`Little dreamers' learn of King

Museum exhibit teaches message of civil rights leader

January 21, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

When they weren't sliding, running up and down stairs, swinging through the air or gluing something together, the children visiting the Inner Harbor's Port Discovery - dubbed "little dreamers" by staff - took a moment yesterday to remember the life and work of a big dreamer - Martin Luther King Jr.

The salute to King, whose birthday will be celebrated today with a parade in Baltimore and with tributes across the country, occurred as part of the museum's I Have a Dream Weekend, a series of kid-powered exhibits geared to teach 6- to 12-year-olds about the civil rights leader's message of racial equality and tolerance.

"What do you know about Martin Luther King?" museum guide Justin Skinner asked a small group of kids - from kindergartners to preteen middle-school pupils - at the beginning of "Let's Make a Difference," an interactive seminar that tested the kids' knowledge of people who have made a difference in the world.

They answered in ways only children can: "He's the man who had a dream." "He made peace." "He got shot."

Yes, Skinner said, King was assassinated in 1968, four years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but he made a difference in the world.

Then Skinner asked, "What was King's dream?" as the question appeared on an overheard screen in the studio. The kids, armed with remote controls, selected from a multiple-choice list: 1) Equal freedom for all Americans. 2) Votes for women. 3) America out of Vietnam. 4) Abolish apartheid. Eighty-three percent correctly answered No. 1.

After several more questions akin to a Who Wants to be a Millionaire civil rights trivia game, the students acted out how historical figures - such as Rosa Parks - made a difference.

When the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks - portrayed by 12-year-old Brad Bough - to give up her seat yesterday, her response was immediate: "I refuse." And with that, Skinner explained, Parks sparked the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., that in 1956 led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare segregation on public buses unconstitutional.

Although the "bus" was a row of three chairs and the bus driver was one of the children visiting the museum, the message was the same: one person can make a difference.

Other exhibits included "Global Goulash," in which kids made a multicultural coloring book; and the "One World Mural," where kids used a computer-based drawing tool to create pictures and words celebrating tolerance and peace. Many children gravitated to the "Invention Convention," where they learned about African-American inventors and inventions.

In the shadow of biographies of inventors like Dr. Patricia Bath, who developed a method of eye surgery that has helped blind people see, and Garrett Morgan, who invented the gas mask and the traffic signal, Bough used a series of springs and glue to create a robot trash collector.

Asked why, he said, "Because there's too much trash in the streets."

Meanwhile, 8-year-old Yehoshua Schuemann drew a silly face on a soda container top to create a "laugh maker."

"It's to make my baby sister smile," he said.

Port Discovery's I Have a Dream Weekend exhibits continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information: 410-727-8120.

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