Thursday, May 17, 2012

Homeschool Field Trip: Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie is an interactive living history museum in Indiana, near Indianapolis. William Conner lived there in the early 1800s, getting stinking rich off of fur trading with the Lenape Indians who lived near there for a time. Conner Prairie includes his house and homestead, a recreated Lenape Indian village, a recreated pioneer-era prairie village, a recreated Indiana village in the process of being raided by Confederate soldiers, and the recreation of an 1859 lighter than air balloon flight, and last week we all went to see it with one of our local homeschool groups.

The barn at the Conner homestead, with sheep and their lambs, goats and their kids, miniature horses and their foals, a few cats, and a calf or two just walking around and waiting to be petted

chopping wood at the prairie village--as a souvenir, Sydney tried to haul away a chunk of wood as big as her head

playing games

doing chores

lots of stuff to look at

Willow's two favorite exhibits--the general store, where she spent ages playing with a scale, some weights, and some nails, and the telegraph station, where she spent ages with a telegraph machine and a computer program on Morse code

pretending to ride in a giant helium balloon

experimenting with models of helium balloons

and, why yes indeed, riding in a giant helium balloon ourselves

As you can see, it was VERY exciting while the balloon lifted off. Once we were fully aloft, everybody got a good chance to look all around and the ride was quite peaceful:

with, of course, a lovely view

Interesting fact: the original 1859 balloon flight after which this attraction is modeled was not done using helium, nor hot air, but a lighter-than-air gas made from coal byproducts. I am an A+ student, and I always have a billion questions for museum docents. I also learned that the Conner family sent away to South America for the spices that they used to dye their wool, and that the schoolchildren in that area used soapstone instead of chalk on their tablets, since soapstone was readily available and chalk was not, and when we happened upon a woman who had just finished making a salve good for cuts and burns, I called Willow over and forced her to let the woman rub it on the knee she had just skinned, and Willow didn't complain about that knee again for the rest of the day, either because it didn't hurt anymore after the salve or because she was afraid that if she did complain, I'd let another stranger rub weird-smelling crap on it again.

the Lenape Indians were happy to let Sydney use their mortar and pestle

and to let the whole family set off in their dugout canoe

back at the edge of the Conner homestead, the girls were rendered simply giddy at the sight of all that space!

Gift shop purchases=two new quill pen sets (I was supposed to ask my uncle to set aside some feathers for me during pheasant hunting season, but I forgot), one McGuffey's spelling book to add to the McGuffey's Eclectic Readers that my grandmother bought for me as a child, three sticks of candy (Matt ALWAYS buys candy in gift shops!), and one set of Melissa and Doug fuzzy horses (AND he was almost out of time to buy Sydney a birthday present!).

I handled this field trip differently from most previous ones--instead of having the girls do a lot of prep work beforehand to establish context, we just...went! Although I'd still rather have done some reading and writing about the time period first (for some reason, this long-planned field trip snuck up on me!), I was pleased to see that the girls were so absorbed by the material on offer that I think that they'll be able to draw on it during our summer-long pioneer unit, which we'll begin bright and early next week.

This week, it's all about the International Fair, and the girls' project covering the continent of Africa. And then...a little break!

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