Freebie of the Week

The Science Center of Pinellas County is always having some sort of special event. For instance, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 24, is reserved for the Science Center Celebration. These to-dos are always free to attend, which qualifies them for this little column, and events run the gamut. This weekend includes a free laser show for the kids at 10 a.m., and a presentation by wildlife artist Albert Earl Gilbert at 1 p.m., along with the usual dirt cheap (read: one buck) laser, planetarium and reptile shows. S.P.A.R.K.S. radio-operated airplanes are in the air, the Tampa Bay Line Flyers are hanging out and, for good measure, a dental health fair, xeriscape gardening tips and a birthday party for Hamlette, the pot-bellied pig, are also thrown in. But the most interesting part of this particular event is the grand opening of the 16th Century Indian Village.

Ever wonder how Florida's first people lived? Probably not. This is the 21st century, after all, and as long as we're safely surrounded by our air-conditioned comforts, who cares what the natives had to go through to survive? Well, The Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, for one. And the society's made it its business to educate us on the day-to-day life of Florida's indigenous people.

The pre-Columbian village is a composite replica of the various Indian cultures existing in Florida in the early 16th century (around the time the Spanish dropped in for a massac ... er, visit). Featuring a temple and shaman mounds, the prehistoric village also includes several smaller huts, where CGCAS members demonstrate net and tool making, flint knapping, dugout burning, weaving, atlatl (spear) throwing and more. The day is enlivened further by Native-American vendors selling wares and food, Indian flute and drum music, storytelling, artifact displays and an archaeology test pit. And that's still just the tip of the teepee.

And you thought science centers were only good for simulated hurricanes and recycling tips.

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