Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Minnesota History Museum

I went on another field trip with my fifth graders at Northrop.  This time, we spent the day at the Minnesota History Museum.  When I was in elementary school, I remember going to this museum.  The fun thing was, a lot of the exhibits that were there when I had visited with school were still there.  So I was able to walk into different places with the fifth graders and say, "Hey, I really liked this one!  Let's go see this exhibit!"  But before we went and explored the museum, we had an hour or so of class time where they learned about the fur trade:

This was a really neat lesson that was put together.  It was very interactive and the kids loved it.  They got to line up, put on the beaver skin hat, hold the other animal skins that were sometimes used for trading (beaver skins were the most coveted-- everyone in Europe wanted a beaver skin something until silk became the popular material.  They got to hold some things that people who lived back then would have wanted: a trap, some food, tools, and yes, even a musket.  They gave a kid a gun (unloaded, but it was enough to give me a little bit of a heart attack.  People, don't hand ten-year-olds guns).

With these things that were traded, they played a game similar to Deal or No Deal.  They "had" a total of 15 beaver skins and they had to bargain with the owner of the trading post (the museum volunteer) with their beaver skins.  At the end of the game, they got to see how many beaver skins their object actually would have cost them.  Such a neat way to show that.

 A couple of the kids got to dress up as Voyageurs (see upper left).  They were taught that every piece of clothing that the Voyageurs wore had a special purpose for all seasons.  They learned about the Voyageur lifestyle and it was really neat to see them get into what the Museum representative was talking about.

After their lesson was done, the adults took their small groups and we went and explored the whole museum for the rest of the time that we were there.  I lucked out and got my favorite group of girls-- they read with me on Thursdays when I come and they get really into talking about the books they're reading.  So here are some of the places that we visited around the museum:
As soon as we got our instructions from the Museum Volunteers, my group asked excitedly if we could be the first at the tornado basement exhibit.  We ran out of the classroom, bounded up the stairs, and swung into the "basement" before any other group could even think about getting to the basement.  I love this exhibit.  It's about the tornadoes that were in Fridley, MN and how that affected the lives of those who lived there at the time.  You watched the TV, listened to the radio to figure out what was going on, and all the while, you could feel the ground shake beneath you and watch the window change as the storm came and went.  It was like experiencing a mini tornado.  It's awesome and the kids loved it.
 There was a small exhibit about living in a sod house.  Outside the house, there was a plow that you could run either as the person pushing the plow, or as the cattle pulling the plow along the rows that would later be used for planting.

This was a neat activity.  A big part of Minnesota history is the various groups of Native Americans.  A big part of some of their cultures is the buffalo.  There was a "dead" buffalo on the ground and nearby was a scanner.  You could take apart the buffalo, removing organs, bones, skin... everything.  You'd take those parts over to the scanner, scan it, and see what the Native American groups used that part for.  It was really cool.  They liked holding the different parts and "discovering" what was done with the different parts of the buffalo.  Super cool.

This was an exhibit that I had never been in before.  It must be relatively new.  You pick a helmet, walk into the "elevator," and walk through this mine and learn about what miners did and how they lived.  You could try everything from drilling into a wall of coal, drop dynamite and blow a wall apart, and look around (note: everything that sounds dangerous to try out was just pretend.  Just so you know...).  It was really loud and equal parts dark and bright, but this was a really neat place to visit.
This is sort of what a classroom looked like at the Native American boarding schools.  This is where many Native Americans were forced to part with the culture they had grown up with.  They had to cut their hair and were forbidden to speak their native language.  They were told that their culture was wrong and they had to conform to this new and "better" one.  I don't think these girls had learned about this in school yet.  They'll get more information about this when they head to middle school.
This soda fountain counter was part of an exhibit called "The Greatest Generation."  The kids liked playing with the pretend food and pushing the buttons on the old cash register.
This part of "The Greatest Generation" exhibit was similar to the tornado basement exhibit.  You walked into this plane, sat down in the seats and faced a blank wall.  Once the show started, you listened to audio bytes of some of the surviving paratroopers of World War II.  At one point, you could feel the plane take off under you and later you could see bullet holes go through the side of the plane.  This was an experience in and of itself.  Well-worth the wait, I think.
After about an hour, we were asked to stop roaming the museum and meet up with the full class to learn about the path of a single piece of grain.  You learned about how it was processed, where it went, and eventually what it was made into.  Then they got to go and play for a little while before loading up on the bus to go home.  I think the kids had a good day.  I certainly had a good day.

Thanks for Reading!


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