I won’t lie…in some ways, this year’s edition of summer school felt very disorganized. We did a little bit here, and a little bit there, which is very unusual for us….usually, I pick a week or two to focus on our topic for the summer. But we went on several fun field trips (to the St. Louis Mississippi Riverfront/Gateway Arch, Camp River Dubois, the Confluence Tower, and Faust Park), read a lot of books, watched a documentary, did a craft, and enjoyed a pioneer dinner. So it may not have been as organized as I prefer, but we still learned a lot, and had some fun in the process!
There were lots of craft options to go with our pioneer-themed summer school this year. I considered samplers, rag rugs, even a corn cob doll. In the end, though, I decided to go with simple nine patch quilt block pillows. Bunny and Ladybug had a great time sewing these by hand, and they both love having something useful that they can keep!
Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink it till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot. Such a treat made that ordinary day into a special day, the first day that Laura helped in the haying. “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Whenever possible, I try to include a special meal as part of our summer school. Some years, that’s easier than others. Coming up with a pioneer-themed meal wasn’t too difficult, but I can’t vouch for the authenticity of our dinner. I was more interested in having a meal of foods pioneers might have enjoyed, rather than cooking them the way pioneers would have needed to. So tonight’s dinner included bean soup and homemade cornbread, ginger-water (a last-minute addition!), and a pieplant (rhubarb) pie for dessert. It was a very delicious meal, and I think I’ve found some new things to add to the recipe file!
“‘That’s the way I like it,’ he said. ‘If there is no sugar in the pie, then every fellow can sweeten his own as much as he likes without hurting the cook’s feelings.'” “The First Four Years” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Camp River Dubois, at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site, is another place we visited in 2014 because there was a cake on display there. We didn’t go through the museum then, however, so it was the first place on my list for our summer school studies this year!
There is actually no archeological evidence of where Lewis and Clark wintered on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River before starting out on their westward journey, so the museum dedicated to Rivière Dubois is just based on a guess. The village (no longer accessible to the public), and the cabin at the site are replicas, but they still give visitors a good idea of what the camp would have looked like. We especially liked the garden out back, which had plants like tobacco, cotton, flax, and “walking” onions.
Our next stop was the visitors’ center. We watched a very informative movie about the westward journey, and then went to tour the museum. There were a lot of signs and maps, which conveyed a great deal of information.
There were also many items on display, showing how the exhibition traveled and lived, and what kinds of things they took with them and found on their journey.
The highlight of the museum was the full-size replica keel boat. I had no idea how truly huge that kind of boat was!
And we saw another statue of Lewis and Clark, with their trusty dog Seaman.
This is a fantastic little museum, with tons more information than you might expect given its size. I’m so glad we finally had a chance to go through it!
We have only been to the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower once before, and that was a short trip…we were checking out the Cakeway to the West cake that was there. Ever since, Turkey has hoped to go up in the tower, and I decided that this year’s Westward Expansion themed summer school would be the perfect opportunity to finally see the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers from above!
Even at the ground level, the towers are impressive. One is named for Lewis; the other for Clark:
The tower is 180 feet high, with viewing platforms at 50, 100, and 150 feet:
As you would expect, the highest platform is the best for viewing the confluence of the rivers, and that view to the west is basically straight ahead from one side of the deck:
If you look a bit toward the south of the confluence, you can make out both the St. Louis and Clayton skylines:
A more northerly glance provides a look at Alton:
And then there’s straight down!
The view from the other side of the deck is…not as interesting:
There’s a cool area of native prairie plantings at the base of the tower:
This was a fun little field trip. There is a fee to go up, but we received a discount because we visited the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site at Camp River Dubois the same day. It was a windy day, so that made our visit to the top extra interesting! I imagine it would also be great to visit in the fall, and see all the colors along the rivers, and especially in the winter, when you might glimpse a bald eagle flying overhead!
