-propelled feet and wide, engaging eyes make him one of Asian television’s most popular animated superheroes.
The interactivity of the Foreign Ministry’s Kids Web Japan site has been captured on DVD so that kids can access numerous Japanese folk tales complete with music and animation. These include “Nezumi No Yomeiri (The Mouse’s Marriage)” and “Sannen Nataro (The Young Man Who Slept for Three Years).”
“Why don’t we use tools of civilization, especially since Japan is famous for electronics?” Dr. Kiyoshi Kawahito, director of the Japan-U.S. Program, says.
If any of the kids fail to be mesmerized by the sights and sounds of technology, they can play dress-up by donning hand-made sarongs from Indonesia and kimonos from Japan. They can practice the ancient art of chanoyu and stage their own tea parties. A hand puppet theatre with a complete Asian family and their animal friends is available for impromptu plays.
A pen-pal e-mail program will enable children to exchange photos and information about their lives with Japanese children. Dominating one wall of the exhibit is a nine-feet-tall, 10-feet-long map of the world so teachers and parents can show the youngsters where their pen pals live.
With brightly colored paper, markers, scissors, tape, plastic stirrers and helpful picture outlines, kids will be able to make their very own Asian kites. On a kid-sized table below the map of the world are papers and instructions for practicing origami, the art of folding paper into everything from butterflies to frogs.
Plastic Chinese tangram puzzles invite children to test their appreciation of spatial relationships. All seven puzzle pieces must be positioned so that they touch and lay flat, but none may overlap.
“You’re given different scenarios on cards, different looks, different pictures, and you have to take the puzzle pieces out and arrange them in this one little setting,” Hoskins says. “And it’s actually pretty challenging stuff to get all those shapes in the right order.”
A pagoda made of Keva planks, wooden pieces that resemble more elegant versions of Lincoln Logs, is on display to entice children to make their own Keva creations on the second floor. Hoskins says eventually the kids will use the thousands of planks available upstairs to build part of their very own “Great Wall of China.”
And, as if all this was not spellbinding enough, a walk-through exhibit explaining the Chinese legend of “The Monkey King” is slated to arrive in February 2007. “The Monkey King” is based on a centuries-old legend about a powerful flying monkey who accompanies a monk to India to retrieve Buddhist scriptures.
“Most of (the Discovery Center’s) school groups that come in are grades K-4,” Hoskins says. “Our mission statement (specifies children) 12 and under, but most of our visitors are nine and under.”
Hoskins says the center benefits from a 20-year relationship with the schools. The center welcomes an estimated 18,000 youngsters each year.
The Discovery Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for anyone age 2 and up. Special rates are available for groups. For more information, contact the center at 615-890-2300.
ATTENTION, MEDIA: Photos of the exhibit and the Kids Web Japan site are available by contacting Gina Logue of the Office of News and Public Affairs at 615-898-5081 or email@example.com.