Thursday, April 2

Roadschool Trip to Kansas

Just to the north lies the Sunflower State.  We had a full week to explore central Kansas, and hit the towns of Lindsborg, Abilene, Hutchinson, and Salina before passing through Wyandotte County on the way back home.  Come explore with us! 

We discovered Lindsborg, Kansas, this wonderful little town packed with Swedish History!  You could spend an entire day just exploring the Old Mill Museum, hiking trails at Coronado Heights Castle, and visiting an 1840's Dugout. 
A short drive away was the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene, Kansas.  Far be it from me to miss a chance to teach hands-on history.  Plus, they have a program for Cub Scouts to earn! 
Hutchinson, Kansas has a plethora of science-based museums and activities.  We chose to see the Cosmosphere and Underground Salt Mine.  Be prepared to spend a full day (possibly two) just to see these two places. 
Getting back to our unit on the Santa Fe Trail, we hit the Smoky Hills Museum in Salina, Kansas.  It covers the history, geography, economics, and ecology of Kansas, and has several children's activities, including scavenger hunts and a hands-on 'Discovery Room.'  Back at the hotel, we made potato boats, buffalo masks, pressed flowers, felt moccasins, windmill and a tipi.
Central Kansas Resources
Heading home, we stopped at the Steamboat Arabia, which hit a tree snag and sank on the Missouri River on September 5, 1856. The 130 passengers survived, but an estimated 220 tons of cargo went down with the boat. Shortly thereafter, the Missouri River changed course, and the boat was buried underground. The cargo, destined for sixteen towns on the frontier, was buried under a cornfield in Wyandotte County, Kansas for 152 years until it was discovered in 1988.

The museum offers a tour by some pretty enthusiastic guides...these are the guys that actually excavated the boat back in the late 1980's.  They're knowledgeable, friendly, and have all the answers.  My boys had LOTS of questions, and the guide's enthusiasm was contagious - everyone was excited to learn about this boat we had never heard of until today!
They start with a short history lesson about the Missouri River and the area itself, and then show you how they decided where to dig.  My oldest is intrigued by archaeology of the underwater variety, and had many questions here.  Then we saw remains of the ship itself before heading into a short film.  The footage was neat, but I think the tour guide was more informative than the film.  He was energetic!
They talk about the evolution of river boats and the history of trading in the area - how small towns sprang up along the river.  Then we got to see how the river had changed over the course of 150 years.  There is also a great aerial view of the area where you can see patterns in the farmland that show the river's changes.

When the Arabia sank, she was carrying supplies to sixteen different towns.  The salvage company was able to save most of that cargo, thanks to the way that it had been packed.  The results are basically the entire 1856 Sears & Roebuck catalog.  It's amazing!  Sprinkled throughout the museum are survivor stories, archaeological lessons, and an exhibit on artifact preservation.  If you're in the Kansas City area, grab some BBQ and spend the afternoon touring the Arabia!

Steamboat Arabia Resources

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