April 13th was the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the unsinkable. The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA offered a homeschool day in observance, with extremely well done exhibits, activities and presentations.
We registered in advance, so when we got there, getting started with the activities was a breeze. Each child was given a “boarding pass” of a real passenger who had been on board the Titanic and was instructed to check the registry to see if they survived. Odds were much better for women and children! This was a point driven home over and over again throughout the exhibit. We were also given a mini-quiz to fill out with a few basic questions about the Titanic, as well as specific information about a key passenger. A reward of a free frozen confection insured Grace’s enthusiasm to get the quiz completed and turned in. (Something I need to remember!)
There was a slideshow presentation that was easy enough for the kids, but interesting enough to keep parents attention. The presentation focused on some of the famous people on board, the separation of the classes, the accommodations found in each section of the ship, as well as the history of the famous tragedy.
Well lit and labelled displays showed various artifacts from the ship, photographs and travel posters. Hands-on exhibit tables staffed with friendly volunteers showed toys, clothes and games of the era. There was a chance to try tapping out morse code (like the Marconi operators), period music was performed, and we peeked inside a lady’s trunk to see what kind of clothes would be packed (and if you were upper class – how many outfits per day!) . A big hit for Grace was the Passport to get stamped as we visited each exhibit.
The Mariners’ Museum is all things nautical. Displays explain the early history of sail, ship life during the “Master and Commander” period, and examples of many of the tools of sailing that we read about in “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch!” Ralph slipped off and went quickly through the Civil War maritime area which features USS Monitor Center with sections of the USS Monitor, as well as letters and other artifacts of the historic naval battle between the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac) and the USS Monitor.
We fell in love with The Mariners’ Museum and recommend it highly! We’ll be signing Grace up for Big Winds, Big Waves: the Science of Hurricanes this September. We are also looking forward to visiting during two big Living History Days in 2012. The first will be held on Friday, March 9th commemorating the Battle of Hampton Roads. On Friday, April 13th many of the exhibits I’ve described will be enhanced and enlarged for Titanic Day, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the star of the White Star line. Maybe we’ll see you there!