Sunday, August 23, 2015

Field Trip: Cahokia

  It has been years since we've visited the Cahokia mounds.  In fact, I think it was 2008 when Bubby was 5 and Mookie 4.  At that time we didn't take the time to go inside the Visitor's Center either, so really this trip was all new :)
  The Visitor Center has a suggested donation of $15 per family which was well worth the cost.  They had life size figures depicting every day life of the Mississippian culture.  Shorty loved walking through the village, which he and I did several times!
  They had some interactive displays like this one in which you could move some hands back and forth and mimic how to start fire.
  The museum was an excellent place to start but nothing quite beats walking amongst the earthworks on a beautiful day!  Shorty was sad he had to stick to the path, claiming he wanted to "climb the lumpy, bumpy hills".  Mookie managed to distract him from that goal by following the letter markers that guided our path.
Monk's Mound (background)
  Bubby was terribly sad that we weren't able to visit every. single. mound on the property.  We did get to as many as we could and find a good compromise for all of us.
  So you don't get to climb on all the rest of the lumpy bumpy hills, but you do get to climb the biggest one - Monk's Mound.

You can see forever at the top.  It was a little hazy because the rain and drizzle was moving out of the area, but in that last picture you can just make out the Gateway Arch!
As uninteresting as this view from the top may seem I have to include it.  You see Shorty?  He's asking, for about the umpteenth time, if he can go down that side of Monk's Mound.  If we had taken our eyes off of him he may have tried it too! And going down Monk's Mound looks like this...
so it's nothing to turn up your nose at.  Silly child ;)
  At the bottom we found a butterfly friend...
  Then we headed back to our hotel, but not before stopping at the Twistee Treat in Livingston - yum!
(photo taken by Bubby)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Field Trip: Springfield's Capitol

  What started out as a way to find something educational and cheap has evolved into a goal.  We've now gotten 3 state capitols under our belt.  Our latest being Springfield, IL.
   This capitol was the smallest so far, but Mookie said it was her favorite.  It is probably the oldest.  It was interesting though to see the contrast of the old and the new with the large digitized screens that were in the House and Senate chambers. 

  Of the three capitol buildings we've visited so far, it was the one that was the most sparsely decorated with statues, and displays.  We didn't feel like we were missing out though.  These buildings are so grand they just kind of blow you away ;)
they wanted a pic with each of them on a star
  Our trip wasn't merely for art, architecture and history mind you.  We found fossils in the floor, and Mookie proudly told me what each type of stone was in the base of these columns.  Do you know where she got that information.  No, not Mom the teacher - Mindcraft of all places!  Well, that will temper my threats to throw that out the window some days...
Bubby with his foot by the shell fossil & the different stone in the column
We had the awesome opportunity to take a buddy with us to lunch and needed to kill a little more time, so we headed to the State Museum. I'll tell you I am a little thankful for the having to kill time.  We had to park by the State Museum when we landed and Shorty about died when we passed it by to go to some dumb old capitol (which he usually enjoys, but not in comparison to something like that!).
  Shorty made some buddies and played with the animals while the big kids dug for dino fossils...

  Right before we left, we were in the area where you could put together pottery replicas. I was telling Bubby how I used to put together Native American pottery for real when I worked in an archaeology lab.  He laughed and said, "let me see what you got old lady!".  So the race was on...yeah, I beat the socks off of him ;)
pottery reconstruction

