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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.”

“Hoppy” Spirits Prevail at Soggy Egg Hunt

“Hoppy” Spirits Prevail 
at Soggy Egg Hunt
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – They eyed the forecast updates, peered at the stormy skies and waited until the very last minute to decide if they were going forward or not.

Such was the challenge for members of the Green’s Farms Volunteer Fire Company when faced with torrential rain that threatened an annual egg hunt they were sponsoring early Saturday afternoon at Long Lots Elementary School, 13 Hyde Lane. Fortunately, Mother Nature showed some mercy and the event, though modified, went ahead, drawing a couple dozen children and their parents.

“My father, John, was the originator of the event, along with Mike Horn,” said lead organizer Michael Gudzik. “The first one, 60 years ago, was held at Green’s Farms School, until they started renovating it and we had to move it over to Long Lots.”

This was not the first time it had been rainy on the event day. “Two years ago, it rained,” said Carol Gudzik. “We had four families show, about 16 kids, and everyone went home with an Easter basket prize. You should see it when it’s not raining. You get the fire truck here with the Easter Bunny riding on it and the sirens going.”

Normally held on Long Lots’ ballfield, this year, because of the rain and mud, the event had to be restricted to the roadway in front of the school entrance. The Easter Bunny arrived by SUV and rain slickers and umbrellas were the norm for the day.

As is the custom, special Willie Wonka-like tickets are taped to select packages of candy and then the candy is gently tossed out onto the ground. Lucky kids that find the tickets amongst collected candy can redeem them for gift baskets containing toys, games and bigger items like basketballs and footballs.

“We had no choice about coming,” said Westport parent Fredrik Franke. “The kids really love it and remembered it from last year. We’re Swedish and they don’t have this tradition in Europe. Swedish kids do, however, dress up like witches the day before Easter and trick and treat like at Halloween.”

Another Westport parent, Todd Cooper, said, “Despite the rain, it seemed like it would be a good time, and beats sitting in the house. The kids have been watching the clock and talking about it since yesterday.”

As the first batch of candy was strewn across the road, Westport police officer Ashley Delvecchio, who joined the force last fall, sounded the horn in her patrol car to signal the first batch of kids to go scrambling after it. The officer said the event was a great opportunity to get the community together and celebrate the holiday. “This is my first Easter mission since I came on board,” she said. “It’s one of the more fun aspects of my job – seeing the kids and showing them that the police are friendly.”

Kids were released by age group, starting with two to three year olds, then four to six and so on. Their challenge was less “hunt” and more “gather”. In fact, the greatest obstacle the kids faced was having a basket or bag big enough to carry all their sugar-coated loot. Besides the egg hunt, they got to sound the sirens in Delvecchio’s patrol car and enjoyed supplied cups of ice cream that rewarded them for their efforts.

With regard to the rain, parent Mary Esser wasn’t even sure the event was going to happen initially, which is ironic as her son claimed not just one gift basket but two. “We were on our way to visit the grandparents, drove by and, sure enough, it was on. We’ve been lucky winners!”