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Port Discovery: Devotion to Education

Port Discovery's mission is to create an atmosphere that is both entertaining and educational at the same time. The staff works hard to make programs that would appeal to young children and even adults.

“I would say Port Discovery's goal is to make sure children have a hunger and love for learning,” said Nora Moynihan, Community Partnerships Coordinator at Port Discovery. “[Kids should] learn in a fun way that learning is play and you can learn to do everything that you do.”

The museum has special programs that occur year round and usually have a theme to them. One event in the month of January is the “I have a dream weekend” where children learn about the importance of Martin Luther King by drawing peace portraits. There are other special programs where multicultural performers visit, such as classical guitarists from South America and an African dancer named Olu that teaches and gives demonstrations of African dancing.

Port Discovery also has programs that connect with the community called “Community Collaborations” that have several outreach programs. These programs are aimed to help children that live in downtown Baltimore become motivated in education.

“We did one with education-based Latino outreach in October, so that was an education department project,” said Blackwell.

The museum has brought in over 130,000 teachers and school children from all over Maryland and East Coast. Schools are scheduled Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and should contact the museum before their visit.

Port Discovery has had high school classes at the UMBI building on 701 W. Pratt St. as well. In September 2000, Wendy Blackwell, Director of Education at Port Discovery, designed a pilot program called the Transition Academy.

“We have had a high school here for the past three years. The first one was called the Transition Academy,” said Blackwell. “It was for students in the eighth-grade who were not doing well in school. [These children] needed some major remediation so they could be on grade level and could enter high school with a better chance of finishing.”

Blackwell has added that the program also helped students pass the state required functional math, reading, and writing tests and if they were failing on their core classes in their school. The program had about 60 students from three different high schools that took them off their campus and create a smaller learning environment.

The school eventually was moved to the Port Discovery building for the second year and had classrooms on the first and the third floor.

“The program [closed] after [the second year] because it was only supposed to be a one-year pilot,” said Blackwell. “After it closed, Baltimore City was in a position to open the smaller learning communities to make the high school smaller so we no longer run the school as we did the first two years.”

The pilot program earned the museum $5,000 from the Association of Children's Museums and MetLife.

There is now a high school in the building from the National Academy of Finance and Technology that has about 100 students in ninth and tenth grades. They are currently on their second year at Port Discovery and have two classrooms in the first floor and one on the third floor.

Port Discovery offers an overnight program that allows children to spend the night if they are in the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or Brownies. They get to make projects, have continental breakfast, and have storytelling from camp counselors.

To find out more about the educational programs offered at Port Discovery contact Wendy Blackwell, Director of Education at (410) 864-2683.

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Transcription of Interview - Port Discovery