It’s quite a production to plan a field trip for students. So it’s fitting, during this week of giving thanks, to thank teachers at our schools for planning these outings that enrich and expose students to the world beyond the classroom.
My daughter’s third grade class arrived by bus at the Mill City Museum in downtown Minneapolis on a crisp Fall day. The parents who agreed to chaperone showed up in significant numbers too in order to meet the highly suggested one parent to four students tour ratio.
We met at 9:45 and the kids and parents filed into the museum and gathered to assemble our groups and review the rules. We go over the acronym WARN: Walk (no running!), Adult (stay with your assigned Adult), Respect (for the museum and its artifacts) and No (no food, drink, pens).
The kids and adults alike get green and orange neon colored stickers to wear as nametags. I have a squirrely group of four girls including my daughter, Ava. We are one of nearly 50 small groups at the museum today. We move through five activity areas throughout the tour.
We start out in the kitchen. After thoroughly washing hands, kids head in their small groups based on the role they’ll have in the education of flour. There are farmers, millers, elevator operators, bakers and grocers. If kids need a reminder, their white hats indicate their assigned role. Each table makes drop biscuits and learns how to operate a spoonula and pastry blender. There is flour, baking soda, salt, butter and buttermilk in the recipe that yield eight very uneven biscuits. The baker whisks them away once they’re oven ready.
While they bake, the kids gather in their groups and the museum baker takes them through the process according to sets of props. The kids line up and take each prop around the circle so the group can view them. This holds their attention. At the completion of the interactive lesson, they happily eat their biscuits.
We then move on to the water area that shows the power of water through pressurized tubes and mini Mill City models that allow small wooden pieces to move through the Mighty Mississippi. It gets crazy loud in here. We last 12 minutes.
We now have our student and chaperone versions of scavenger hunts for the main museum. The girls have time to find seven items based on the picture clues and answer three questions per item. They went for the Pillsbury Doughboy first, of course.
The tower is our next activity. The elevator all 40 of us fit into is stadium seating. Some kids worry about getting sick. The tower tour operator explains that we’ll feel some vibrations and move through eight floors – up, down, up, down and finally back up to the observation area. The lights dim and gates close while the story of flour complete with mill workers voiceovers and holograms that show us the history of the mill. The kids are captivated.
We exit and spend time discussing the massive amount of flour dust the process creates. We learn that the dust is more explosive than dynamite and upon a rebuild in 1880, new sifter-type funnels helped contain the dust and made the mill safer.
Next, we head up to the observation deck with an indoor and outdoor area offering great views of the Mississippi. Ten minutes later, we go back to the main floor via a glass elevator. It’s time for lunch. I wiggle my way into a seat at the table and take the opportunity to relate to the world of a third-grader. Fascinating stuff.
Lastly, it’s time for the 19 minute movie on Minneapolis. Even though we’d been to the museum before in June, Ava and I hadn’t seen this feature. It was informative, historical and insightful. Again, it held the kids’ attention. By now it’s 12:55 and time for the kids to catch the 1:00 bus back to school. I was so thankful I made the time to spend the morning with them. A bonus: my daughter enjoyed hanging out with me and didn’t give me the cold, embarrassing shoulder.