Enter a house of wonders

Learning: Chesapeake Children's Museum of Annapolis creates `an environment of discovery.'

August 08, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Biologically, Deborah Wood is a proud mother of two children, both of them college graduates as of May.

But ask the child development specialist from Cape St. Claire how many children she has and she is liable to smile and answer, "three."

The offspring that inspires this inward chuckle is the Chesapeake Children's Museum of Annapolis, a house of wonders founded by Wood 12 years ago that sits on a 5-acre site owned by the city of Annapolis at the head of Spa Creek

Inaugurated in Odenton, the museum migrated to a storefront in the Festival at Riva before landing 2 1/2 years ago at its current location beneath the radio tower of station of WYRE at 25 Silopanna Road.

However nomadic its past, though, the museum's mission has remained steadfast. The institution exists, Wood recites proudly, "to create an environment of discovery about oneself, and about the people, technology and ecology of the Chesapeake Bay area for all our children and for the child in us all."

This directive animates the hands-on spirit of inquiry this museum is all about.

Chesapeake wildlife available for up-close inspections include Dion, a diamond-backed terrapin, Reggie and Rocky, a pair of red-eared slider turtles, and an albino corn snake named Roxy.

Smaller turtles, crabs, a giant cockroach and a red-tailed boa constrictor from Colombia named Rosita also are on hand, though Rosita is perhaps best appreciated from the outside looking in. Supervised nature walks along Spa Creek are a regular activity for the museum's budding naturalists.

The museum's play areas are also keyed to substantive themes.

There is a large dock and boat to climb on so youngsters can get the feel of life as a Chesapeake Bay waterman.

Construction and transportation sets are in a section spotlighting the industries of the regions, complete with hardhats from different companies for the children to wear.

At the crafts area, kids may learn from a poster detailing "How to Draw Crab" or perhaps undertake something as exotic as designing Mayan sun masks.

Even the gathering of resources for the artwork evinces a conservation theme, with the use of many recycled materials. Blue and yellow newspaper delivery bags, for example, mutate into colorful sun catchers or "stained-glass" images.

Issues of health and the human body are explored in a Doctor's Room where unsuspecting parents may suddenly find themselves undergoing a dental exam in an authentic office chair. This also is the place to encounter Stuffy, a giant doll whose internal organs flop out easily for analysis by young anatomists.

Bus trips and discovery walks to a variety of venues are sponsored by the museum, as are thematic birthday parties designed for children who might like to celebrate their special day making African percussion instruments, planting seeds, constructing buildings in their hard hats, or working on visual arts projects.

"The best thing about the role I've played here is that I've gotten to learn so much," says Wood, fresh from expressing her enthusiasm about the asymmetry of the two human lungs and about the way toads drink by immersing their skin in water. "We offer a great gift of knowledge here."

Information: 410-990-1993, or www.theccm.org. Admission is $3 for those ages 1 and older. Groups of 10 or more must have an appointment. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Wednesday.

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