Experience 51 of 52: Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse

The “Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse” in downtown Baltimore was a fascinating look at the life of a light-house keeper. We learned:

– The lighthouse was manned by keepers of the “US Lighthouse Service” (and eventually the U.S. Coast Guard)
– Because it was in an isolated location, the lighthouse was designed for 3 keepers
– Each night at sundown the “beacon lamp” was lit and had to remain lit until sunrise
– Each morning the “beacon lens” had to be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the next evening
– During dense fog, a fog bell was sounded
– A cistern was used to collect rain water to provided water for the keepers

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Experience 47 of 52: The Walter’s Art Museum

The Walter’s Art Museum is one of our favorite local places to visit. Although we’d visited many times, this was the first during our 52 week journey. As it was near Easter, we made our way to visit the icons and religious symbols exhibit.

We learned that a “miter” is a headdress worn by bishops during the liturgy. An example one we say was made in 1724 and depicts the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

We also reviewed the “Icon with the Crucifixion” and discussed the meaning of Easter in Christianity.

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Experience 46 of 52: Geppi’s Entertainment Museum

Geppi’s Entertainment Museum displays a timeline of popular culture artifacts. From comics to collectibles, the museum introduced the gals to the history of pop culture.

The favorite exhibits were the Star Wars characters, the “old fashioned” telephone and the “I Love Lucy” episodes that were playing on the antique television. Kate was very disappointed in Princess Leia and her skimpy dress and couldn’t understand why someone would dress that way. I hope that thought continues.

Not surprisingly, our favorite activity was hands-on creating masterpieces using Colorforms. We learned that Colorforms were the first plastic-based creative toy that was advertised on television.

The museum provided a trivia-based scavenger hunt that led the girls through the museum and, after completion, the girls were rewarded with a comic book of their own. This was a nice touch and added some purpose the museum tour.

Although interesting, in my opinion, the museum was a bit overpriced. If there was something we learned it was that commercialism has reigned supreme for centuries.

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Experience 30 of 52: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

As the most visited natural history museum in the world, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is a fascinating walk through, you guessed it, natural history.  Although we barely scratched the surface of history (how could we, really, considering the age of the earth) we enjoyed walking through the Mammals Hall, the Human Origins hall and seeing the Dinosaur exhibits.  Seeing so much history can sometimes help us realize we are but small parts in the long journey of the universe.

In addition to the exhibits, we were enthralled with the Flying Monsters 3D Imax movie that taught us about the pterosaurs – the great flying reptiles of the prehistoric skies.  Some of these creatures had wingspans the size of a modern-day jet!

In preparation for our trip to Cancun (and in anticipation of our planned snorkeling adventure), we followed up the Flying Monsters film with the Coral Reef Adventure film that reminded us that “We don’t inherit the earth from our parents.  We borrow it from our children.”  This film journeyed us alongside oceanographers trying to determine why some coral reefs in the south pacific were dying off.  In doing so, the film also explained the importance of coral reefs and why they are essential to humans

  • Coral reefs support jobs and businesses that provide tourism and recreation
  • Coral reefs present a buffer to the shoreline to protect the shores from erosion and property damage
  • Coral reefs are important sources of current and promising medicinal opportunities.

There is so much to see at this museum and so much to learn that we promised ourselves we would come back on a later adventure and spend a leisurely time trying to absorb the immensity of the history of our world.  We can never comprehend it all but maybe we can help nourish the seeds of curiosity in our children and continue to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder about the world we live in.

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Experience 29 of 52: Rotunda of the Charters of Freedom

The National Archives “Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom” in Washington D.C. exhibits the most valued documents of our Republic: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.  Although the girls may not yet fully appreciate there value, on our way to Experience 30 of 52, we took a short detour to view these hallowed documents.

On this experience the girls learned the basics behind the documents and saw the originals first hand.  They learned:

  • The Declaration of Independence announced the 13 American Colonies (which Grace is studying in Social Studies) would form a separate nation apart from Great Britain.
  • The Constitution defined the scope of the American government system
  • The Bill of Rights explicitly defines the rights that are granted to the citizens of this great country including freedom of the press, of religion, of the right to bear arms and of assembly (and we learned what these are).

