This post was written by Dave Opkins, Administrative Projects Specialist.
On Monday, June 24, 2013, our Anthropology librarian, Maggie Dittemore hosted the Wallaby class (a group of three and four year olds) and their teachers from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC). My daughter is one of the students in the class, and I had the job of escorting the class to the library via the Anthropology Department’s maze of hallways, cases, and specimens. This was a lot of fun, as most of the kids had never seen the National Museum of Natural History “behind the scenes,” and were very excited to do so.
Once in the Library, Maggie invited the class to sit around a large table, and two Physical Anthropology interns presented a human skeleton specimen. The interns’ names were Christian Thomas and Alexandra Kralick. The children were fascinated by the skeleton, got to identify the various parts, and learned the scientific names for their own bones. The interns were kind, patient, captivating, and very intelligent. I suspect that they had as good a time as the students. I think the same can be said of Maggie Dittemore. After the skeleton presentation, Maggie asked the class about what kind of books they’d like to see. The answers ranged from dinosaurs, to princesses, to something called a “Ruffolosaurus.” In the end, they settled on books about families. Through the library’s books, the kids learned about dress customs around the world and loved seeing pictures of other children.
After a fun and educational half hour, it was time for the class to depart. I once again navigated the class through the department, and they were on their way. I followed up with the teacher, and provided her with a list of all of SL’s locations. I encouraged her to contact to some of our other librarians to schedule similar visits. I hope she does just that. I believe that sharing the Libraries with young children is a vital way to steward in the next generation of patrons, and as long as others share Maggie’s and the interns’ enthusiasm, this is a challenge that we will meet.