When Adam Woodworth was told that the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn would be the recipient of two pieces of the World Trade Center beams from the 9/11 monument at the Metra station, he reassured the village and Oak Lawn Rotary that “we’d put something together.”
“I walked away wondering what in the world are we were going to do,’” Woodworth said, the museum’s executive director. “Then it hit me. It would be about what happened after 9/11.”
The Children Museum’s much anticipated “We the People” exhibit opens to the public at 9:30 a.m. this Thursday.
Rather than focus on the horrific events of that day, the exhibit emphasizes what happened in the immediate days and weeks following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The concept of trying to take 9/11 and put it in a happy, fun place like a children’s museum is really difficult,” Woodworth said. “The exhibit focuses on friendship, patriotism and coming together after 9/11.”
The Naperville-firm Mindsplash, which specializes in creating exhibits for children’s museums, designed the interactive “We the People” exhibit with a strong emphasis on literacy.
Kids can sit down with a talking black board that will ask them questions such as, “what does America mean to you,” or “what have you done to help someone this week.” After children have written down their answers, they can take their written answers to a machine and have them made into kites--"because all good ideas must take flight," Woodworth said.
The kites will then be pinned to a magnetic board where other children can read and discuss the answers with their parents or caregivers. “Kids are on the peripheral of these big events,” Woodworth said. “The day [the terrorist attacks] happened we were all glued to the TV. Kids were in and out of the room. A lot of children were very worried.”
Woodworth hopes that “We the People” will become a conversation starter, while acknowledging that many of the museum’s young visitors weren’t born or were babes in arms on Sept. 11, 2001.
“When major events like this happen, how do you talk to your kids,” Woodworth said.
Two other pieces in the exhibit include a version of Jim Cornelius singing the National Anthem that was donated by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Children’s Museum has also been given the rights to use songs from “Wee Sing America,” from the Wee Songs series, perhaps best known to parents of preschoolers.
The permanent “We the People” exhibit opens two weeks before the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks so that families and schools can plan visits and field trips, Woodworth said.
"We the People" opens to the public at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn at 5100 Museum Drive. Watch for future components to be added to the permanent exhibit.
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