Tuesday, September 15

Roadschool Trip to Eau Claire

Ever been looking for one thing, but found another?  In Wisconsin, we stumbled upon this cool Paul Bunyan Museum!  Further down the street was the Children's Museum of Eau Claire.  All in all, a great (and inexpensive!) day in this city!

While the legend of Paul Bunyan is well-known, maybe you don't know that he was actually just around 6' 5" tall!  The other men were all my size, and that made him look like a giant...hence the folklore.   This museum has a nice balance of folklore, history, geography, and science.  It's a tiny little place, and you'd almost have to know it was there to be find it... 
The logging industry was the economic foundation of the North Woods for several decades.  Inside the museum, we learned how to distinguish different types of trees by their leaves and bark.  We had a chance to follow the logging steps, from felling trees all the way to running them through the saw-house.  Also, there were several games to play and you could even go "ice skating!" 
Inside the historical mock-up, we had a chance to see how the loggers lived.  It must have been cramped, dirty, and miserable during the long winters.  There were nine beds for thirty-six men, and the cook had to live in the corner of the kitchen!   Each of the outbuildings had an audio recording, autobiographic-style, talking about how that building was used.  The boys were particularly taken by the stables and blacksmith shop. 
What we discovered was that the museum we were looking for actually sat back-to-back with the Paul Bunyan Museum.  Go figure!  We had a picnic lunch and walked over to the Chippewa Valley Museum.  Most of the museum was closed for indoor construction, which was a bummer.  It would have been nice if they had told us that when we bought the tickets....however, it was still a nice, albeit short, glimpse into Wisconsin history. 
There was a lot of Little House in the Big Woods items, since the Ingalls family lived in this area during that book's time.  Back at the hotel later that evening, the boys decided to pretend they were in a logging camp.  We hiked the trails and made 'ruts' in the path.  We identified trees and decided which ones would be best for building, and which ones should end up in the wood chipper!

Paul Bunyan & Chippewa Valley Resources:
For the afternoon, we visited the Children's Museum....another one of the ASTC Passport museums that grants you free membership.  Upstairs, they have several exhibits about Wisconsin history - featuring logging and fishing.
We found a camping exhibit where the boys had to follow the Cub Scout methods of building a fire and setting up tents.  Then it was downstairs, to the museum's basement, where there is a HUGE water exhibit.  It's so extensive that the children have to wear aprons in an attempt to keep them dry.  We spent most of our time at the water guns and ...some sort of engineering exhibit.  By turning various valves, you could direct water to the other exhibits and soak down unsuspecting visitors.  ..............you can imagine how much fun this one was!
The mid-floor is set up like a small town, where children can practice working in different jobs.  Here, my oldest is working as an electrician.  He had to rewire this 'house' to make the fan and lights work.  Thanks to his dad and grandpa, he did this rather quickly!
Off to the side is a fabulously gross exhibit on the digestive system.  It's so gross!!!  You go in through the mouth, pass through the digestive organs (complete with sound effects), and come out...the other end.  Naturally, we spent a lot of time here, as did many of the other elementary-aged children at the museum.
Not surprisingly, they now have a wonderful understanding of how the human digestive organs work together to create poop.....and that's all there is to say about that!

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