Oklahoma City family fun has a way of teaching children.
It's not often my oldest son, Sam, and I get a chance to go do an activity just ourselves. Sam is 9 and his younger brothers are 5 and 2. They want to come along, eat something, play somewhere.
I also want to spend time with them but I do see the value in having one-on-one experiences, especially when older kids appreciate them with a broader sense than their siblings can quite yet.
That's what we did this past Saturday.
Sam and I toured the Gaylord-Pickens Museum, which hosts Oklahoma's Hall of Fame.
The museum is unique in that it centers around people whose life work has made a significant impact in our state.
What I loved about the museum, and didn't expect to find there, was that Sam saw, learned about and met people who are not just like our family. There is value in diversity; there is value in seeing that men and women from very different backgrounds can make and have made important contributions.
The Gaylord-Pickens Museum is local in its theme and approach, with exhibits centered around the five characteristics that came back in an answer to a 2007 survey about certain traits that stand out in Oklahomans: perseverance, optimism, pioneer spirit, individualism and generosity.
It's been almost a week since our visit and Sam asked me just this morning about Wiley Post.
He hadn't realized Will Rogers, like the elementary school and the airport, was a real person. Maria Tallchief was a new name to him. Reba McEntire is a familiar face in our family but Sam didn't know she is also an Oklahoman.
The fact that the Gaylord-Pickens Museum and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame include individuals who are not born here but have contributed to our society is also a key point. Ours is a bilingual, biracial household and I want my children to know that they absolutely can impact their community, wherever that is later.
Sam is at the perfect age for the Gaylord-Pickens Museum, fourth grade, because he has some context for this history and science discussed. However, something really for younger kids is the fact that they don't have to know how to read yet to take in the information offered. Each of those five characteristics is personified with videos that show renowned individuals and how his or her life represented that word.
Sam wanted to watch literally every single video and I couldn't get him to leave the area. The proposal of a late lunch wasn't enough to draw him away, even though we'd been there for three hours. We really could have spent all day.
Visiting a hall of fame sounds like a lot of reading, watching or observing that might not be so engaging for children. However, our experience wasn't like that at all. Besides the video profiles, there's an incredibly dynamic exhibition that's set up as an interactive selfie station where the display actually takes the participant's photo.
You or your child can dress up as a bronco-riding cowboy, a News 9 weather forecaster or a space shuttle engineer with provided costumes and pose within the interactive exhibit. The image is then projected onto a nearby screen. Those are set to change every three months with new displays that represent authentic Oklahoma experiences or individuals.
The Gaylord-Pickens Museum offers free admission for families on the second Saturday of each month with themed crafts and activities, as well as story times the third Thursday of the month that also include admission without charge. There's also a guided craft element, like creating a paper square to add to a community quilt that's displayed downstairs. Themes change each month and I would really like to return in April for the "Made in Oklahoma" activities that will show what's autochthonous to Oklahoma, the products and people that are unique to just here. Every kid should be proud of where they're from and knowing about your state helps instill that pride.
February's theme of Black History Month gave Sam a chance to hear more civil rights work that continues today with a direct voice to speak to that struggle, poet Candace Liger. Ms. Liger happened to be on-site for a poetry recitation and we stumbled upon her presentation; it really resonated, though, because we had just visited Valerie Vaughn's "I am the Change" photography exhibit held on Classen the night before.
The Gaylord-Pickens Museum hosts speakers, artists and presenters like Ms. Liger who have a message and are accessible. Many live here in Oklahoma and give a voice to topics kids might not otherwise hear about. We braced issues like incarceration and social justice that wouldn't ordinarily come up in a conversation but that have a starting point with "This who we are and what we believe and you can help change what you see isn't right."
Sam had never met a poet before. He was so impressed that she could memorize all the words she wanted to say and be brave enough to stand up and say them in front of a group. She was approachable and answered our questions about what we can do to be the change we want to see in the world. That sounds lofty and optimistic but in all reality, kids have to dream big and then see how that dream applies to them for history to be relevant.
I see that idea fulfilled in this experience.
I asked Sam what he liked best about visiting the Gaylord-Pickens Museum. He so enjoyed meeting Candace Liger, the poet; a life-size Jenga also factored really high on his list.
"I didn't know Oklahoma has had so many people helping since always, like since before it was even a state," he told me. "If they can help, maybe I can too."
That conclusion alone was worth the visit.
I'm glad my big kid and I went together.
If you'd like to find out more about upcoming story times, craft projects and exhibits coming to the Gaylord-Pickens Museum, check MetroFamily's calendar; you'll find them easily by searching with the keyword "Pickens."