Full Steam Ahead For The Year of Invention

by Cathie Neumiller & Steve Marx
Peoria Riverfront Museum

STEAM programming is naturally integrated into activities at the interdisciplinary museum.

Life-saving medical inventions, the world’s largest LEGO exhibition, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and the inventions and art of Leonardo da Vinci set the stage for innovative STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) programming as the Peoria Riverfront Museum celebrates the “Year of Invention” in central Illinois in 2019.

As the only multidisciplinary museum of its kind in the nation to encompass art, science, history and achievement, the privately-funded Peoria Riverfront Museum is uniquely positioned to provide a variety of STEAM activities—engaging learners of all ages through world-class exhibitions, educational films in the Giant Screen Theater, Dome Planetarium shows and hands-on experiential programming.

The Year of Invention
January closes out four self-curated exhibitions focused on art and the technology behind it. The Golden Age of Disney: The Collection of Steve Spain tells the story of celluloid animated film. Rodin: Cast In Bronze – The Work of Many Hands highlights the evolution of bronze casting and the sculpted figure from 300 BC to the Renaissance to Rodin. Tiffany: The Collection of Don Shay celebrates the invention of the lightbulb with the ingenuity of stained glass lamp design. Peoria Players: 100 Years showcases the art and innovation behind Illinois’ oldest public theater.

A lecture accompanying The Golden Age of Disney features the untold story of the female artists and animators behind many Disney films. Tiffany also spotlights the women, including lead designer Clara Driscoll, behind Tiffany’s iconic lamp designs.

Continuing the theme for the year are major STEAM-oriented exhibitions, each with a slate of matching programming. They include: 10 Medical Inventions That Changed the World, American Decoy: The Invention, The Art of the Brick, The Way Things Go and Da Vinci the Genius, with the world-exclusive Secrets of Mona Lisa

Curricula-Matched STEAM Programming
The museum’s STEAM reach extends to its donor-sponsored “Every Student Initiative,” which has provided free, curricula-matched programming for all 9,000 K-8 Peoria Public Schools students since its 2017 inception. Topics have included food web activity in the “Illinois River Encounter” gallery (3rd grade), acrostic poetry writing in the Tiffany and Rodin exhibitions (4th grade), stream table demonstrations (6th grade) and guided tours of the Celebrate Illinois bicentennial and Disney exhibitions (7th grade). Plans are in place to expand this initiative so all central Illinois students can benefit from this transformative experience and hands-on STEAM activities every year.

Free STEAM Days
Several free days with STEAM activities are provided by the museum every year. Supported by sponsors, these free days include “Engineering Day” with the American Society of Civil Engineers Bridge Contest (February 17), Bradley University’s “FUSE” interactive media day (April 27), “Robo Rumble” with FIRST Robotics (May 25) and “Science Rocks” with the American Chemical Society (October).

STEAM Classes and Camps
The museum also offers specialized STEAM programming year-round. January offerings include “Space Kids,” for children ages three to six. Each class explores a different aspect of space with a day’s lesson, a planetarium lab and a hands-on art project. For older children, Wednesdays in January will feature “Dash Robotics,” with participants learning programming and robotics in a fun setting. 

“Space Family Night: Pluto & Beyond the Infinite” takes place on January 5, 2019. The museum will host a Lunar Eclipse Viewing Party on January 20th, similar to the 2017 solar eclipse programming—taking advantage of celestial events to bring science and astronomy to everyone. 

Our summer camp and winter break programs include both STEAM and robotics camps. The summer lineup features eight weeks of STEAM-related day camps for K-6: “Mad Scientists” (June 3-7), “Robotics” (June 10-14), “STEAM” (June 17-21), “Engineering” (June 24-28), “Master Builders” (July 8-12), “Artists in Training” (July 15-19), “Robotics 2.0” (July 22-26) and “Inventors” (July 29-August 2).

STEAM Events for Adults
“Senior Mornings,” our quarterly free event for seniors, continues to be wildly popular. Seniors of all backgrounds come together in the spirit of lifelong learning to participate in STEAM-oriented lectures, exhibition tours, educational films and planetarium shows.

“Relax Under the Stars,” a free event the first Wednesday of each month, allows visitors to bring their lunch and reduce stress while taking in a live planetarium show. Evening STEAM events for the 21-plus crowd include “Wine & Art” and “Cabernet & Clay,” where adults can enjoy creating artwork in a relaxing environment. The planetarium also offers quarterly astronomy-focused fun with “Wine & Cheese Under the Stars” and “Pub Night Under the Stars.”

This is a sampling of the STEAM programming the museum offers on a regular basis. Because science, technology, art and engineering are part of the interdisciplinary Peoria Riverfront Museum, they are naturally integrated into many museum activities.

The museum is proud to be a part of STEAM efforts across central Illinois and will continue to provide exciting, hands-on programming for students and learners of all ages. Be on the lookout for many special STEAM-related events for all ages during the Year of Invention. iBi

Visit riverfrontmuseum.org or call (309) 686-7000 for more information.