“Captain Bob’s Quarterdeck,” the brand new children’s room at Greenport’s East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation celebrated its grand opening today with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
After saying a few words and giving a group of children a quick lesson in conductivity, EESM board member and former science teacher Bob Jester did the honors of opening the new room, which is named in his honor.
About a dozen children from the Greenport Village summer day camp immediately swarmed the room formerly used as the museum gift shop, eager to start exploring the many and varied activities housed in containers on the shelves.
Jester, a member of the committee that worked to bring a children’s room to the museum, was delighted by their enthusiasm.
“Several years ago we recognized that there was a weakness at the museum,” he said. “We didn’t have very many things there that would attract young learners. The children’s room is an attempt to address this weakness.”
Allison Riddell, a Greenport kindergarten teacher, Kim Skinner, a physics teacher from Riverhead and Jester put their heads together to develop exhibits that were fun and educationally sound.
“We wanted something that focuses on our surrounding marine environment and the maritime heritage of the area,” said Jester.
Working with a small space — the room is roughly 100 square feet — and a limited budget, the committee began to brainstorm features they wanted to see in the new space.
“The science teacher in me wanted to focus on science,” said Jester. “So we have projects focusing on the scientific process that were developed with the New York State Learning Standards in mind.”
The committee put together 30 or 40 different projects to appeal to children ranging in age from three to 12 years old. Some of the activities can be used across a wide range of ages, while others are geared toward specific age groups.
Otto Schoenstein of Greenport, a boat builder and jack-of-all-trades, constructed a boat bow with a steering wheel on it so kids could pretend to be a skipper on the high seas.
“The project took a lot of thought and planning,” said Jester. “And so many people volunteered their time to bring it to reality. Judy Adamson, Mary Herrick, Arlene Klein, Lynn Summers, my wife Diane.”
Jester hopes that volunteers will step up to man the children’s room, which has some exhibits and experiments that require adult supervision.
“It’s a work in progress,” he says. “When materials are available we’ll have a touch tank with a variety of organisms kids can examine. We can go right out to the bay and collect water so they can take a look at the microscopic critters.”
Commenting on the room being named in his honor, Jester said that while he appreciated it, more than anything he wanted his name to be written in the hearts and minds of the children.
“I hope that room gets so crowded and gets to the point where it keeps changing and changing to meet the needs of our community. I think it’s a real asset to the museum.”
The museum, which opened its doors in 1991, is housed in an old train station built in 1884. Visit their website for more information.
SoutholdLOCAL photos by Katharine Schroeder