Today we took our last summer school field trip of the year (we’re running a little late this summer!). Faust Park’s historic village, which has buildings from the 1840s to the 1910s, was having an open house today. Since only Chickadee and I have ever walked around the village, and only when none of the buildings were actually open, I though it would be the perfect place to visit to cap off our studies of Westward Expansion and pioneer life.
There are brick houses and log cabins, and several barns (and an outhouse!). Not all of them were open to tour, but we did get to go in quite a few. We also saw several gardens, and a few scarecrows.
It was interesting to see how the different houses were decorated. Some were obviously more upper class, and had carpets similar to the Lincoln home in Springfield and the Martin Mitchell mansion at the Naper Settlement, while others were the homes of working class people. We especially liked the home belonging to a family of dairy farmers, which had several styles of churn on display. We also got to see the inside of a wash-house!
We came across different people in period dress, showcasing different skills like yarn spinning and blacksmithing. The girls also enjoyed having a chance to play along with a woman on the Appalachian Dulcimer.
As always, I was especially interested in the school-house. The whole building wasn’t much bigger than our school room!
We also drove to the other side of the park to see Thornhill Mansion. Around here it’s known for being the home of the second governor of Missouri, but we were interested in seeing it because Frederick Bates (who arrived in St. Louis the year after the Corps of Discovery opened the west to exploration), was first the Secretary of the Louisiana Territory, and also served as acting governor when Meriwether Lewis was absent…it fit right in with our Westward Expansion studies!
I’d like to go back and tour the mansion someday (it was one of the buildings that wasn’t open today), and maybe also go when they have a bigger event (like the heritage festival in September). It wasn’t as elaborate a village as the Naper Settlement, but it was a fun place to visit, and we all learned something, and made some new connections to local history!
We may have just finished the 2016-17 school year this week, but I’m already thinking about summer school! This year’s theme is westward expansion (focusing especially on the journey of Lewis and Clark), and pioneers. Now, we’ve learned about these topics before, but I wanted to go in-depth, especially since we live in the “Gateway to the West!” I have some fun (and new!) field trips planned for later in our vacation, but for now, here’s the reading list I have prepared…I may add on to it as we begin our studies, but this is a good start!
- Little House on the Prairie (as well as other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder)–This is many children’s first exposure to pioneer life…I know it was mine! We’ve read the Little House series countless times, but this will be the first time Chickadee is old enough to really listen.
- My Little House Crafts Book–Summer school wouldn’t be complete without crafts. I’m thinking Bunny and Ladybug will especially enjoy sewing pillows!
- The Little House Cookbook–Of course, I try to incorporate cooking and trying new recipes into summer school whenever possible, and it’s especially easy this year!
- Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography–As long as we’re learning about Laura Ingalls and her family, we may as well learn the real story!
- Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder
- A Pioneer Sampler–We won’t focus only on American Pioneers…we’ll also check in on Canadian pioneers! We’ve used the Thanksgiving and Christmas books in this series often, but we haven’t gone through the family’s entire year much.
- Bound for Oregon
- Caddie Woodlawn
- Ten Mile Day–You can’t really talk about the opening of the west without also discussing the construction of the transcontinental railroad!
- If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon–This was one of my favorite books when I was a child.
- Heading West: Life with the Pioneers–More crafts and hands-on activities.
- Meet Kirsten (and the remaining books in the Kirsten series)–This series not only covers pioneer life, but the lives of an immigrant family.
- You Wouldn’t Want to Explore with Lewis and Clark!–This series is always a favorite of the children’s, so I decided I had better include it!
- Who was Sacagawea?–You can’t learn about Lewis and Clark without learning about their guide!
- The Lewis and Clark Expedition
- The Journals of Lewis and Clark–I figured we should probably read about the journey of Lewis and Clark in their own words.
- Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
- American Pioneer Family Paper Dolls–We’ve used paper dolls often in the past, and even this particular set. The good news is that they’re already cut out and laminated, so they’re ready to go!
- Ken Burns Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery DVD–OK, this isn’t a book, but it still applies to summer school this year, so I included it.