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A Place for Kids to Play at the Museum of the American Revolution

The new Revolution Place is designed to give kids ages 5 to 12 room to play and learn.

A young visitor reads a replication of a revolutionary period newspaper in the Three Tun Tavern.

Image courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution.

The Museum of the American Revolution takes the "Old" in Old City literally in its new discovery center, Revolution Place, which recreates what life would have been like right outside the museum's doors during the revolutionary war. Visitors have the opportunity to explore a military encampment, 18th-century church, the "Three Tun Tavern" and an 18th-century parlor to get a taste of life in the 1770s. 

At the encampment, children are invited to '"enlist" in the Continental Army, try on clothes similar to what soldiers would have worn and check a registry that will tell them if their ancestors fought in the war.

In the church, touchscreens share the stories of men and women whose involvement in the revolution was affected by their religious values. The pulpit and pews also allow for kids to give their own sermons inspired by the revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and self-government.

Not just a place for the weary soldier to rest their feet, the Three Tun Tavern, once located on Chestnut Street across from the museum, also functions as a hotbed for political and ideological discussion. Reproductions of newspapers from the time aim to recreate these sorts of conversations for visitors

Finally, in the parlor, children are invited to explore the 1770s version of the very block that the museum sits on now via a digital map with information about each land owner.                                                         

While the integration of history and technology is impressively effective in Revolution Place, its greatest strength is how it encourages young visitors, especially those from ages 5 to 12, to play. Curator Mark Turdo says he knew the center was a success when a group of kids, during a test visit, asked, after chattering and looking around for a minute, "Can we just play in here?"

From there, the kids made the space their own, using the educational materials provided to them as a jumping off point to imagine what their own lives would have been like during revolutionary times. From washing their army uniforms to giving inspirational sermons at the pulpit ("I don't know where they're getting this from!" one mother remarked, "We don't go to church!"), kids' reactions to the discovery center confirm that Revolution Place is successful at its revolutionary mission to give kids a space for play within a museum. 

Revolutionary Place, sponsored by Family Search, opens to the public on June 9th. Entry is included with museum admission.

Kathleen Norton is an intern at MetroKids and a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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