Convention's hands-on exhibits are educational, fun


August 14, 1994|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,Sun Staff Writer

Quinton Watson stood in front of a full-length mirror, turning left and right to get a better look at his silver suit of armor.

"Wow, look at me, I just became a knight in shining armor," said the Baltimore 6-year-old, as he hoisted a 2-foot plastic sword over his shoulder and marched in front of the mirror.

"I'm looking pretty good, I think, especially since I've never been a knight before."

Quinton was one of about 3,000 children who attended the fourth annual Maryland Kids' Convention at Towson State University yesterday.

"Kids can do anything they want to do here, whether it's sitting and coloring for a moment, dressing up as characters they've dreamed of, or making a craft -- but whatever it is, they're having fun and learning at the same time," said Quinton's mother, Betsy Watson, 28.

The two-day convention, sponsored by the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families and the state Department of Education, provides about 40 hands-on exhibits for children ages 2 to 12 to learn about art, science, reading and technology.

Civic groups, local businesses and government agencies, including the Baltimore Children's Museum, Department of Natural Resources, St. Joseph Hospital and Baltimore city 4-H Club, attend the convention.

The event costs about $55,000 to run, said Kerch McConlogue, event coordinator. The state pays about $8,250, and the remaining money is raised from sponsorship and exhibitors' fees.

"Lots of times, parents don't realize that kids are learning something when they're doing hands-on things, like coloring," said Ms. McConlogue.

Coordinators expect about 10,000 children to attend the convention.

"This is something for kids and parents to do together that's not going to break your legs or your pocketbook, but be fun and educational," Ms. McConlogue said.

Six-year-old twins Ashley and Aaron Smith could barely contain their excitement as they waited to put their hands in a 2-foot bucket of "Ooblek," a gooey green liquid made from a mixture of corn starch and water that hardens when squeezed.

"It's all so gooshy and gooey and then when I squeeze it real tight, it just runs through my hands," Ashley said. "It's like the Play-doh we have at home, but it must have some magic ingredients in it."

Few children and parents took just one trip around the gym, filled with about 10 rows of exhibits, including a computer station, live owls, turtles and snakes, and a costume shop.

Jenae Manns, 11, of Randallstown said she had never seen or touched a Burnese python before yesterday.

"It sure is different from the garden snakes I see in our yard," she said, as she rubbed her hands along the black and brown snake. "I get to learn about animals that are in nature and how they survive. You can see what their skins look like and touch them to see how they feel."

Children also used computers and radar to predict the weather at a stand sponsored by the Automated Weather System. Volunteers and staff from the Maryland Science Center set up their 20-foot-high portable planetarium in a racquetball court to show and identify constellations.

"It's all good fun and the best part is there's so much to do," said Kelly Thompson, 9, of Baltimore, as she headed toward the stage to dance with a keyboard player.

The event continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs

$2.50 per person. A family pack of tickets is $7 for as many as two adults and four children. Children under 2 are admitted free.

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