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Bayside Historical brings past to kids

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The Bayside Historical Society will early next month unveil its new gallery space where children can learn about everyday life in Queens at the beginning of the 1900s.

The gallery is in the historical society’s headquarters at 208 Totten Ave. and it includes photographs, toys, tools, kitchen utensils, puzzles and literature about what the borough was like for children at the turn of the 20th century. There will be a grand opening reception and a Victorian valentine workshop Feb. 6 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“The whole idea behind designating an area just for children stems from experiences I had with children who visited this building on class trips,” said Denise Johnson, the BHS president of education. “They would come in and marvel at the beauty of the place, the size of it, but there wasn’t much here for them to do. They loved the building, but that wasn’t enough. We wanted to create an area where children could be engaged. And we now have that — a place where they can explore history through play because after all, that is how they learn.”

Johnson said they decided to focus on educating children on the early 20th century in the gallery because many of the society’s already-existing educational programs for children concentrate on that era. The gallery specifically contains things from the year 1906.

“If we would have chosen a year, say a decade later, things changed drastically in terms of fashion, music, inventions,” Johnson said. “This was the perfect year to teach children about the simple life, the rural life in Queens. By engaging in self-exploratory activities in this room, they’ll have some concept of what life was like for children at that time.”

There will be a wide variety of activities available to children in the space and they will be able to learn how children helped their parents around the year 1906.

“Working in the kitchen, they’ll know what mama did, for instance,” Johnson said. “History begins at home, and in order to understand the present, we have to know about the past and where we came from.”

The society already provides a number of educational programs for children that encourage them to do hands-on activities to learn about history, including holding a Victorian-era tea party for children in grades 3 through 12.

For more information, visit baysidehistorical.org.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 10:49 am, October 12, 2011
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