This was actually our second trip to see the documents (the other being prior to the start of our 52-in-52 adventure) but the girls were just as patient and willing to wait in line in cold weather before seeing the documents again.  They were also just as curious to see if they could read any of the original handwriting or recognize any of the signatures.  This reinforces our belief that our 52-in-52 adventure is teaching our girls that learning is living and living is learning.  As Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  We hope that through our continued adventures our gals will enjoy absorbing all that life has to offer them, will appreciate history and will be convinced that living and learning go hand in hand.


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Experience 16 of 52: Virginia Air and Space Museum

Paul, Grace and Kate in front of the Apollo 12 Command module.

The Virginia Air and Space Museum, located in Hampton Roads, VA was another museum that provided a nice mix of exhibits and hands-on experiences for the gals.  Upon entering the museum, one of the first things we encountered was the Apollo 12 Command Module.  We looked at the model of the 3 stage Saturn V rocket boosters that launched it to the moon and imagined what it must have been like for the astronauts who were on the mission and walked on the moon.  We learned that two astronauts went to the surface of the moon in the “Lunar Module” while the third astronaut remained in the “Command Module”.

In addition to the Apollo 12, there were additional spacecraft models and an “Exploring the Moon, Mars and Beyond” exhibit.  This exhibit included planetary models, moon rock, mars rock and Mars exploration rovers.

In addition to spacecraft, the museum also has aircraft on display.  We enjoyed seeing a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer because we had visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial a few years ago while visiting the Outer Banks – both Grace and Kate remembered exactly what this was!  We were also able to sit in the cockpit of a DC-9 Passenger jet – Grace as the pilot and Kate as the co-pilot.  They must have done this before in a past life because the ride was as smooth as I’ve ever flown ;).  Finally, Grace learned how to direct a pilot using a Kinect type simulation that was monitoring hand signals as directed by a computer simulation.

One of the coolest exhibits I’ve seen at any museum was a large model (probably 10-12 feet long and a couple of feet high) of an aircraft carrier that was contained in a display case.  The exterior of the case had sliding display monitor screens that, when slid along the side of the carrier, would show images of what the internals of the aircraft carrier was like.  I found this to be a very creative way of showing a “beyond the hull” look at the ship.  I wish I had taken a picture of the display because it was very well done.

The museum also had an IMAX theatre but we decided to spend our time checking out the exhibits.

Time Spent: About 3 hours
Cost: $42 for the four of us

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Experience 13 of 52: Nauticus Museum

The Nauticus museum in Norfolk, VA is at the top of the list of our favorite places we’ve visited with the children.  The museum had so many hands-on activities for the children to do that we didn’t want to leave.  An exhibit on the Panama Canal discussed the use of locks to move cargo ships through the canal.  This fit well with our previous visit to the Cumberland Visitor Center and its exhibit on locks and their use on the C&O canal.

In addition to the refresher on locks, we learned:

  • The “bow” and “stern” of a boat are the “front” and “rear” of the boat
  • The right side of the boat is called the “starboard” side and the left side is called the “port” side
  • Buoys are color coded to assist boaters: “Red, Right, Returning” means the red buoy should be on the right (starboard) side of the boat when returning from open seas.  The opposite is true for green buoys.

We also had a chance to do the following fun activities:

  • Kate was able to touch a live Brownbanded Bamboo Shark fin by reaching her hand into the “Shark Experience” exhibit
  • Grace built a submersible remote-controlled robot and tried to drive it to collect rings that were scattered in the pool of water
  • We withstood the 80 mile an hour hurricane force winds in the “hurricane simulator”
  • We toured the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last Battleships ever built by the U.S. navy.

I am sure my write-up hasn’t done this museum justice.  I highly recommend a visit and I would be more than happy to visit the museum again on a future visit to Norfolk.

Time Spent: 3 hours
Cost: ~$50 for 2 adults and 2 children

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Experience 10 of 52: The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA)

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) includes “the largest holding of works by Henri Matisse in the world, as well as masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh.”  Although by no means art connoisseurs, we hope that visiting museums and becoming familiar with famous works of art will help to develop our children into well-rounded adults.

