Children encouraged to touch new exhibit at the Flight 93 memorial

By Vicki Rock Daily American

Four-year-old Emma Schoenike ran up to a table at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Friday and reached out to touch something.

“Don’t touch,” Todd Schoenike, her father, said.

That’s OK. It is a Children’s Discovery Table. All the items on it are meant to be touched and handled by little hands.

“This is amazing — wonderful for kids,” Schoenike said. He and his wife, Tammy, took Emma to Gettysburg for that anniversary and detoured to the Flight 93 Memorial on their trip home to Minneapolis, Minn.

Park Ranger Mary Jane Hartman said a smaller version of the table was developed for the National Park system Founders’ Day last year. Adults and children liked it so much that the table has been expanded.

In addition to casts of animals that can be found near the park, there are turkey feathers, deer antlers and porcupine quills. There are samples of materials used in the memorial’s construction, community helpers’ hats including a fireman’s helmet and flags representing all the nations that had a citizen on the flight. The children may color a small symbol that Hartman attaches to a wreath. That wreath is then taken to the Wall of Names.

“The memorial is so abstract for the kids,” Hartman said. “Parents often don’t know what to tell them. These are concrete items that opens a dialogue on a difficult topic. People are often surprised at how overwhelmingly emotional the site is.”

The Friends of Flight 93 received a grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation for the Discovery Table.

“We’re lucky to have a partner like the Friends show an interest in supporting the educational goals of the park,” said Park Ranger Adam Shaffer. “As we work towards developing a curriculum for older children this is a way to reach children now.”

The Discovery Table is usually at the Memorial Plaza inside the Visitor Shelter from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday depending on staff availability and weather. It was out on Friday because of the holiday weekend.

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