I have decided that traditional museums are lost on children. I know there are “children’s” museums in every major city in the US, but I’m talking about the natural history museums with dinosaur bones and things that school children are herded to every year, lined up like pearls on a string, and ushered from room to quiet room while some adult desperately tries to engage their attention and keep them from swinging on the velvet ropes.
Two weeks ago, Eve and I were in Washington, DC with a dozen or so of her classmates for a Close Up Washington tour. [I couldn’t have loved this tour company more – if you haven’t heard of them, check it out. What a fantastic organization!] The kids had a pretty tightly packed schedule but since they were with Close Up teachers, I was free to peel off and do my own thing and catch up with them later.
Now, I’m certain that I visited my share of museums as a kid and what I really remember about them was being bored and restless. The idea of a field trip was almost always better than the trip itself and I know for a fact that the part I enjoyed the most was the school bus ride with all of my friends to and from our destination.
As an adult, though, heading into the Smithsonian Natural History Museum was fan-freaking-tastic. There was a life-size elephant in the lobby. This guy stared out at me from his perch, daring me to guess what he was and read all about him.
- middle-school-age and thrilled to be set free from their teachers for the moment, they ran around in giggling clots of girls texting each other pictures of boys they had taken on the sly (apparently these are called ‘stalker photos’ because the subject is some random boy from another school in another part of the US who just happens to be on your tour and he has no idea he is being photographed or talked about by tittering teenage girls), and
- elementary-age children with matching backpacks and water bottles with eyes like marbles and brains so overstimulated that they couldn’t even recall their own names (which may be why most of them were written in Sharpie on their backpacks).