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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kids Get Insights into Sea Life

Kids Get Insights into Sea Life:
Vacation week program aligns with museum’s current exhibit
(Posted to 4/23)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – The facility’s rich nautical exhibit provided the perfect fodder for a multi-pronged vacation week program, which concluded Friday afternoon.

“Find Your Way”, the last installment of a sea-themed week of educational sessions at Fairfield Museum and History Center, 370 Beach Road, showed children in grades 2 to 5 how sailors navigated, used maps and survived at sea.

“There’s a lot of maritime history in this area, so there’s a lot to draw from in terms of our exhibits, to create educational activities,” said Christine Jewell, Director of Education at the museum, who led the afternoon program.

At the outset of the session, participating children were led around the museum to see ship models and navigation-related artifacts that are part of the facility’s “From Sea to Shining Sea” exhibit, which runs through April 24.

Then the kids were armed with compasses and clipboards with guidance sheets and challenged to an Orienteering Scavenger Hunt. Beginning at a set starting point in the Gallery Lobby, children were steered by directional cues, e.g. “Go 3 steps east,” and then asked a question about an adjacent display – “What is upside down in the painting?” or “How many life boats are on the ship?”

Essentially, while learning the orienteering skill, children’s attention was focused on the finer details of the displays.

“Ok, five steps east,” Jewell would call out.

“East is that way!” a participant would reply, checking a compass and pointing.

The group would march in the suggested direction, come face-to-face with a display and answer the related question.

One display was of a rare map of New England.

“Why do you think this type of map is important?” asked Jewell.

“So ships don’t run into any islands,” came a reply.

A quick walk followed, over to the adjacent Old Fairfield Academy, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1804. There, kids got some additional insight into how and what students learned years ago.

“Why is there a fireplace in the classroom?” asked one student.

“How do you think they heated it?” replied Jewell.

Upon return to the museum, kids designed nautical signal flags, sketching them out first then applying their designs to felt pennants. While the children worked, Jewell read aloud about shipwrights, sailmakers and sea captains.

“I would like to have been a sailor back then,” said Abigail Julio, 7, from Fairfield. “It would have been very adventurous.”

“I think it would have been tough to be a sailor,” countered Abigail’s brother Adam, 9, “especially having to eat the hard biscuits. Navigating would have been kind of difficult, too.”

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