International Festival of Attention-Grabbers – UK & US – Part II

Pam Hartley, VP of Play Experience at Marbles Kids' Museum, displays educational resources in front of her extensive calendar.

Pam Hartley, VP of Play Experience at Marbles Kids’ Museum, displays some of the museum’s educational resources in front of her extensive calendar.

Mid-Week Focus is wearing two hats this week…offering Part II of International Festival of Attention-Grabbers – UK & US.

Pam Hartley is at center stage. She’s a planner. Pam serves as Vice President of Play Experience at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina (US).

Pam has been with Marbles since it opened its doors six years ago. In its first five years, this innovative children’s museum welcomed over 2.5 million visitors from across the US.

Teachers anywhere in the world with online access can visit Marbles virtually at Marbles Kids Museum to access photos, program details, and exhibit descriptions that can be applied to their own teaching strategies.

“Marbles,” says Pam proudly, “has become one of the most popular learning destinations in North Carolina.” Pam’s connection with the “Tarheel State” began when she was in third grade. That’s when she moved to Andrews, a small town in the mountains. Pam lived in Andrews during the school year, but spent summers with her dad in Leeds, England, where she was born.

Pam’s multi-cultural ties, interests, and experience are assets in her work at Marbles. As Pam explains, (touring the museum) “gives pre-schoolers and students the opportunity to develop (awareness of the world and) vital skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, innovation and collaboration through PLAY.”

PLAY is Marbles way! Feedback from educators, parents, and grandparents is fabulous. Anyone looking for new ways to spark learning will find it exploring Marbles’ colorful museum exhibits, floors, walls, halls and winding stairs. Ready for the tour to continue…

Museum exploration takes visitors Around Town…

Young visitors to Marbles Kids' Museum play with trains around town.

Young visitors to Marbles Kids’ Museum play with trains around town.

…This section welcomes them to what the museum describes as a “kid-driven community where students experience how people work, live and play.” K – 2 teachers may have “centers” in their classrooms set up in a similar way, where children can “shop” at a grocery store, for example.

Marbles has added an attention-getting component in Around Town. Students can get together on stage and role play future careers. “The focus,” says Pam, “is always on how we can enhance the classroom experience, bring educational concepts to life, and show students there’s no limit to how much fun they can have learning.”

Science is at play at Marbles, too, in a section called Splash

A young visitor to Marbles is delighted to make a Power Flower spin with solar energy in Castaway Cove.

A young visitor to Marbles is delighted to make a Power Flower spin with solar energy in Castaway Cove.

Picture children setting sail on a pirate ship – a three-dimensional – climb-on-board – learning through fun space. Splash also features a submarine for science exploration and an interactive exhibit about solar energy in Castaway Cove Kids Garden.

Splash is designed for students in grades pre-K – 3.

Marbles also takes visitors to the Go Zone where students are actively engaged in play-based innovation, tinkering and figuring out problems. “A young tinker today may be an engineer tomorrow,” observes Pam.

Marbles also features exhibits that encourage kids to be active and eat healthy; one called Power to Play, as well as an Art Loft that shows off students’ work; Idea Works where kids play with innovation; and a place where children learn that money doesn’t grow on trees – Moneypalooza.

We visited Moneypalooza with Pam in Part I of this feature about her work with an extraordinary staff at an extraordinary children’s museum.

“Financial literacy is a challenge for kids,” says Pam, echoing a sentiment expressed by many educators. “In Moneypalooza, she says, “students learn that vocabulary is

"I'm going to check this puppy's heart," says a girl in Marbles Pet Vet play-to-learn space.

“I’m going to check this puppy’s heart,” says a girl wearing a veterinarian’s white jacket, in Marbles Pet Vet play-to-learn space.

purposeful. They hear and read words like ‘profits’ and ‘deposits’ after working (playing) as a pet sitter for ‘Aunt Polly’ or in ‘Mr. Vito’s Pizzeria’ or with ‘Entrepreneurial Ellie’ in the Marbles character’s lemonade stand.”

As Pam noted in the first part of this feature, Marbles’ “sweet spots” are families of children ages 2 – 6.

But, the museum offers field trips and other special activities for grades K – 5.

“All of our exhibits and programs,” she says, “center around Marbles’ Playlosophy: Play Matters. Play is how children learn best. Through play, children discover who they are, how to solve problems, express feelings and share ideas. Play builds a foundation for academic success, physical development and emotional well-being.”

Pam’s welcoming smile is as engaging as the experience of visiting Marbles Kids Museum is attention-grabbing.

Ideas galore are at Marbles – in-person or online – for teachers that believe, like Pam does, in the Power of PLAY to help children be successful.

How do you use play to help your students learn? Please send comments, and subscribe to

Check back on Monday for Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers.

Talk with you soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet



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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Students are having trouble writing connecting sentences between the beginning, middle and end of a story.

Solution: Show toy airplanes, pretending to make them "take off" across notebook paper. Explain to the class that stories, like airplanes, require clear "flight paths."

Related Posts: Become the Classroom of the Traveling Story!