ECHO is perhaps best known in the community for our live animals and hands-on science exhibits. However, ECHO’s mission also includes the exploration of historical and cultural topics within the Lake Champlain Basin. This cross-disciplinary approach can be found in our permanent exhibits as well as our touring exhibits. Currently and through May 15, we are hosting the wonderful exhibit XOXO: An Exhibit About Love & Forgiveness from the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

Through facial expressions, words, movement, and art making, this exhibit provides visitors the opportunity to think about and explore feelings. Visitors can answer questions about love and forgiveness and tie them to a wall for others to read; build and explore a variety of facial expressions using empathy blocks; and speak into tone phones and watch how their voices affect shapes projected on a screen. ECHO chose to host XOXO, in part, because we recognized the opportunity to extend the work we began with the powerful RACE: Are We So Different? exhibit in 2012.

When our internal team began talking about our goals for a series of special XOXO Sundays, which would pair with our annual MLK Jr. Day celebration, we knew we wanted the Peace & Justice Center to be involved. The result has been a partnership at three special XOXO program days at the museum, including MLK Jr. Day (which took place in January and hosted over 1200 community members), XOXO Special Sunday: Peace & Reconciliation (March 13th), and XOXO Special Sunday: Love the Earth (April 10th). During these days, PJC educators explore a history of children in movements for peace and teach families how to engage in conflict as a tool to better understand and connect to each other. PJC made these events truly meaningful community conversations, and we hope this is just the beginning of many collaborations to come.

By Nina Ridhibhinyo, Director of Programs & Exhibits, ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain