Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Indiana Unit Study: Homeschool Field Trip to the Eiteljorg Museum

The Eiteljorg is not one of my favorite museums. Its artifacts are beautiful, but I don't think that it includes nearly enough breadth and depth in its exhibits; what should occupy the entire museum fills merely three galleries, and most of the downstairs children's gallery is contextually unrelated to the rest of the museum. The Western art theme appears tacked onto the American Indians focus, as if the curators couldn't quite figure out how to usefully juxtapose the two major collections that they were given.

To add to that, I've never come even close to getting over my pique from the time that I visited with the kids perhaps three years ago and found the staff as a whole to be shockingly aggressive about the children's behavior. Perhaps they had all just taken a workshop on managing children or something, but in the course of one morning (I was fed up and took the kids to the zoo for the afternoon) we were chastised three entire times for things that we did not do (we were never chastised for anything that we did do, of course--this is pretty braggy, but my kids are excellent museum-goers). As Will drank from a drinking fountain just outside the restroom in the lobby, while I stood just inside the open restroom door to supervise both her and Syd, still in the bathroom, an employee came over and informed me that my children had to stay with me. As soon as Syd placed her hand on a red velvet rope in front of a large painting, an employee came over and told her to stop leaning on the rope. As we were leaving the children's gallery after peeking in and deciding it was too untidily chaotic to enjoy, an employee came over and told the children that they were supposed to put things back after they played with them, and they could not leave until they helped her clean up.

Nevertheless, our Indiana study included a large Native American component, so I considered revisiting the Eiteljorg to be a must-do. Fortunately for the current crop of docents, as I came loaded for bear, this trip was uneventful, and lots of learning was done:
I was fascinated by the many origin stories and pre-contact artifacts, although surprised that I didn't see more on the Mound Builders, our particular area of emphasis in this unit.
We also spent a lot of time with the Plains Indians, since we'll be in their area this month!

The kids enjoyed the hands-on stations--I would have liked to have seen one in every section of the many galleries.
Check out this decorative horse tack!
We now know the difference between a wigwam and a teepee.
We loved the art and artifacts.
Even those she's completed that particular activity for her Girl Scouts Brownie Pottery badge many times over, Syd still enjoys sketching pottery.

Although I think we've exhaustively covered fourth- and second-grade American history this year, I still need to firm up some Native American sites to visit on our upcoming road trip--Syd, in particular, is very interested in the Plains Indians--and I'd still love to find a truly stellar Native American museum to visit one day. 

Perhaps fifth and third grade American history will require another road trip to D.C?

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