Monday, August 31

Roadschool Trip to Grand Rapids

Lake Michigan looks like the ocean and smells so clean!  Nearby Grand Rapids is one of the largest cities in Michigan, with plenty to offer for adults and kids alike.  We discovered a museum that has everything, a presidential museum, a small Dutch village, and a very spooky and abandoned town!

The literature theme for our Michigan trip was Holling Clancy Holling's "Paddle-to-the-Sea," a story that beautifully illustrates the geography and history of the Great Lakes.  It centers around a young boy's dream, but also covers the area's industry and ecology.  If you've never read a Holling Clancy Holling book, then you are truly missing out!

The boys were amazed at how Lake Michigan resembled the ocean!!  
Great Lakes & Michigan Resources
Tri-Cities Museum
At the Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven, we learned about the Native Americans and French Trappers of the 18th and 19th centuries.  The kids decided that working in the logging industry looked like fun, but a lot of hard work!

Charlton Park
Charlton Park, in Hastings, Michigan, is supposedly one of the most haunted places in the area.  But did we know that when we headed down this creepy little path?  Nope.

It's a quaint village that offers a hands-on approach to history.  There are Civil War re-enactments, various historical festivals, and (on the day that we went) an actual real paleontologist!!! The kids peppered him with questions for at least an hour!  My two favorite aspects of this village, however, are that it's free and that it's totally hands-on.  The kids are encouraged to touch, use, and play with most items in each of the buildings. 
 As we toured the nineteen different buildings, we saw a lot of neat antiques!  Also, the temperature continued to fall and a heavy fog settled over the area...  At the old hotel, though, a creepy vibe began to set in.  It wasn't anything you could put your finger on, just...a feeling that the house still had a lot of life left in it.  Turns out, this is one of the three most haunted structures on this property.  Go figure.
Creepy stories about Michigan:

Holland Museum & Nelis Dutch Village
At the Holland Museum, we learned about the area Anishanabek Native Americans and the stormy seas of Lake Michigan.  We saw things that the Dutch settlers brought with them (including a pewter spork!), and found this impressive bronze clock that demonstrated the Dutch governmental tiers.
From there, we headed to Nelis Dutch Village, a hands-on step back into time.  Children and adults alike can learn about the daily lives of 19th century Dutch immigrants.   After visiting the Wooden Shoe, the farmer's wife taught us about animal husbandry and cheese-making.
We learned about culture, customs, and education during the 19th century, and that Black Pietr brings gifts, rather than Sinterclauss.  We also watched the dancers perform.  At the weigh-house, you can learn about measurement techniques, and even weigh yourself!
We learned how to make wooden shoes, both by hand and machine, and then played on the zip line!  The zip line is kid-friendly and a definite must-do!!!  It is located right beside the free carousel.

See that one red flower in there?  That's me!

Public Museum
If you only have time to stop in one place, however, we recommend the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.  This place is HUGE!!  We likened it to stacking three Walmart Supercenters atop each other...and it appeals to everyone.  If they don't have it, it isn't worth having in a museum!  You will need at least a full day to spend here.

The museum is organized alphabetically, with each letter representing a different collection.  Some are tradition, while others are wholly unexpected.  They have everything from Automobiles to Zoology!
Also within the museum is a re-creation of the Streets of Old Grand Rapids back in the 1890s, including several shops based on actual businesses and buildings.  Volunteers work in the various buildings and give hands-on demonstrations.  

The kids learned how a printing press operated, about buying and selling at the general store, purchasing cross-country train tickets, gearing up the fire engine & horses, and how the pharmacist made pills from scratch.  At most of the stops, they were able to try their hand at each of the tasks.
On the second floor, there was a special LEGO exhibit!!!  (We are all about Legos at this house.)  Sprinkled throughout the museum are several exhibits on Michigan geography and history.  Given more time, we could have spent a week and still not properly seen it all!

Ford Presidential Museum

Wrapping up our Michigan trip, we took a step back in time to the 1970's...a time of turmoil, a time of disco.  We visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids (not to be confused with the Presidential Library, located in Ann Arbor), where the kids learned about Watergate & the Bicentennial.

At each of the Presidential Libraries, the kids have seen, and asked to add, The White House Cut & Assemble to their collection.  I might be inclined to do so at our next library, if only for an indoor evening activity.