Port Discovery is designed to be more than a place to climb a tower or build a wind-driven machine. It is also aspiring to be a place where disadvantaged children will have opportunities for learning and cultural enrichment, where exhibits will be tied to school curricula and where visitors can learn where to pursue their interests beyond the museum. In defining its role as a community resource, Port Discovery follows in the path of children's museums across the country. "It's been that way from the beginning - children's museums have been committed to serving all families from the get-go," says Andrew Ackerman, director of the Children's Museum of Manhattan and president of the Association of Youth Museums board.
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Port Discovery's alliance with the community began as soon as the museum launched its quest for an identity. Four years ago, the museum enlisted children from across the state to serve as its Youth Advisory Council. Through a detailed survey and informal feedback, these children, ages 6 to 12, advised Port Discovery's creative team on "how to figure what kids are all about," says Nora Moynihan, the museum's community partnerships coordinator. The museum has several outreach programs planned and under way. In a partnership with the Junior League, Polaroid and the American Visionary Art Museum, Port Discovery has already established a "Dream Catchers" after-school program for three Baltimore schools - Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Leith Walk and Mother Seton Academy. The 65 participants, ages 9 to 12, meet weekly in their schools with Junior League members and Moynihan to work on dream-related projects. For an African heritage theme, for example,...