February 27, 2013

Feel like a kid (part one)

Last night, I returned from a whirlwind research trip to Philadelphia and New York City to study some health and wellness exhibits for children. I am a research panel member for our local children's museum. Myself along with four other members of the research team loaded into a van headed east.

Our team is a diverse group of folks. The museum director is a vibrant lady with unending energy. She runs the museum as if it's an extension of her personal home, with pride and welcoming hospitality. I am the mother of two teenagers and frequently lament that "they never had anything like that when my kids were little", yet I embrace the opportunity to take other children there whenever I can. The museum's exhibit director is a young man, an art major, whose creativity is boundless. Rounding out the group was a dietitian who runs the area health education center and local coordinator for healthcare jobs.

There are several other members on the panel, but we were the five who were available for this research trip. We didn't really know each other other than sitting at a table together during planning meetings so I thought the trip may be a little awkward on a social level. But knowing that our goal was to find something wonderful to work towards for the children of our community, I cast aside my trepidation. We loaded into a mini-van with snacks, pillows, electronics, and a great attitude. About 2 minutes into the trip, I piped up from the back seat and asked if we were there yet. In about another 2 minutes, I whined that the educator kept touching me and wouldn't keep her hands to herself. The ice was broken and we began to feel like a group of big kids.We quickly took a vow of omertà, what was said in the van stayed in the van. That was an appropriate pledge since one person's cell phone ringtone was the theme from The Godfather.

Philadelphia
Seeing the world through the eyes of a child takes some effort but our research team was up for the challenge. We hit the road for Philadelphia by 5:30 AM and didn't look back. The roads were clear and our mission in place. First stop, The Franklin Institute.

The Franklin Institute
An impressive statue of Ben Franklin greeted us in the lobby as screens with Ben's words of wisdom surrounded us. His poignant observations were the perfect reminder of our mission:
  • Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late
  • Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
  • An investment in knowledge pays the best interest
Lincoln Tunnel traffic jam NYCWe spent the afternoon climbing around a giant heart, looking at preserved brains, and simulating surfing. We saw the workshop where the exhibit prototypes were created. We asked questions and got answers. Then we got in the car for NYC, made smooth time until we reached the Lincoln Tunnel. It seemed everyone in the tri-state area brought an extra car with them and wanted to get into the city at the same time we did.

We maintained a child-like sense of wonder and took some great skyline pictures as we waited.

Empire State Building

New York City skyline

We arrived in New York City about two hours after we approached the tunnel entrance. Our trip was halfway over. Stay tuned for part two of our adventure tomorrow... 

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