We Owe It to Franklin
Discoveries: daylight savings time, electricity, the Gulf Stream, political cartoons, vitamin C.
Institutions started: The University of Pennsylvania, American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital.
Inventions: bifocals, catheter, Franklin stove, glass armonica, lightning rod, odometer.
Services established: street lighting, paving, post office, fire company, insurance, public library.
by Mary Ann Carrado
An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest, said Benjamin Franklin, considered by many to be Americas favorite overachiever.
Now is your chance to learn all about this great man. The 300th anniversary of Bens birth is Jan. 17, 2006, and the party cant wait. Celebrations will be in full swing next month, and while Franklins life will be hailed from as far away as London and Paris, there is no better place to be for the bash than in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia.
This is an exciting time because Benjamin Franklin is so relevant to our lives today, says Rosalind Remer, executive director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, It is a great way to reintroduce him to the 21st century. From bifocals to the odometer, Franklin has certainly contributed to our modern life. There is almost nothing he wasnt involved in, invented or improved, Remer says.
Through the many events, parents can introduce their children to this great man and participate in fun family activities. This is totally family oriented, Remer says.
One of the highlights of the celebration will be the major traveling exhibition, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which opens at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Dec. 15, before traveling the globe. Its the one thing you dont want to miss, Remer advises families.
The exhibition will feature more than 8,000 square feet of interactive activities that immerse visitors into Franklins world. Activities are geared toward different age groups, Dr Remer says. And it is not isolating. The activities are designed so people can come along and join in.
Among the offerings include a 25-foot model ship that beckons visitors to climb aboard and experience Franklins method of charting the gulf stream, as well as more than 250 artifacts gathered from museums and private collectors around the world. Kids can even try out quirky inventions such as a chair with a foot-pedaled fan that was used to cool its owners.
The exhibit mascot, Skuggs the Squirrel will be available to guide even the youngest visitors through the many activitIes. Franklin loved squirrels, Remer explains. He would often give them as gifts to friends living in Europe. Skuggs was the affectionate name given to squirrels during Franklins lifetime.
Tied in to the central themes of the exhibition will be school curriculum programs and materials distributed to teachers.
Available through the Tercentenary website and on CD-Rom, the materials are designed to stand on their own without a visit to the exhibition. We are trying to teach Franklin in an interdisciplinary manner, so we can tap into everything language arts, history or math, says Dana Devon, director of Educational Programs at the Tercentenary.
If I had to pick two key things kids could take away from studying Franklin, one would be the importance of public service and his sensibility of generosity, Devon says. Kids can take away how the impact of the individual, specifically working together with others, can have an impact on the community.
Devon says the second thing kids can learn is that Franklin had a very active and open-minded manner. He would never hesitate to listen; he never lost his sense of active curiosity. Devon suggests that parents and kids can become better people by emulating these traits of Franklin. He had the innate ability, but it is something we could cultivate, she says.
Devon hopes to bring greater understanding of Franklin to the rest of the country. By the end of October (2006), we will do our best to reach across the nation, she says. Plans for an online version of Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, are currently in the works.
Come and see the exhibition, Devon says. I think both parents and children will leave inspired.
Mary Ann Carrado is a local freelance writer.
Ben Tercentennial Events
|Many fun and educational events are planned to mark Benjamin Franklins 300th birthday.
Ben & Me: Keeping an American Heros Legacy Alive Today National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St., Phila. See a private collection of artifacts illustrating Franklins notions about good character and virtue. The event includes tours, an essay contest, materials for school groups and a free family craft activity each weekend. $5 Adults, $3 students, $1 Children Age 5 & older. 215-925-2800, www.libertymuseum.org
Ben Franklins Ghost Daily PECO Energy Liberty Center, 6th & Chestnut Sts., Phila. Through this exhibit, visitors use a touch screen computer to ask questions and hold a conversation with Ben, who appears on a large screen as a Peppers Ghost. The technology used is a worlds first. Through Jan. 1, 2006, Free.
The Constitutional Walking Tour: Franklins Firsts and Facts Weekend Guided Tours National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., Phila. Follow in Bens footsteps through historic Philadelphia on this gentle guided tour that is appropriate for the entire family. Walk through history where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were created. Through Sept. 4, 2006, $15 Adults; $12.50 Children. 215-525-1776,
Franklin Court Underground Museum Market St. btwn. 3rd & 4th Sts., Phila.
Franklin... Hes Electric The Franklin Institute Science Museum, 222 N. 20th St., Phila. The Franklin Institute offers this
Franklins Fabulous Friends Family & Foes Old Christ Church, 5th & Arch Sts., Phila. Celebrate Bens birthday with a 20-minute walking tour that starts at his burial ground and winds its way through life in early Philadelphia, 1730-1790, recounted by Bens friends, family and foes. $2 Adults, $1 Students, $10 any size group. 215-922-1695, www.oldchristchurch.org
|Franklins Legacy of Public Service: Elizabeth Duane Gillespie Atwater Kent Museum, 15 S. 7th St, Phila. This exhibit focuses on the life & achievements of Franklins great-grandaughter. Wed.-Sun., 1-5pm, $5 Adults, $3 Ages 13-17, Free Ages 12 & under.
Franklins National Icon: Talons or Gobbles The Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Phila. Visitors can decide which should be our national bird, the North American wild turkey, as Franklin wanted, or the American bald eagle, which won the title. See two mounted wild turkeys and a bronze sculpture illustrating both birds qualities. 215-299-1000, www.acnatsci.org
Shaping Franklin Stenton, 4601 N. 18th St, Phila. At the home of Franklins friend and mentor, James Logan, learn about the relationship between two Colonial Philadelphians of different generations. Tues.-Sat., 1-4pm and by appointment. $5 Adults, $4 Students & groups.
Franklins Flippers Adventure Aquarium, 1 Riverside Dr., Camden, NJ. Did you know that Ben invented swim paddles and slippers? Meet Aquarium divers and try on replicas of early swim fins as you trace the history of diving apparatus. Dec. 1 through Aug. 31, 2006, $16.95 Adults, $13.95 ages 2-12.
Kimmel Center Presents: A Colonial Holiday Concert for Children Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 260 S. Broad St., Phila. Travel back in time to colonial life with this seasonal concert that combines Early American History and Franklin-period music. Hear Franklin talk about his Glass Armonica and witness the Battle of Trenton through music and visuals. Dec. 9, $10. 215-790-5896