Astronomy, art history and anthropology are among the subjects introduced in courses and workshops offered by Southern California museums to children of a wide age range, including preschoolers.
But don't envision little tykes squirming through lectures. The trend in museum education is toward providing hands-on, participatory learning experiences, according to Peggy Kayser, an education specialist with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Today's young museum visitors wade through tide pools, sample ethnic foods, hear folk tales and create art objects.
Such experiences supplement the arts and sciences education provided by the schools, Kayser said, and also increase youngsters' appreciation of museum collections.
Some classes are available year-round, with expanded offerings during the summer.
Fees vary, and cost can be a factor.
To offset some youngsters' fees at the California Museum of Science and Industry, the museum offers more than 500 scholarships for summer classes this year, based on financial need; contact the Science Workshop office, (213) 744-7440. Inquire at other institutions individually to find out about scholarship availability.
Following is a sampling of 10 museums that offer classes costing $25 or less.
California Afro-American Museum, 600 State Drive (in Exposition Park), South-Central Los Angeles. Classes for children 5-17 in visual arts, literature, history, drama, creative writing and genealogy, and are usually related to Afro-American culture. Summer workshops begin June 18. According to coordinator Nancy Baptist, the average cost of a three-day course is $15; four-day courses average $20. Registration opened Wednesday. Call (213) 744-7432 for brochure.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd. (in Exposition Park), South-Central Los Angeles. "Whale's Tales" is the name of a free, twice monthly Saturday or Sunday program for the entire family; once a month the topic is cultural, the other time scientific, ranging from dinosaurs to unusual insects. Dates vary; the next one is June 12. The museum also conducts classes on a variety of subjects all year. Call (213) 744-3342 or (213) 744-3335 for details.
Craft and Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 934-3082. Sunday Family Night programs are held monthly from 5:30 to 7:30 for families with children 4 and over; programs include storytelling, folk music and crafts lessons highlighting Southern California's cultures. Fee: children $2, adults $4. In addition, craft workshops are held periodically in conjunction with changing exhibitions. The one July 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, will deal with pinatas and is for ages 6 and over; fee is $12 for members, $15 for non-members (materials included). Call for details regarding additional workshops (reservations required).
Los Angeles Children's Museum, 310 N. Main St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 687-8226. "Inside L.A." tours planned for July and August will take children on field trips to locations ranging from the Dodger Stadium dugout to a Coast Guard cutter, from factories to artist studios. Ages for these tours vary, but start at 4 years; parents are generally welcome to participate. Most tours cost less than $10 per person. Registration (by mail only) is open now; please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a brochure.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 857-6139. Summer art education afternoons--called "Sundays in the Museum: A Program for Families"--for children 5-12 and their parents will be held 1-5 p.m. the last Sunday of each month. The subjects are: "20th Century Art," June 26; "Decorative Arts," July 31; "Portraits," Aug. 28, and "Art of the Ancient World," Sept. 25. Free with museum admission.
Cabrillo Marine Museum, 3720 Stephen White Drive, San Pedro, (213) 548-7563. One-day Saturday or Sunday classes on topics related to marine life are held year-round. Intended for the whole family, each class is taught by a marine biologist and costs less than $10 per person. Call for exact dates. On June 14 and on July 1, 15, and 30, evening grunion programs in the museum will precede grunion observation at adjacent Cabrillo Beach. For all ages; free.
Los Angeles Zoo, 5333 Zoo Drive (in Griffith Park), Los Angeles. Though not always thought of as such, zoos can be considered living museums and are included in the American Museum Assn. The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn. holds workshops for children on a variety of animal topics year-round, usually monthly. Ages and fees vary. For details call GLAZA at (213) 664-1100.
Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 972-1382 or (714) 647-6530. Ongoing classes include oil painting for ages 7 and up on Saturdays and Mondays, and mural painting for youths 12 and over, held at various Santa Ana locations Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Free.