American History Museum

Monday March 7, 2011
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Last Thursday and Friday, the kids were off school and we had parent teacher conferences.   Both conferences went really well and it was nice to hear that both Wendy & Sam are doing well in school.  Sam’s kindergarten teacher mentioned that the class has been very interested in the presidents, probably due to the lessons themed around Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays.

This inspired me to take the kids downtown to check out some American and presidential history firsthand.  We live a stones throw from downtown DC, but rarely take advantage of it, because, frankly, hauling all three kids down there, hoping everyone decides to obey AND finding decent parking seems like a tall order.

However, inspiration took hold, so the kids and I headed out for an afternoon visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  The museum has a ton of great stuff, including some of my favorites — Julia Child’s kitchen and the First Ladies Inaugural Gowns.  However, this trip wasn’t about hitting my highlights, my goal was to show the kids some presidential history.

We drove downtown and after a few laps around the Mall, finally located nearby parking.   We had two hours to kill before our occupation of the curb lane became a towable offense, so we entered the museum and headed straight for the Star Spangled Banner Exhibit.

This exhibit houses the 30’x 34′ American flag, made in 1813, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.  My grasp of American History was a little fuzzy as I tried to explain the significance of the War of 1812 and what it meant, but the kids were suitably impressed by the atmosphere and the flag itself.   It was especially gratifying to see Wendy take the initiative and read on her own as she learned more about the exhibit.

We couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibit, but I took this one from the main lobby, which features a sculpture of the flag.   As you can see, the kids were in a cooperative mood, which was nice.

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From there we headed upstairs to check out the American Presidency exhibit.   We didn’t spend much time here, but it was interesting to see the timeline that gave data on each president, as well as important events in our nations history.

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Knowing the kids had a limited attention span, we dove into the Abraham Lincoln exhibit.   One of the more interesting artifacts was the actual top hat Lincoln wore to the Ford theater.

This life-size photo demonstrates how tall he was (6’4″), even more so, when wearing that hat.

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Some of the images from the exhibit:

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With three kids in tow, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time absorbing the exhibit.  Just now, I took time to read through the online exhibit and found it really fascinating and informing.  If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out this exhibit, either online or in person.  It closes May 31st of this year.

After doing all this “looking”, I knew the kids were ready for something more interactive.  So we headed down to the lower level to check out the Spark!Lab.   There are lots of different experiements and opportunities to build and create.  Each child found something to hold their attention.

Sam loved building and creating a marble run.  The cool thing about this set-up was that some of the materials were metallic which allowed the marble to make sound as it traveled.

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I thought I lost Adam, but it turned out, he was tucked away in the construction corner.  The boy loved playing in the sand with the diggers.

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Wendy, found her passion with the science experiment being conducted.  The gentleman behind the counter did a great job of demonstrating different scientific properties and stuff (I wasn’t really listening).  The kids were enthralled.

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Here’s a short clip that shows just how much fun science can be:

Pretty soon, it was time to make a dash for the car.  But first, I wanted to attempt a group shot or two.

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All in all, it was a great day out with the kids!

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