I’ve always believed education to be the key when working towards the improvement of the world. Education provides the tools that we can use to build the better future we envision for ourselves and for our societies, creating paths and opening doors that help us achieve whatever we set our minds to.
I believe that investing in education for younger generations can be crucial in determining the future of a nation and its people, as we’re often told that children are the future. It is because of this that I decided to do my summer internship at Tin Marín Museo de los Niños (Tin Marin Children’s Museum) in El Salvador.
The museum was inaugurated on October 28, 1999, as a private non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the education, culture, and development of children through innovative and non-formal educational strategies. Since I was born in late 1998, I was able to grow up alongside the museum, which became an integral part of my life and one of the places I remember most fondly when thinking about my childhood in El Salvador. Casual visits, birthday parties, school trips – all of these I would look forward to knowing I would be headed to the magical place that was Tin Marin.
This year, the museum will celebrate its 19th anniversary, having remained true to its mission from the start: contributing to the education of children and their companions to form integral and creative citizens through meaningful learning, cultural orientation, and fun experimentation with integrity, innovation, respect, and teamwork. The museum’s vision is also being met, as they strive to become the favorite, cultural, and fun space for children where they can learn and enjoy unique, exciting, and unforgettable experiences. Through this, the museum aims to be crucial protagonists in the development of the salvadoran youth’s personal, family, school, and social levels.
Today, the museum hosts 34 permanent exhibits that cover 5 different areas of learning: health, expression and communication, science and technology, environment, and culture. One of the permanent exhibits is El Mariposario (The Butterfly House), which hosts 16 different species of butterfly, where children can learn about the metamorphosis of a butterfly and how butterflies signify a healthy ecosystem. Another is La Cama de Clavos (The Bed of Nails), where children can lie on a bed composed of 1,500 iron nails and learn about different concepts of physics. El Mercado de Don Emprendedor (Mr Entrepreneur’s Market) is where children can shop for pupusas, milk, flowers, and more, and where they learn different mathematical concepts as well as enterprise skills. El Avión (The Airplane) teaches children about air travel at the museum’s small airport, and allows them to board the front half of a real Boeing 727-100 that was donated to the museum by the exhibit sponsors. Because the museum is a non-profit organization, all exhibits are sponsored by different private organizations that help fund and maintain them.
Along with the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts different educational workshops as well as temporary international exhibits. The museum’s workshops include a Bubble Workshop, where children learn how to form different kinds of bubbles with special tools, a Recycling Workshop, where kids children learn how to make their own recycled paper, an Arts Workshop, where they can make art projects out of recycled materials, a Debate Workshop, where they learn the basic principles of debating for and against different topics, and a Science Workshop, where they can perform different simple experiments. The museum’s temporary exhibits are also quite varied, ranging from animatronic dinosaurs in their 2017 exhibit Mundosaurio, live farm animals in La Granja (The Farm), different reptiles in Reptilandia, and their current exhibit: Castillos y Dragones (Castles and Dragons), where visitors can see different animatronic dragons and learn about those mythological creatures.
My first experience at the museum more recently, when I considered myself too old for the museum, was when I was sent work at the museum in 2014 as a part of my school’s work experience week. During this week, 9th grade students were sent out to different organizations related to different fields they were considering as career options for a 5-day internship. Myself and two other students were introduced to the Volunteer Guides program at the museum, where we worked as educational guides and helped give explanations and tours to visitors. While short, that experience was one that I really enjoyed and felt myself wanting to repeat. The program itself was quite small at the time, and I never could have imagined how much it would evolve in the following four years by the time I started my latest internship.
The Volunteer Guides Program as it is today is open mainly to highschool and university students, who serve as educational guides and help organize workshops and activities for visitors of the museum. The Guide’s role is to contribute actively to the education of Salvadoran children and youth, through an innovative method that allows the volunteer to acquire skills and abilities with a cultural orientation. It will allow you to create a real impact on Salvadoran children and youth, and at the same time obtain personal and professional growth.
The program itself is divided into different sections, that ultimately hold the same role at the museum but give different opportunities to those involved. The first branch is the Volunteer branch, where people can choose to help out at the museum out of their own accord for the experience. The next is the Social Service branch, where high school and university students can complete their national requirement of 150 hours of social service to obtain their high school graduation diploma, or up to 500 hours of social service for their university degree. This consists of a large part of the program, followed by the Scholarship branch. This branch provides those involved opportunities to obtain scholarships to help fund either their university studies, or language studies to help further their career. The final branch of the program is the Seminar branch, which started earlier this year and is about to finish its second round. This branch allows people to sign up for an educational seminar about leadership and entrepreneurship, and asks participants to contribute to the museum with a few shifts as guides.
In order to apply to any of these programs, the participants must first pass through the audition and training process. The first step is the audition, where volunteers must present themselves and participate in different dynamics that help situate them in the mindset of a volunteer guide. They must also present a game of their own and interact with the other people auditioning. Through this process, their dynamism and innovativeness is tested, as well as their interaction skills. Once they pass the audition process, they’re inducted into the training program where they are presented with 7 different exhibits from the museum. The participants then have one week to learn and memorize the information from these exhibits using the guide scripts, and they must present the 7 exhibits they were given themselves to the evaluators. If they pass this evaluation, they must then accompany official museum guides on 3 guided tours to get a feel of the job while having direct interaction with children from school groups or family visits. After this, they are officially integrated into the Volunteer Guides Program.
Over the past month, I was able to contribute to the museum as a Volunteer guide but also help out with the Social Projection program at the museum, where they manage and control the logistical aspects of the Volunteer Guides Program, as well as help organize and record school group visits, attendance, seminar development, and more. They also help keep track of those involved in the Audition and Training programs, making sure that everyone is progressing at the right pace, as well as working on outreach to get more people involved in the program. The current project is that of their temporary exhibit – Castillos y Dragones – where the museum will include night shift options as opposed to only morning and afternoon.
I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity, as the museum turned out to be so much more than I remembered it being. I got to re-live my childhood through the children that I gave tours to. I gained a second family in the group of guides who welcomed me into the program with open arms. I was able to appreciate the effort and dedication that goes on behind the museum front with all the organization that goes on. I learned so much from the multiple exhibits that the museum holds. This experience is something that I’ll carry close to my heart for the rest of my life, and I can’t wait to go back whenever I have the opportunity to do so.
If you’re ever in El Salvador, be sure to stop by Tin Marín for a visit, regardless of your age. The museum has something to offer for absolutely everyone, from toddlers to grandparents, teenagers to adults. We are all young at heart, and this museum is the perfect reminder of that.