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Griffin Discovery Room

A boy operates a large-scale model of Jefferson's Wheel CipherA hands-on activity center for children

Monticello visitors—especially those ages 6 to 12—can literally get in touch with American history in the Griffin Discovery Room through hands-on activities.

This educational environment provides a variety of ways for young people to connect with Thomas Jefferson, the members of the larger Monticello community, and learn what life was like for children in the early 1800s.

Children operate a working model based on Jefferson's Polygraph copying machineThe space features reproduction elements from both the Monticello house, such as Jefferson's alcove bed and Houdon's bust of Jefferson, and the plantation, including the nail-making shop and a slave dwelling.

Children and their family members can write on a polygraph machine based on the one Jefferson owned, try on replicas of 18th-century clothes, learn how to weave, touch a mastodon's jawbone, create secret codes on a wheel cipher based on Jefferson's design, play games popular in Jefferson's era, and engage in other self-directed activities.

Located on the lower level of the Smith Education Center, the Griffin Discovery Room is open daily.

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Teri Allard, host of Charlottesville Inside Out shows how to get in touch with American history at Monticello's Griffin Discovery Room. Click here to watch the video »More >>


Rozanne's picture
As a 5th grade teacher that just returned from Monticello with her class yesterday, I would like some information about these hands-on activities. I will have over 40 students next year and I notice that the word SMALL is mentioned in a post or two here....Is this a situation only for families or could a class group of children experience Monticello this way? Rozanne
Rozanne (not verified)
robson911's picture
A great way to get the kids interested and capture the attention of adults too.
sbonharper's picture
This is a small space with great contents! Hands-on exploration, including the chance to lie in a replica of Jefferson's bed, complete with red coverlet. There are also partial replicas of a slave dwelling and buildings from Mulberry Row.
Sara Bon-Harper
ajeffries's picture
Don't let the text fool you. This room is not just for children. Who tours the house without wanting to touch the polygraph machine? Not me. And now there's a place to really get hands on.
lmarshall's picture
In our Griffin Discovery Room, a hands-on-museum, esp for kids, but frankly adults love it too, there are computers for budding architects to use. One of the programs offers choices of building materials, styles of windows, domes, columns, pediments, balustrades, etc to design a house. All with witty comments by a cartooned Jefferson. It is so fun and you can e-mail your designed house to a friend. Guess what? You can do this from your own home on our website, but do come visit the Griffin Discovery Room! There is so much more for you to explore.
Liz Marshall


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