One of our favorite sculptures was “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.  The BMA holds one of the original bronze casts of the sculpture (there are over 20 of them in the world).  This sculpture, depicting a man in deep thought and internal turmoil is one of my favorites, a copy of which sits in his my room.

We also saw this awesome, creative foot and shoe work.  I’m not sure what the artist was trying to say through this piece but it was creative and interesting nonetheless.


One of my favorite Greek myths involves the story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur in the Labyrinth built by Daedalus.  Here are 2 of my favorite gals with the sculpture at the BMA.

Another facet of the BMA is the Sunday Brunch served at Gertrude’s restaurant.  The brunch was quite delicious although a little more expensive than we’d typically spend on a breakfast.  I must admit, however, If I’m going to pay $20 per person for a meal, I’d want the food to taste like my meal at Gertrude’s.  Both the presentation and the taste were impeccable.

Overall, we enjoyed the visit and would visit again.  We hope each visit to an art museum will help us grow our knowledge just a little more than the time before.  Since this was our first introduction to the BMA we’ll need many more visits to increase our knowledge of the world of art.

Time Spent: About 3 hours (including brunch)
Cost: $79 for brunch for four, Free museum admission

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Experience 8 of 52: The Sports Legend Museum

If you have even an inkling of interest in the Baltimore sports scene, the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore is a must do experience.  The museum is extensive – we expected to spend about an hour walking through the museum but 2 hours later we were still absorbing the hundred years of Baltimore sports history!

We learned that the Baltimore Orioles:

  • moved from St. Louis to Baltimore in 1954
  • last won the World Series in 1983
  • have an “Orioles Hall of Fame” that includes former players such as Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken, Earl Weaver, Brady Anderson, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Harold Baines
  • former third baseman Brooks Robinson was nicknamed “Hoover” because he scooped up everything that came his way – kind of like a vacuum cleaner
  • former shortstop Cal Ripken wore number 8 (which happens to be our family lucky number :)) and is known as the “Iron Man” because he played in 2,632 consecutive baseball games

We learned that the Baltimore Ravens:

  • moved to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996
  • won Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001
  • first 2 draft picks were Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis and both are considered Hall of Famers
  • the previous football team in Baltimore was the Baltimore Colts and they moved to Indianapolis in 1984
  • one of the greatest players in Baltimore football history was Johnny Unitas who was known as “The Golden Arm” and holds the record of 47 consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass

We enjoyed the various movies that were available to provide us with glimpses of Baltimore’s sports history. There was also a dress up room where the girls could put on baseball gear and football gear.

This museum is probably enjoyed most by an older generation who remembers the “good old days” of the Orioles or the Baltimore football teams but we were able to introduce G & K to the Baltimore sports history which may help them understand the passion that many people feel for their home town teams.

Time spent: About 2 hours (could have spent more time but we were all getting tired)
Cost: $32 ($20 for tickets (we used a coupon from an Entertainment Book), $12 for parking)

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Experience 4 of 52: The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.

On our walk back from the U.S. Capitol Building tour we stopped at the Folger Shakespeare Libraryhome to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art”.  Although we didn’t tour the entire library, we stepped into the quaint Folger Theatre, spent a short time at the “Open City: London, 1500-1700” exhibit reading through some of the displays explaining the changing cultural landscape in London during the time of Shakespeare and visited the gift shop.

We did learn a few things about Shakespeare while we were here but this was more because we looked at some books in the gift shop then because of any displays.  Some of things we learned were:

  • Shakespeare lived from 1564 – 1616
  • His wife’s name was Anne Hathaway (probably a different Anne Hathaway then the one who starred in “The Princess Diaries” 😉 ).
  • He had three children
  • Shakespeare is said to have written 38 plays
  • Shakespeare was not as well-known in his time as he is now

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare then you’ll probably want to see one of his plays here.  If not, there may have more to see but since we’re not Shakespearean aficionados we wouldn’t make a return visit.  I had hoped to see more information on Shakespeare, his life and his impact on society to help my children understand his significance but I did not see any exhibits of this type.

Time Spent: About 40 minutes
Cost: Free (we parked on the street at no cost but it may not be so easy to locate parking during the week)

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