Nova Scotia

March Break 2015: 6 things to 'sea' at Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic wants to take children back in time this March Break, exposing them to the history of shipbuilding and the lore of the sea.

Know what a scrub plane, shaving horse or a froe club is?

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic wants to take children back in time this March Break, exposing them to the history of shipbuilding and the lore of the sea.

Here are 6 things you'll be able to do next week at the museum, if you're looking for staycation ideas:

Meet a mermaid

Raina the mermaid will be set up in her "lair" to teach children about the ocean through poems and songs.

Raina the mermaid will be making an on land appearance next week. (Submitted by Maritime Museum of the Atlantic)

Derek Harrison, who oversees educational programs at the museum, says the March Break programming is about telling Maritime stories in fun ways.

"With the mermaid, you get folklore and the sea. Nova Scotia is pretty rich in that," he said.

Jenny Nodelman, events officer with the museum, said kids are drawn to Raina's stories. And of course, her tail. They can ask her questions about life in the water.

"They're just fascinated," said Nodelman. "Exhibits are our backbone but we're making them come alive."

Learn how to build a ship

Know what a scrub plane, shaving horse or a froe club is?

CBC reporter Catharine Tunney uses a scrub plane to even out a piece of wood. Note: Not recommended to do it in a scarf. (CBC)

You will, after Lee Schuettes walks you through traditional shipbuilding. You'll use a froe and froe club to split wood and Schuttes will show you how to "listen" to the wood.

"The wood speaks to you," he said.

Lee Schuettes shows Catharine Tunney how to use a froe and a froe club to split wood "going with the grain." (CBC)

Then, ride a shaving horse to shave a spoke for a wheel.

Children can also use real tools like a scrub plane to smooth wood make it "feel like glass," said Schuettes.

He's also got advice for parents, offering advice on woodworking and how to buy and restore old tools.

Bonus: You will leave smelling like woodchips.

"We want to give them an aspect of what it was like 200, 100 years ago to use hand tools," said Harrison. "To be proficient at sailmaking, rigging. Kids aren't exposed to a lot of that. Bring them back in time."

Sew a sail

Harrison can stitch together a good story. He'll also teach guests how sails were traditionally sewn in Nova Scotia.

A sailmaker’s palm, a piece of steel and leather. (CBC)

He'll walk children through waxing thread and using a sailmaker's palm, a piece of steel and a leather strap, to sew a canvas sail.

"Palms date back hundreds of years," Harrison said. "Before sewing machines, it's the only way you had of sewing heavy canvas, getting that needle through. They would sit on the sail bench, which is 14 inches off the floor specifically designed for sailmaking.

"The kids are going to learn about sailmaking, rigging, carving, ship rights. They'll have fun but they'll kind of learn about traditional shipbuilding in Nova Scotia."

Derek Harrison oversees educational programs at the museum. He'll help you build a boat to take home. (CBC)

Then guests can hoist their own sail to a miniature wood boat.

"Nice thing is, you get to take a boat home," said Harrison.

Learn pirate code

Parents and kids alike can learn the dos and don'ts of becoming a pirate during puppet shows next week.

The museum brought in puppeteers to help them nail the performance.

The 15-minute shows will run every hour on the hour in the museum's theatre. Kids can also dress up in costumes and play with the puppets after the show.

Explore a shipwreck — without scuba gear

From the comfort of land, kids will be able to explore a shipwreck and perform an archaeological dig, said Harrison.

"We have a huge exhibit on shipwrecks. Archaeology underwater is a big part of Nova Scotia with the divers," he said.

Chill out with Merlin the parrot

Merlin the parrot is one of the mascots at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Merlin the parrot. (CBC)

The 13-year-old bird has a lifespan of about 89 years, so he's prepared to be the face and voice of the museum for years to come.

Nodelman said the museum gets letters and packages from all over the world addressed to Merlin.

"He's really part of that whole thing. Were there pets at sea? Did pirates really have parrots?" she said. "I think the pirates on the ships were too busy doing their pillaging … so more likely not."

Make Sea and Do runs from March 14 to 22. Regular admission fees apply and registration is not required.