- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

Preschoolers can be watermen, surgeons, paleontologists or artists at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum in Annapolis.

When they are done with that, they can be construction workers or Broadway performers.

The museum is a small, out-of-the way place with big attractions for the 3- to 5-year-old set. The inside is all hands-on, making it an ideal spot to pass the morning learning through play. There is a lot to see on the outside trails, too, where an expansion is in progress that will feature an herb garden and lessons on the area’s ecological connection to the Chesapeake Bay.

“The kids who come here have a ball,” says Debbie Wood, the museum’s founder.

The museum is the brainchild of Ms. Wood, who holds a doctorate in human development. More than a decade ago, she noticed a lack of hands-on learning activities for Annapolis-area children. She opened the first version of the museum in 1992.

The collection moved to various locations, then was in storage for a few years until a permanent home could be located. In November, the Chesapeake Children’s Museum reopened in a residential neighborhood.

The museum’s main room features several themed areas. The first is devoted to dinosaurs, and visitors can walk in spongy dino tracks, put together a soft-sculpture skeleton and touch fossils. There is a turtle area, where diamondbacks and snappers named Dion, Reggie, Franklin and Rocky live in a pool. There is a terrapin that children can take outside for a trail walk.

Also in the room are areas devoted to Maryland’s farming industry (mainly farm-animal toys and puzzles) and expansion and transportation (mainly a wooden train set, blocks, Legos and more toys).

The highlight of the room is the dock and fishing boat where children don life vests and can pretend they are fishing in the Bay.

“The Bay is featured here because it is something that is on people’s minds,” Ms. Wood says. “We happen to live so close to it. That’s what makes it special.”

In the back of the room is an art area, where there are bins of egg crates, cardboard, markers, scissors, string and paper. The museum collects supplies from patrons in exchange for free admission. Visitors can sit and create whatever they please or visit the museum for special craft project days.

Farther back is the medical clinic where Stuffee, a 7-foot-tall Muppet-like creature lives. Stuffee has a zipper opening, and children can view and touch plush replicas of his heart, lungs, stomach and other internal organs.

“Stuffee was created at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum,” Ms. Wood says. “He proved to be so popular, there are now 100 of him in various museums.”

The clinic also features a dentist chair and child-size scrubs.

The museum has a theater room with a stage and boxes and boxes of dress-up clothes and a room that will feature rotating exhibits. The current exhibit is a South American house, which features hand-painted jungle murals, household items labeled in Spanish and an assortment of stuffed rain-forest animals.

The museum’s basement contains a Home School Resource Center, where home-schooling families can meet to do projects, have access to additional science resources or just get together.

While the day-to-day operations are geared toward the under-5 crowd, older children may enjoy the museum’s special events, Ms. Wood says. Upcoming events for older children include a Hands-on History Camp, where children in third through fifth grades can learn about Colonial times; a Family Dinosaur Camp with paleontologist Peter Kranz; and Kunta Kinte Camp, where children ages 6 to 10 celebrate African culture.

Ms. Wood also leads regular play groups and parenting groups at the museum. This month’s series is “Effective Discipline Techniques.”


LOCATION: The Chesapeake Children’s Museum is at 25 Silopanna Road in Annapolis.

Directions: Take Route 50 east to the Aris T. Allen Boulevard exit. Continue on Allen, which will become Forest Drive. Turn left on Hilltop Lane, left on Spa Road and right on Silopanna Road.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Wednesdays are reserved for group tours.

Admission: $3; free for children younger than 1; $45 for one-year family memberships

Parking: Free and available on site

Information: 410/990-1993 or www.theccm.org

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