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Field Trip: LOL

  No, I don't have a case of the giggles... the last time we made the trip to Illinois the kids dubbed it "L.O.L." for its nickname the Land of Lincoln.  Ha ha :)
  This trip to the Land of Lincoln included a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  We had some sweet friends act as our guides and introduce us to this cool site.  I had heard that they had pulled out all the stops for this particular museum and that can usually mean one of two things: excellent museum or just wildly overdone. 
  The first stop was where it all began, Abe Lincoln's boyhood cabin.  The big kids were drawn in to hear the stories and see the lifesize figures depicting Abe's early history.  I caught a quick glance, but mostly I stayed outside of the cabin with Shorty.  He had caught sight of two fake cardinals in the trees and with the bird sounds playing there HAD to be more birds out there! 
looking for the birds
  After the cabin you walked right into the middle of a slave auction (the red lit area in the photo).  This display smacked you right in the face with the evils of the practice.  A woman being torn one way by her new owner while her husband was being led another by his and the crying child being held  by the auctioneer to be sold off himself.  Mookie said it was one of those things that made you want to cry.  The scene was so powerful that Shorty kept migrating back to the scene.  While he couldn't grasp what was going on there, we talked about what feelings were being shown and who was making people sad. 
Shorty and the slave auction (right) and Lincoln-Douglass debate (left)
  Interspersed with the striking scenes with life-sized figures there were notable artifacts, some of which were from the Lincoln Home we'd visited a couple weeks before. There were also sound and temperature effects (heat radiating from a wood stove, etc...) like we'd found when we visited the Flint Hills Discovery Center.  It's one of those things that I don't necessarily need as a museum attendee, but is really quite fun :)
  The museum did a really good job of evoking the feelings of the viewer.  The hallway with the Lincoln newspaper political cartoons was garish in an Alice in Wonderland type of style - off set frames, elongated and crooked doorways, nearly made me sick walking through the thing.
Bubby in the political cartoon hallway
Pardon my funky photo, but they don't allow flash photography in the displays and it was reeking havoc on my photos!  The hallway leading into the Emancipation Proclamation was equally as suffocating, with holographs yelling at you from either side - what poor Mr. Lincoln must have felt like.  The dizzying effect was reminiscent of the riots hallway at Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka. 
  Mookie's favorite part was the map that showed the Civil War in 4 minutes.  That's 1 week/second.  The battles would explode upon the big screen.  She was so enthralled that she went back twice!  That is the best part of the museum for me.  It didn't have tons of actual artifacts but it made history come alive!  It made you feel with your senses and your heart all aspects of what was going on!
Civil War in 4 minutes

  They had some really awesome shows too which took you on a short tour of Lincoln and then of the importance of historical documents and artifacts (my favorite one!).   Like main character stated in one of the shows "Our experience becomes your experience, our courage becomes your courage, and the best parts of our lives on in you".  This is why history is SO important!
Shorty and his buddy


Field Trip: Hannibal

   Another trip out to see Hubby and some more stops on the way.  Right now Hannibal is a great place to stop and stretch our legs and wait for Hubby to get off of work.  This time we did a little more exploring of the town.  Our travels took us out to Lover's Leap which has an amazing view of the landscape.  We saw train tracks, barges, the steamboat, and speedboats.  When we told Ducky and Grandma where we had been they sent pictures of when I had gone to the same spot when I was Bubby and Mookie's age.
Mookie, Shorty and Bubby at Lover's Leap

Me & Ducky at Lover's Leap
  While we were there we compared the story of the two Native American "lovers" to the story of Romeo and Juliet that the kids had been reading over the past week - edged in a little literature discussion there ;)
  One of our favorite, and cheap, places to go is the local library wherever we are visiting.  So far both the ones we've been too have been great historic buildings.  Hannibal's was really neat because of all the fun things to play with, and Bubby discovered they had every single Hank the Cowdog book and maybe each Boxcar Children - that's important you know! 

  The day ending up with seeing Hubby and some treasures he found for us - a coral or crinoid fossil and coal, which leads into a science/art study just because - I love homeschooling!
Bubby drawing his new fossil

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Illinois State Museum - or what Illinois was doing right

  Bear with me on a little rant.  This past week we went to the best comprehensive state museum we've been to in the mid-West and it is slated to close its doors in August due to the funding or what will be the lack thereof by the state.
  The Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL is an educator's dream.  The first level take you through the natural history of the state of Illinois starting with its paleontology and working its way forward through the modern environment.
taken by my co-photographer Mookie
  There are tons of hands-on items, excellent graphics and dioramas to draw in the student.  "Phone" stations where you can listen in to further details about parts of the exhibit and little cards you can swipe to light up more clues!
swiping a card
   My most favorite part?  How it draws it all together.  For instance, on the exhibit on bears, they had the diorama display, a tactile bear track, description of all those and the items in the diorama and then you can pull out a drawer beneath and see how bears were reflected in Native American culture!  Sheer awesomeness!
the bear exhibit
Not to mention how other scientific fields like geology, archaeology, biology and the like are covered in such an interesting way to appeal to even the most disinterested of passerby.
  The second level was partly dedicated to the Native population (with some life-sized figures that made my pre-teen blush I might add).
listening to the "phone"
They also had a section dedicated to art, but right now it is mostly empty space.  The other exhibit takes you on a historical tour through time from first settlement to modern day.
  Shorty's favorite part was the basement - the play area!  He got to load a jeep to take out on a specimen expedition, dig for fossils, use a microscope to look at bones up close, put together replicas of Native pottery and read in the nook!

