Friday, October 08, 2004

Freedom Center....

We invited some friends to meet us downtown and play at the park at Sawyer Point, have a picnic lunch and then head up to the new Underground Railroad Freedom Center. One friend's kids got sick (and thankfully she was kind enough to stay home rather than risk infecting us), the other had a disaster with a gallon of lavender paint so she and her girls couldn't come. Not the type of people to be deterred from a good plan, the kids and I decided to go it alone.

We started off with a quick stop at the book sale at the Campbell County Library. Always looking for interesting books for reading or alterning, we aren't ones to pass on a booksale. $13.50 later we walked out with 2 large bags full of books. Thrilled with our finds, we headed across the river and to the park. Cade was so excited when he saw the playground, he said it looked like a castle. The playground is great, accessible to everyone and has that wonderful cushiony play surface that seems to lessen mishaps. Of course it wasn't very crowded, a playground, downtown on a weekday afternoon on a school day, you are almost guarenteed to find things deserted.

After playing for about 45 minutes we ate our picnic lunch and then decided to trek up to the Freedom Center. It was a bit of a walk, but once I park the monster van downtown there is no way I am moving it. Plus parking at Sawyer Point is a mere $2 for the whole day, much cheaper than the $10 it would be up near the center. Will happily hung out in his baby bjorn front pack and we pushed Sophie in the stoller, I knew that her two year old legs wouldn't make it on the long walk and then the museum tour. Everyone else walked along, they do amazingly well for "country" kids, dealing with city traffic. They seem to know to stop at the corners, stay out of the road and watch for crosslights. Walking the busy streets of dowtown with kids in tow is always an adventure, but we safely made it to our destination.

We were fortunate to have been given a free one year membership to the freedom center, because we certainly couldn't have afforded the admission. At $12 for adults and $8 for students, it would have never have been in the budget.

I don't know what I expected the freedom center to be like, but I thought it might be overwhelming and depressing. I was pleasantly surprised! The kids loved the place. The tour begins with a film entitles "Midnight Decision" where a young slave makes the decision to leave his mother and sister and run North to freedom. After watching the film you go into an exhibit hall full of artifacts, interactive displays and interactive computer games. We read the story of a slave who shipped himself to Philadelphia in a SMALL box (and he was a big man), saw a mock up of a house that might be on the underground railroad, and huge timelines spread out across the walls. From that exhibit we went into another theater and saw a film about 2 influencial people from the Northern Ky/Cincinnati area, John Parker and John Rankin. As that film ended, you are ushered to "begin" your journey to freedom. The theater we were lead into, filled with a mist, was meant to represent the Kentucky bank of the Ohio River. You join a slave on her journey across the river. The film is overwhelming, moving, engaging. At the end of the film we walked out and looked at the Slave Pen.

We went up to the third floor to visit exhibits on Everyday Freedom Heroes and also the Unfreedom exhibit that reveal human rights and contemporary slavery issues. There was another wonderful interactive area for the kids with computers, drawing paper and magnetic poetry. We then went to another exhibit that showed the history of slavery and representations of slave ships, graphics of how many slaves were placed on each ship, and watch another film regarding the history of slavery. Emily's comment as we walked out of the film was that she was proud to be Abraham Lincoln's great, great, great, great, great, great cousin because he helped free the slaves.

There was so much to take in, I am sure we missed many things. We plan to go back again soon and see what else we can take in. Like I said, I was pleasantly suprised by what a great experience touring the freedom center was for our family. I have recommended visiting to everyone I ran into this evening.

I never know just how much the younger kids take in when we go places. My theory on learning is that they will process and retain what they can. Before they went to bed, Emily, Grant, Jacob and Cade invented a new game. It was called "EXCAPE!" and two of them were excaping slaves, trying to make their way to freedom in Canada and the other two were the slave owner and the bounty hunter (complete with a play horse and toy gun). The slaves snuck through the house and finally arrived in Canada (the family room) and celebrated by dancing, kissing the ground, and shaking whoever was in the family room hand! I guess they absorbed plenty!

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