By Cathy Saunders
Director of Education
On November 5, I heard a story on the radio about a 109-year-old African American woman whose father had been a slave. Tears streamed down my face as I wondered what it must have been like for this woman, who grew up unable to imagine a black man being respected as a community leader, to witness Barack Obama’s election to the presidency. It struck me that in one lifetime this was an incredible and seemingly impossible change.
Then I began to think, what change in the world do I want to see that I think is impossible? What have I given up hope on? What if I began envisioning and acting as if those things really could happen?
Children have a great capacity to imagine a world better than it is. One of my favorite stories is of a 12-year-old Canadian boy, Craig Keilburger, who heard about the assassination of 12-year-old Iqbal Masih — a child rights activist in Pakistan — and founded, with his friends, an international organization to fight childhood poverty. And right here in Rhode Island, second graders at Learning Community Charter School in Central Falls, frustrated with a gravel lot where children would fall and get hurt at recess, wrote letters to Lowe’s Home Improvement asking for grass. The children’s plea was so convincing that Lowe’s funded an entire playground for the school.
We often look to children as the “hope for the future.” I’ve always thought that was an awfully large burden for a young person to bear. It’s clear from the stories above that children can imagine and enact change. But children need adults to have big dreams, too — for themselves and for the world. My brother never saw himself the academic type, but he did envision himself doing work that serves the community, so he recently returned to school. Now he and his teenage son do their homework together. It’s important to encourage and foster your child’s imagination, but don’t give up on yours.
Providence Children’s Museum offers endless opportunities to inspire imagination. Walking through the Coming to Rhode Island time tunnel, visitors encounter stories of four families who traveled far from their homes to start new lives here. Each represents a world vastly different than the one we know today in Rhode Island. Entering Elizabeth Mott’s thatched colonial cottage, a child’s curiosity is sparked to wonder what it would have been like to grow up with no amenities, like running water or forks! Climbing aboard Antonio Coelho’s 1800s packet ship, she can picture herself as the captain of a vessel mastering the wild sea. These can be the playful first steps to imagining the seemingly impossible in their own lives.
Upcoming Museum event:
Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Storytellers and actors Valerie Tutson and Rochel Coleman return to the Museum with their powerful performance “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace” at 11:30 am, 1:00 pm and 2:30 pm. The Civil Rights Movement comes to life through songs and stories as the performers portray activists Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy and more. Families also explore an exhibit of photographs, words and books describing Dr. King’s life and work and take part in a thought-provoking anti-discrimination activity.
Ages 5 – 11
Space is limited for performances of “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace.” Sponsored in part by Serve Rhode Island and Herman H. Rose.
News and Notes from Providence Children’s Museum: Occasional posts about things to do with our kids – from places to go, things to make, ideas to think about, and ways to explore. Providence Children’s Museum – 100 South Street, Providence, RI. 401-273-5437 (KIDS).