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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Exploring at the National Geographic Museum

Not only is National Geographic a magazine, they have a lot of info online that is absolutely amazing, in addition to their Explorers’ Hall in Washington, DC.  This museum has changing exhibits that are fascinating and will ignite the imaginations of old and young alike.

At the end of the summer, we visited the Etruscan exhibit there, along with the “Race to the End of the Earth” display regarding the different nations trying to reach the Antarctic Circle first.  Benedetto (Italian) was drawn to the Etruscans, naturally.  The children (kids) were drawn to the igloos and dogsleds.  I (common-sense controller of the universe) wondered if our parking meter was going to run out of time.

Each of us picked up cards of explorers to “follow” through the exhibit.  One of ours was Olav Bjaaland, the ski champion from the Norwegian Team.  Age 37, his personality was said to be lighthearted, and up-for-anything.  In addition to being a skiing champion, Bjaaland was also an expert carpenter.  The kids loved following the clues for each of their characters and answering questions, such as “Can you find the wooden sledge I repaired?”

It’s precisely these kind of participatory museums that interest homeschoolers.  We look for exhibits that elicit more thought and insightful comments than the average, “That’s BIG!” or “Wow!”  We, as any parents, want our kids to really benefit and learn something.

On a slow day over the holidays, we headed out once again with our four, yearning for some adventure at the National Geographic Museum.  Well, they didn’t disappoint, since this is the only museum in America that would host the Ango-Saxon Hoard through March 2012-!

The Hoard does not refer to a group of armed warriors, instead the Hoard is the largest cache of  Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.  A metal detectorist (that’s right, kids) found the stash of more than 3,500 pieces on a farm in England, valued at around $5 million.  They date to about 650 A.D. and are mostly military:  helmet pieces, sword fittings, shields, many inlaid with zillions of the tiniest of garnets.  (No, I’m sorry, kids, I don’t know if the farmer on whose land it was found got to keep any of it.)

One of our children was studying Beowulf and we were able to listen on headphones to medieval manuscripts being read that honestly sounded very unlike our modern English.  Still, taking a quiz, we understood mostly the days of the week, and could see the correlation.

If you’re anything like our group, it’s hard to keep everyone together in a museum:  Sashenka (11) wants to push every button in every display;  Mashenka (13.5) shuts down and refuses to answer any question lest she get it wrong; Pasha (15) wanders off when a shiny item catches his eye; Petya (15.5) tries to distance himself from the younger ones.  So we were glad that National Geographic had an educational twist, almost a treasure hunt of sorts, for those who wished to work together on a family adventure.

We were lent a Family Archaeology Backpack to lead us on our journey and help us explore by looking, moving, touching, and doing.  This was stuffed with informational cards and fill-in-the-blank.  We could have worn our very own plastic pith helmets, but well, you know teens….  We looked in our backpack for the bag containing sheep’s wool, a drop-spindle, and an instruction card so we could spin our own piece of yarn as the women of Anglo-Saxon time did.  The family saw films of conservation after a mud-encrusted find was discovered.  Our kids “excavated” in a long trough of mulch and found some artifacts themselves.

The children were able to make their own discoveries along the way—an illuminated manuscript, what daily life might have been like, how the Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who came to settle in England after the Romans left around 410 A.D., and the fact that the gold in the hoard most likely came from melted-down Byzantine gold coins.

Suddenly, the Dark Ages were not so dark anymore.




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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar hoonew says:

    We went to the Spy Museum based on your recommendation, and it was fantastic, so your favorable review is enough to send us to the National Geographic- hope to get there soon.

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