Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cahokia Mounds Homeschool Field Trip

As a kid, I swear I was traumatized by the MOST BORING FIELD TRIP EVER to Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma (more on that later). It was hot and buggy, I don't remember actually knowing a bit of context for what I was looking at, it seemed as if all the kids had a bad attitude, including me, and I was so little impressed by the whole experience that 25 or so years later, studying the early Native American Mound Builders with the kids, I had absolutely zero personal information to contribute to our study.

I was a bit concerned, therefore, that our field trip to Cahokia Mounds in Illinois might suck a little, but I figured that at least there are hiking trails, and our kids like to hike, and if it sucked too much we just didn't have to stay very long.

Yeah, we stayed for a LONG time. Cahokia was so awesome that we basically stayed until we either had to get back on the road or resign ourselves to arriving in Arkansas at midnight--Central time!!!

The best part of Cahokia IS definitely the hiking, since you can't climb on any but one of the giant mounds, of course:

Still, it's very fun to hike around the flat meadows, discovering mounds and other natural beauties in clearings and around wooded curves in the paths:

We hiked for quite a while, and then explored the excellent museum:

I researched extensively for our Mound Builders study, and still I didn't come close to providing the context and enrichment and detailed information that we all got here in this museum. There were exhibits on the Mound Builders, on the lives of the Native Americans who lived in Cahokia, on the archaeological excavations of the place, and on the artifacts that were discovered. Syd even found some pottery!

And we're absolutely trying this recipe in the fall:

One thing that was an annoyance throughout our entire visit was the presence of two or three unruly groups of children too old to behave that way on a school field trip. Most of their annoyance wasn't malicious, of course, but simply their failure to realize that there might be any other humans also present, trying to enjoy the mounds, who weren't on their own personal field trip. They did a lot of talking and laughing loudly, covering the entire swath of walking paths in giant herds and not noticing the approach of other pedestrians also trying to use the path, and stopping in groups to have casual conversations while blocking exhibits.

I half-heartedly attempted to justify their behavior to the kids by explaining that maybe these children didn't get to go on adventures very often and were just too excited to remember their manners, but of course what the kids mostly took away from the encounters was my unconscious body language that shouted to the heavens, I'm sure, that I was completely over it. And so, later, as we loitered at the foot of Monks Mound, waiting for Will to catch up and for perhaps that other field trip to descend before we climbed up, ourselves (this biggest mound is the one you can climb on!), Syd happened to look to the path behind us, then suddenly screamed out, "FIELD TRIP COMING!!!", for all the world as if it were a horde of zombies lurching toward us, or an army of Huns bearing down.

We laughed, but we did get our butts in gear to beat them:

Can you see the Gateway Arch in the background?

I hadn't paid too much attention to what the kids packed for this trip, other than to tell them how much of what to bring (four outfits, including underpants; comfy clothes for the car and for sleeping in; Nook/ipad stocked with library books; math book and journal; colored pencils or crayons and pencil; toothbrush and hairbrush; six very small toys; water bottle), so I didn't really notice nor care that both kids had only brought their Crocs, but let me tell you that I will not make that mistake again! While Crocs are comfy, apparently, for day-to-day wear (I don't know--I've never worn them), they are completely unsuitable as active wear. Both kids suffered in them for the entire trip, and Will took to ditching them whenever she possibly could:

Cahokia also has a treehenge, although it was too overcast to cast a shadow:

I'm pretty sure we should build our own treehenge at our new house, though.

If you're planning a road trip that takes you anywhere near St. Louis, Cahokia is an absolute must-see, especially with even a brief unit study of early American history to preface it. There are no resources that even compare to a physical visit (and yes, you could say that about any place, but it really applies even more so here, since there are no digital or video resources that even approximate the experience), and visiting it adds crucial context to any Native American or American history study, context that you're just not going to find elsewhere.

Be that as it may, here are some of the resources that we enjoyed as we studied the Native American Mound Builders and Cahokia:


Tina said...

That looks like a fantastic trip! Love your t-shirt :0)

We were able to explore the Effigy Mounds in Iowa a few years ago, but I think that Emma was a bit young to really appreciate them. We might have to revisit them on our next trip home.

julie said...

Ooh, Effigy Mounds! Sometime this year, I hope we can make the trip to see Serpent Mound in Ohio, and there's also Angel Mounds here in the southwest corner of Indiana--both of those would have to be overnight or weekend trips, though.