by sally otis, family programs manager

Every year, the National Building Museum connects with families throughout the D.C. area and beyond for three exciting and enriching festivals: Discovery Engineering Family Day, the Big Build, and National Cherry Blossom Family Days. These events attracted over 27,500 attendees in FY13—parents and kids who learned how buildings withstand tsunami forces, examined traditional Japanese teahouse architecture, or learned about construction by laying brick and hammering nails.

In February, Discover Engineering Family Day presented a unique opportunity for children and their families to explore engineering concepts. A highlight was astronaut Dr. Roger Crouch, who met with parents and kids about his gravity-defying career. Meanwhile, by conducting surveys of hundreds of parents at the festival, we learned that 92% of attendees are local to the D.C. area, and the average age of children attending was seven years old. Learn more.


The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the friendship between Japan and Washington, D.C., with a focus on the gift of the Cherry Blossom trees to the Washington landscape. At our special Family Days, a key part of the larger festival, families were invited to create and decorate a Shoji screen or a tea house complete with a “floating” roof! Learn more.


In September, the Big Build featured many new attractions and drew its biggest crowd to date. Building-related companies, organizations, and professionals generously volunteered their time to engage with families about the building process. The Museum’s education theater intern, Ben Lauer, created an original short children’s play about Getulio Piccirilli, one of the Piccirilli brothers who carved the stone that is now the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. A sidewalk chalk city helped direct participants outdoors for various activities including a construction truck “petting zoo” and hands-on demonstrations on the West Lawn. A scavenger hunt got everyone excited about checking in at the booths, which provided stickers and signatures on the attendees’ hardhats for prizes. Learn more. 


“Absolutely loved it! We drove 65 miles to attend. Everyone was friendly and informative. It was nice talking with union and non-union tradespeople. Loved learning about the green technologies and seeing the blacksmiths.”
–Big Build Participant

Images: Discover Engineering Family Day photos by Kevin Allen. National Cherry Blossom Festival: Top photo by Museum staff; Bottom photo by Nick Eckert. Big Build photos by Emily Clack Photography.