So, what DOES the beloved children’s* show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic have to do with the City of Hampton, Virginia? This was the question on my mind as I arrived at the Hampton History Museum this weekend for their family event “My Little Pony in Hampton: Horses and Friendship.”
I will be honest here and admit that I am not the type of mom who takes her children to many educational museum events. I work full-time, and I have four kids, so our time together is valuable, and I prefer to try to spend it doing things that are either (a) necessary (i.e., grocery shopping) or (b) guaranteed to be interesting, fun, and energy-burning for the while family (i.e. Busch Gardens). This does mean that we take a pass on enrichment activities from time to time (okay, most of the time) in favor of activities which won’t cause a boredom meltdown in the three-year-old.
This makes my family the perfect target for the Hampton History Museum’s family event program. Connecting the City of Hampton’s history and municipal programs with the My Little Ponies was admittedly a stretch, but it got us in the door- which wound up making my kids happy and taught our whole family some things in the process.
For example, did you know…
The Peninsula SPCA is here not just to adopt out animals, but to teach us a little more about how to be kind to them? Like the character Fluttershy, SPCA Outreach Coordinator Katrina Mills has a passion for animals, and she brought along an activity board for children to learn a bit more about ways to be kind to their furry friends (giving them water, exercising and loving them) and a bit more about the things to avoid (tethering an animal outside). For older children, they had an activity involving matching a pet needing adoption to its ideal family.
You can grow blueberries and kiwi in Hampton Roads? Megan Tierney of the Hampton Cooperative Extension (dressed as a spot-on Applejack, the farming pony of Sweet Apple Acres) was on hand to tell our whole family about what grows well here and offer up packets of seeds. She had on hand a bushel of Gala Apples and was demonstrating a coring-peeling-slicing device and handing out snacks (my three-year-old, who has a passion for fruit, went back three times.) The Hampton Cooperative Extension educates about everything from family and consumer science to horticulture, and coordinates the local 4-H program, says Tierney. They run the demonstration farm at Bluebird Gap Farm, and do a lot involving water and soil quality. This was Tierney’s first time dressing as a cartoon pony, however.
The My Little Pony episode “Over a Barrel” probably wasn’t set in Hampton? In the episode, a tribe of Buffalo is intended to represent “a generic look at Western Native culture,” according to Jamestorn historian Martin Suniga. Suniga is, in contrast, a member of the Sappony Nation out of Western North Carolina, and he brought along some modern representations of Native American culture that fascinated the children.
Youth volunteers have a high tolerance for heat? Americorps volunteers were on hand helping children write letters to their teachers to say “Thanks,” as well as running a group relay race involving eggs and puzzles- representing the pony Rarity’s generosity and the pony Rainbow Dash’s general athleticism. (This isn’t Rainbow Dash’s Element of Harmony, but hey, we rolled with it.) They also manned the Elements of Harmony table, where the kids were invited to make their very own Elements necklace. Their patience with the kids and enthusiasm (especially on the 95-degree day!) was honorable. If I had one complaint about the event, it would be that sending children off with wet fabric-painted necklaces wasn’t perhaps the best idea- we all wound up with puff paint all over our shirts. Note for the future: markers dry more quickly!
The nation’s oldest public school is in the City of Hampton? Joe Barton, museum volunteer, let us know that the Syms-Eaton Academy, founded in 1634, eventually became Hampton High School. “The idea of free public education… was an original idea at the time,” says Barton, and notes that Thomas Syms and Benjamin Eaton donated both land and money to found the enterprise. When they recently rebuilt the public high school, they were still using trust money from the original two founders.
Overall? My kids came away thrilled, and we all learned a little something. Face-painter Alyse Madelen Pollock (dressed as Rarity) and balloon-sculpture artist Daisy the Clown added a carnival-type atmosphere. Museum Educator Duffee Maddox said it was a great turnout- though perhaps not as big as their Minecraft event, which they plan to run again.
I learned the answer to my original question: My Little Ponies don’t, in fact, have much to do intrinsically with the City of Hampton. But in linking the two, the Hampton History museum brought quite a few families like mine, gave us some fun combined with some education, and taught us what the City has to offer.
*It’s arguable whether this show is exclusively for children. In fact, its adult fans, dubbed “Bronies,” would vehemently argue against such a notion.
For more about Hampton History Museum, click here.