Oklahoma City family fun gives our children context. Participating in the community helps them know who they are before they are who they will become.
"Mom, can I use Grandma's phone? I want to play that Angry Bird monster game." Sam looked up at me in the dark, wanting my approval to go ahead and ask. He's 8 and he knows the inventory of each phone in our family at any given time.
We were coming from a recent Thunder game as passengers in my parents' SUV. The car slowed at the light on Broadway, near NW 4th. Sam knew what my answer would be as neon signs lined the street ahead.
"Look around! This is your city," I told him. "When you tell people that you're from Oklahoma City, you have to be able to say something about it, so see what's here. This is downtown."
"It is?" he asked, looking to the skyline.
"Yes and right now, your city is happy. The Thunder just won. It's a big deal here," I said with the detachment of a person who has lived other places.
History isn't a subject Sam loves in school. He's in the third grade and the level of interest, the relevance, isn't apparent yet. Matching up what happened a century ago to his own life, full of Angry Birds and the Thunder and birthday parties, isn't easy.
The Oklahoma History Center (800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr.) hosts First Saturday Hands-On History each month with different themes. I was glad to take Sam and Isaac to find out more about their city and state this past weekend. April's focus was Earth Day/Pioneer Life and a "living history" presentation was part of the day's activities, in which a museum curator played the part of a period settler to personify that historical experience with a first-hand account of the Land Run.
My sons tried the featured activities; they colored quilt squares, named their plot of land and received a deed filled in with their names. Birdfeeder-making was also an option.
Signs designating certain displays as "Hands-on" gave us the green light to touch items the curator pointed out, with the ability to climb onto a saddle and into a pioneer-era wagon.
First Saturday activities are offered without additional charge; you pay admission but there are no other fees.
The Land Run was where our tour started but it certainly didn't end there. We visited the Oklahoma History Center's galleries and saw the state's history through the years through an incredible collection of artifacts that showcase everyday life alongside Oklahoma industry and national events. Where the Oklahoma History Center really succeeds in its outreach to families is in making those items relevant.
The framework of the history itself is filled in by details. My sons' favorite part about visiting was getting to touch an old butter churn. I didn't even hear about wanting to use my phone or check on any Angry Birds for the entire afternoon.
Instead, I did hear "When I grow up, I want to be a museum curator" from my four year old. It replaced the usual "paleontologist" or "astronaut" answer he usually volunteers. The word was new but he learned it right then.
If you're planning to visit Oklahoma History Center, know that it's going to take the better part of a day. My sons wanted to try a mock flight from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, sit in the Sonic drive-in booth, find out about Clara Luper and the Civil Rights movement's connections to Oklahoma City and compare their own shoe size to that of Kevin Durant, all in an afternoon.
We could have easily spent all day long.
Next month's theme is Military Appreciation and we just might have to visit again. My children are dual citizens and their other country, Costa Rica, doesn't have a military. That fact stands out to people who aren't from there, much how Native American history is something I'm asked about sometimes when I'm outside of Oklahoma.
Sam and Isaac, like so many kids their age, have to really get to know their city. What they learn and how, I think, helps them to get to know who they are too, within the community that came from the Land Run, rallied around families through the years and still cheers for the Oklahoma City Thunder.