local wildlife hide and seek

a quiet book nook

For those of you in NE Kansas, the layers of learning in this one museum was like me taking our group to 3 different ones in our area: the Kansas Historical Museum, Natural History museum at KU and the Children's Discovery Center.  All in one museum!  And not paying the $50+ for admissions and travel.  This museum was FREE!! All we had to pay was a couple bucks for parking.  I am certain (as I am for our home state) that this museum is NOT a major money vacuum and that cutting it from the budget will solve even part of the financial ills for the state.  I wonder if charging a fee (not prohibitive to regular attendance by locals like our own historical museum) was discussed.  Surely that would be a benefit.  We are planning to make a trip back to Springfield in the near future and the kids keep asking if we can go again.  All I can answer is, "I hope so, I hope so."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Field Trip: Lincoln!

  Our next stop on our trip was Springfield, Illinois.  Our family loves the Junior Ranger program put on by the National Park Service so when Hubby had the day off we planned a trip so we could add the Abraham Lincoln home to our collection of badges without eating too much into daddy's free time too much. 
  The Lincoln home is not just the home itself.  The Park Service has bought up four blocks of period houses and restored them.  Some are used for offices, but three are open to the public with displays and there are interpretive spots all up and down the streets - including signage or call in stations.
in front of the Lincoln home
in the neighborhood

  When you go, you sign up for a specific tour time.  They said go early to make sure you are able to get a time - and they aren't kidding.  By the time we left, they were already issuing tickets (which are free) for tours two hours later.  We had an hour wait, which gave us plenty of time to complete the ranger challenges. 
  Our tour of the home came with strict instructions of not to touch the walls, door jams, stay on a certain carpet, etc... Definitely one of the more stringent tours we'd been on, although they won't harass you too much if you are caught leaning where you aren't supposed to.
one of the places you can lean...
  The thing that made the kids' eyes just light up the most was when our ranger guide told us that the place they could touch that was from Abe Lincoln's time was the stair rail.  They were utterly thrilled to do that (never you mind that the thing was urethaned to high heaven ;) ).
  After our tour we got the kiddos sworn in for their Junior Ranger badges.  I will tell you what, we have never met a park ranger we didn't like.  Most go out of their way for junior rangers.  I always ask permission if I snap their picture and this particular ranger made sure he put his hat on for our picture! 
  Our Lincoln trip wouldn't have been complete without a trip to the president's tomb which was not far away. 
  They were amazed by the sheer size of it.  The inside was quite grand and I was really glad someone in our group didn't attempt to use the circular nature of the layout for a racetrack...

Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim's Journey

  Hubby is away so we're in high gear for some rather large field trips!  This series included a perfect fit into our schooling too!  We've been plugging along through Mark Twain's Huck Finn for longer than I care to mention.  It is a wonderful book but anything of length usually gets put to the back burner with everyday life ;) This trip took us through Samuel Clemmens' hometown of Hannibal, MO.  Our first stop was the Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim's Journey.

   Jim's Journey focuses on the African American history of the area.  It features a display on Daniel Quarles (who was the inspiration for Mark Twain's character Jim in Huck Finn) but also continues up to the present age.
  It is just a little one room museum, but stuffed full of artifacts and memorabilia.  They won me over right away - our host had a scavenger hunt for the big kids. Then she further won the kids over by telling them they'd get to choose a prize for completing it!
   It took the kids about an hour to complete.  They gained a wealth of information!  The museum was wonderfully organized and was essentially like one big I Spy book :)
  After a long drive and no nap, Shorty was not so interested so he watched the fountain nearby...
  He really, really, really wanted to go in, but we managed to convince him otherwise. Our host gave him his "prize" (a bottle of bubbles) early and then he sat on the front stoop blowing bubbles for a while and explored some of the artifacts outside.
   The museum was free, but they would gladly accept donations.  This was the best display of African American history and memorabilia I have seen so far in our travels.  I would venture to say that they could at least double their space without any problem with all the artifacts and stories there are to tell! 
  We didn't explore the town too much more beyond a couple of photo ops, but odds are we are going to end up there again soon. The kids enjoyed Jim's Journey so much that they asked about a return trip :)
a bit of good timing thanks to Mookie
the Hannibal light house