National Cryptologic Museum

MZPZO OAD FQJSOTWBZF VNPDNV UTL!

Key A=H

Can you decode the message you see in blue above?  If you visited the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade, Maryland, you would be able to!  Okay, okay. I will give you the encryption code.  Use this cipher wheel (obtained at the museum).  I have already lined the letters up to match the key I chose (you can’t tell from the picture, but the black wheel turns independently…I have it lined up so that A=H). Now, match up each of the letters in the message above to find the answer (the answer can also be found at the bottom of this post)!

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This is just one example of the engaging activities that caught our attention today at the National Cryptologic Museum.  My husband, father, and two oldest kids had the pleasure of visiting the museum today and I was so pleasantly surprised, as was everyone else!  We had a TERRIFIC time.  The museum had several rooms of displays depicting the history and growth of cryptology in America.  Actual machines that were used, models of items used in international espionage, encrypted letters, and more.  Everything you could possibly desire to awaken the super spy inside of you.  Be careful though, you  may leave with a whole new sense of paranoia!

The museum was first built for use by NSA employees at the nearby offices, designed to enlighten them on the history of their careers.  The museum has been open to the public for more than two decades now and they offer opportunities for individuals, groups, and organizations to visit.  They offer guided tours and countless free booklets to take with you.  Once we returned home, my husband spent the better part of the afternoon reading a booklet and trying to confirm the mathematics behind the Enigma encryption machine!

Enigma Machine

The most valuable service they offered, however, was the Crypto Kids Challenge!  Oh my gosh.  Every museum should have a program like this.  Every museum.  We all know that the mention of a museum does not exactly insight excitement in people under the age of 18.  I cannot even count on my two hands the number of museums that I have been too and have barely been able to graze the surface of the information they had to offer.  The kids are bored after five minutes or constantly wanting to move from display to display, without really learning much of anything.

Deciphering Codes                     Deciphering Code

The National Cryptologic Museum has a great solution to that with the Crypto Kids Challenge!  My son, age 12, and my daughter, age 9, were both given a clipboard, challenge sheet, pencil, and cipher wheel at the entrance to the museum.  A pleasant man explained the “rules” to them:  They were to seek out the special signs throughout the museum, read the question, and decipher the code that contained the answer to the question.  After they documented all of their answers the children took their answer sheets to the front desk and received their choice of prize (both of mine chose a Frisbee and a pencil).

How many kids can you count on the floor focused on their work???

Not only did this engage my children in the displays, but it also gave them the opportunity to become a cryptographer for the day!  Not to mention, us adults were able to peruse the museum with very quiet, intent children, doing their own thing.  There were just enough signs to decipher to keep my kids involved for the duration of our visit.  They were also able to read about Native American Code Talkers and Soviet Spies, and see cryptology computers that filled up entire rooms and were only able to hold 256 MB of data!  The displays were filled with interesting topics.  There were plenty of interactive areas for everyone to enjoy, including typing your own code on an enigma machine, writing with invisible ink, and more.

Hands On Activiities

I highly recommend you visit the museum if you are in the DC  or Baltimore area, or anywhere in between.  It is a terrific way to spend the afternoon!  You can also follow in our footsteps and go to Expressway Pit Beef to grab lunch or dinner.  It’s a fantastic outdoor local BBQ spot.  Get your favorite BBQ dish and sit down or eat at one of the stand up picnic tables.

Details for the National Cryptologic Museum:

Fort Meade, MD

Like Their Facebook Page

Phone numbers
Office – 301-688-5849
Gift Shop – 301-688-6857
Library – 301-688-2145
Fax – 301-688-5847

Monday-Friday
9:00am – 4:00pm
Saturdays
(1st and 3rd of the month)
10:00am – 2:00pm
Closed Sundays and
Federal Holidays

Answer to the encrypted phrase above: Visit The Cryptologic Museum Now!

Tour the United States Naval Academy – Annapolis, Maryland

You don’t have to wait until your children are filling out applications before touring colleges.  When you tour a college, you don’t have to take the official tour provided by the college ambassadors.  Take a walk around campus on your own.  Some of the most beautiful places I have seen have been in little corners of college campuses.

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A few weeks ago, I hopped on a plane to Baltimore where, with the help of my stepmom and my mom’s co-worker, I was able to surprise my dad, my sister and her family and my mom.  All in one weekend!  It was not an easy feat to pull off but we did it.  Once all of the surprises had been revealed, I was able to take some time to explore an area I haven’t spent a lot of time in.

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My brother-in-law is a graduate of the Naval Academy so he was the perfect tour guide.  We wandered the campus with him as he pointed out the different buildings and told us about his time during school.  We got to see the world’s largest single dormitory and the window that used to be his.

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Exploring Memorial Hall was a moving experience during Veteran’s Day weekend.  The grandeur of the interior is jaw dropping.  My words and pictures from my cell phone don’t do the campus justice.

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We loved the intricate details on the outside of the buildings as well.

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Have you fallen in love with a college campus during your travels?

Homestead Farm – Poolesville, MD – You Capture Autumn

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I know that most people have posted their pumpkin, apple and various other fall-esque pictures weeks ago.  I have not because I live in Florida where fall is a mythical creature to us.  It is hot, hot, hot and then it gets biting cold.  Then it gets hot and humid again.  Halloween is a crap shoot–it is either super hot or freezing cold.  Never in between!  This is what we were doing two days ago:

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I was so excited when I saw that the You Capture theme was Autumn because have I got some serious Autumn pictures for you this year!  This weekend we had the opportunity to fly to Washington DC to see my dad and stepmom who were in town from Garmisch, Germany.  My sister and her family, who moved to Virginia Beach this summer, were able to drive up for the weekend as well.  While we were there, all I wanted to do was see a real live pumpkin patch and apple orchard!  Well, we found the most beautiful farm set in some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen! 

Homestead Farm is in Poolesville, Maryland.  The drive to the farm is unbelievable-beautiful trees in brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges; homes that look like castles; and windy roads that take you quickly away from the city and into quaint little towns.  We knew we were chancing it when we decided to go to the farm because the weather man was predicting 80% chance of rain and rain it did.  That did not stop our fun though! 

In the pouring rain, we took the hayride down to the pumpkin patch where we picked out a pumpkin for my sister and her family to take home with them. 

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My two Florida grown children could not believe the number of pumpkins “just laying on the ground” and they thought it was hilarious!

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We had the most amazingly beautiful and delicious caramel apple, but unfortunately no one thought to snap a picture before we scarfed them down!  The farm has animals scattered throughout for you to say hi to.

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There are also some great photo opps.

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This is a working farm and they are open about half the year for you pick your own fruits and veggies.  Cherries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches and nectarines as well as apples, pumpkins and Christmas trees.  Everybody at the farm was very friendly despite the rain and the fact that the day we were there their electricity was out too!  There were a lot of people at the farm, but it didn’t seem overly crowded or touristy.  If we lived nearby, we would surely make it out to the farm with the changes of each available fruit or vegetable.  Homestead Farm also has a little store where they sell fruits, vegetables, jams and breads just in case you don’t want to do the work yourself.

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Head over to I Should Be Folding Laundry to see other Autumn pictures.

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