Kids get up-close look at ancient history

Exhibit showcases life as it was 3,900 years ago

March 10, 2003|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

Life was tough 3,900 years ago. Back in biblical times there were no homebuilders. No television sets. No grocery stores.

This was the message for about 300 children who gathered yesterday at the Jewish Museum of Maryland on Lloyd Street for the opening of From Tent to Temple: Life in the Ancient Near East, an interactive exhibit for youngsters.

"People had to hunt for their own food, make their own shelters and protect themselves," said 11-year-old Dena Lehmann of Baltimore. "It was really hard for them to eat."

Created by the Jewish Children's Learning Lab, the traveling exhibit is the first of its kind to come to the 15-year-old museum. Housed in a large room of the museum, the exhibit is made up of 55 workstations divided into four sections: food, shelter, clothing and archaeology.

Although the exhibit is targeted at ages 7 to 12, yesterday's opening drew children ranging from toddlers to early teens.

Some made slippers of cardboard cutouts and pieces of felt. Others built small houses out of smooth, square blocks of limestone or fetched water from a small well. And many of them fed grain to bleating goats and lambs, who craned their necks to reach the multitude of small hands filled with food.

The exhibit included a mock souk, or market place, and outdoor petting zoo. The result was a lighthearted re-creation of a scene out of the Ancient Near East.

"I'm trying to make this place as playful as possible," said Avi Decter, director of the museum. "The fact is, you learn so much more when you're having a good time. I mean, I consider myself a pretty good museumgoer, but even I get tired after about 45 minutes."

Abby Lattes of Baltimore, who brought her 2 1/2 -year-old son, Winn, to the exhibit, agreed that the exhibit is an ideal mix of education and recreation.

"In most museums kids can't touch anything, and that's just contrary to their nature," she said. "Most kids learn by doing things, like they are here."

"From Tent to Temple" will be at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd St., until July.

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