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    NYC Children’s Museum Celebrates Muslim Diversity

    Children's Museum of Manhattan — Muslim Culturesi
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    Ramon Taylor
    February 12, 2016 12:26 AM
    Children's Museum of Manhattan — Muslim Cultures. A collage with music from the exhibit.
    WATCH: Scenes from the Children's Museum of Manhattan's exhibit on Muslim Cultures

    Imagine a place where children can steer a dhow boat across the Indian Ocean, sell Egyptian spices and Moroccan rugs, hop on a camel and embark across the Sahara. “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far” is a groundbreaking interactive museum exhibit in the heart of New York City that lets kids do just that: explore the A-to-Z of Muslim cultures.

    The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM), established in 1973, is a hands-on cultural destination for families committed to nurturing “the next generation of global citizens.”

    CMOM’s executive director, Andrew Ackerman, says the addition of the Muslim cultures exhibit allows families an opportunity to discuss unity and diversity within the same tradition — a factor he says is crucial for developing young minds.

    “Those attitudes really form very early in life,” Ackerman said. “So part of our role as a children’s museum is to open their minds and experiences with very positive images about people from different lifestyles and different parts of the world, so that negative stereotypes don’t take root.”  

    Across from the courtyard, next to a life-size 900-pound camel, is the "American home" living room, made up of clothing, artwork, photos and books donated from American Muslims of all walks of life. On the coffee table, there is an app that teaches you how to write and say “My name is …” in 24 languages spoken by Muslims in New York.

    The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has praised the exhibit as an “important cultural resource,” calling New York Muslim residents a “vital part” of the city’s diverse communities.

    “Children will have the chance to learn about Muslim cultures in an engaging and thoughtful way,” said de Blasio.  “We only grow stronger when we embrace and celebrate the multitude of cultural backgrounds that make up New York City.”

    Early childhood development

    Independent research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science indicates that children in the U.S. begin to understand the concept of race and ethnicity by the age of four.  By the time they turn five, children may have already developed solidified stereotypes about various social groups.

    Lizzy Martin, director of exhibit development and museum planning at CMOM, says the exhibit employs a multifaceted approach to engage children, in order to suit their individual learning needs.

    Visitors can smell the spices or fruits that are part of the exhibit on Muslim cultures, says Lizzy Martin, director of exhibit development and museum planning at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
    Visitors can smell the spices or fruits that are part of the exhibit on Muslim cultures, says Lizzy Martin, director of exhibit development and museum planning at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

    “Some people might learn through their senses, and therefore they can smell the spices or smell the fruits," she said. "Some might be more tactile — so the rugs — and some might be more visual, so you might want fabrics. Or some might be more auditory.”

    For the kinesthetic learners, the exhibit features a music-making booth using digital versions of popular instruments, such as the oud, ghijak or kora.

    WATCH: CMOM's Andrew Ackerman 'plays' instruments in 'Musicians Corner'

    'Musicians Corner' — Muslim Cultures exhibit, Children's Museum of Manhattani
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    February 12, 2016 1:54 AM
    "Musicians Corner" — part of the exhibit on Muslim cultures at the Children's Museum of Manhattan

    Fans of panoramic images (and IMAX theaters) can marvel at the architectural beauty and variation of world mosques beneath a 21-foot curved screen, transporting you at the speed of light from a bird’s-eye view in outer space to a prayer room rug on the ground floor.

    ‘A place of hope’

    Ackerman describes the exhibit, and the museum as a whole, as a microcosm of “the real heart and soul of America”: a place of hope; a safe haven for families.  

    After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, he felt a brief moment of uncertainty about the museum’s future.

    “We didn’t know if people would come,” he said. “And we were so crowded.  Parents were saying, ‘We trust you. You’re going to let us be who we are, and we’re going to shut the TV off. We’re going to just be families.’”

    “That is something we’ll never forget,” he added.  “That’s what we do every day.”

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: J9
    February 26, 2016 7:03 AM
    We went last weekend, and it was beautiful, my kids loved learning about all the culture and traditions that they would have never learned about. New York is full of people for all backgrounds and cultures, I want my kids to know about everyones cultures and religious backgounds. I think that is very important to teach kids today. Thank you CMOM!

    by: Siddiqui
    February 13, 2016 9:40 AM
    Thank you to the Children's Museum of Manhattan for this exhibit. I hope more museums in general, and those for children in particular, organize similar ones to foster better understanding of Islam and Muslims. This is especially important in our nation today, when fear and hate of Muslims, thanks to a number of political leaders and commentators, is becoming all too common.

    by: White Pride
    February 12, 2016 2:39 AM
    Where do they learn about the most effective methods of suicide bombing?
    In Response

    by: Proud American
    February 12, 2016 11:35 AM
    White Pride- Do not speak for all of us, as Americans not all of us are as ignorant as you. Some of us actually went to college, earned degrees, and learned that at one point our ancestors also migrated from other countries. Some of us respect diversity because we are proud of our heritage.

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