Museum engages kids in civil rights history

Museum engages children in history

Exhibits: Port Discovery holds a weekend program honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Nearing the end of the Port Discovery scavenger hunt yesterday, John Carreras and his 10-year-old daughter Renee were almost finished with their list uncovering names of African-American inventors.

They were in an exhibit called Miss Perceptions Mystery House, where they found a child-sized version of an ironing board and learned that Sarah Boon invented the contraption in 1892. A few steps away was an umbrella stand, and a clue that said W.C. Carter made the first one in 1885.

"You learn a lot through the exhibits," said Carreras, who along with his wife, Tina, drove from Severn to Baltimore's children's museum for its "I Have a Dream Weekend" honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which runs through today.

King, one of the fathers of the civil rights movement and a powerful advocate for nonviolence, would have turned 74 years old on Jan. 15. His birthday is celebrated as a legal holiday across the country today.

More than 1,500 visitors came to Port Discovery yesterday for the museums' exhibits and activities, including the scavenger hunt, Dunbar Jazz band and an "I Have A Dream" tree, in which children write down their aspirations and hang them on a tree.

King's birthday has been a federal holiday since 1986, something museum-goers learned yesterday during a music-video presentation about civil rights.

Renee Carreras said she had been learning about King in school. "His dream was that everyone would be treated equal instead of black people sitting in the back," she said.

The presentation also featured other prominent black figures in history, such as scientist George Washington Carver, who helped create 325 products from peanuts and more than 100 products from sweet potatoes, significantly improving the suffering economic climate in the South.

The short film also offered trivia: Garrett A. Morgan, the son of former slaves, created the first automated three-way stoplight; and Maya Angelou -- poet, novelist, historian and activist -- wrote the best-selling book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Ed Adams and his wife, Janel, drove to Port Discovery from Boyds in Montgomery County with their three children, Alana, 11, Austin, 10, and Andrew, 3.

Janel Adams said she and her family are Port Discovery members, and visit several times a year. "We wanted to see what was going on for Martin Luther King Day," she said. "I know they are learning it at school, but I wanted them to see it on a more fun level."

Austin took a break from a coordination game with wooden pieces to explain what he knew about King.

"He led marches and boycotts and helped black people," Austin said.

His sister, Alana, chimed in: "He tried to make people listen to his speeches and know that African-Americans and Caucasian people should be friends."

Austin added: "He didn't care about the color of their skin."

Alana: "He made people look at the inside, not the outside."

They looked at each other and smiled, proud of their knowledge. Then, Janel and Ed Adams gathered their children, and scavenger hunt form in hand, went looking for the name of the inventor of the ironing board.

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