Posts Tagged With: hands-on learning

Friday Flashback: Displaying Nebraskans in World War Two: Exhibit Closing Soon at the Nebraska History Museum

Writing about Nebraska’s part in World War 2 has been a part of upcoming blog post plans.  But I had to accelerate the timing due to the fact that I found out the Nebraska History Museum is closing this formerly permanent exhibit.

photo of World War II living room exhibit

Photo taken directly from Nebraska History site

Now they have their reasons, and they are pretty good ones.  Due to increased funding, they are doing some restructuring. Here is the official announcement that I received in an e-mail from the Nebraska State Historical Society.  (No, I did not receive special notice – I am simply a part of their e-mail list! 🙂

“What Did You Do in the War? Nebraska in World War II” will close to the public on Sunday, March 2, 2014. Artifacts in the Nebraska History Museum exhibit in Lincoln will be stored away and exhibit components disassembled as the museum prepares for a major infrastructure renovation funded by the Nebraska Legislature. The museum at 131 Centennial Mall North ( 15th & P Streets) in Lincoln is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 1:00-4:30 p.m.  Closed state holidays. Admission is free.

 A variety of resources about Nebraska in World War II is available on the Nebraska State Historical Society website, including articles from Nebraska History Magazine, veterans’ stories, photographs, a newspaper aimed at 4th-graders, a teacher’s guide, and more. Visit and type World War II into the search box.  

 For more information call 402-471-4782 or visit

We actually used many of the Nebraska State Historical Society’s resources to have our own “Living out World War 2 in Nebraska” day last spring.  In an upcoming post, I will share what our family did to learn more about those who lived here during the mid-century war.  For now, I simply wanted to encourage you to check out this great World War 2 exhibit.  This area has been a favorite one for my kids to explore every time we visit.   Hopefully we will make it back one last time before the display is gone.

Categories: Family Outings, Flashback Fridays, Lincoln, Metro, Military and Memorials, Nebraska History, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Place in Lincoln for Kids: The Lincoln Children’s Museum

One of my goals in writing this blog is to help families discover new places across Nebraska.  But even I have to admit that this familiar stand-by location would probably be the place my kids would often pick to go if they had their choice.

Children's Museum Z

Hip, hip, hooray for the Lincoln Children’s Museum! Within the last year, they have done some updates about the place.  I thought that the museum could not get any better.  But, it did!

There is so much to see and do about the Lincoln Children’s Museum.  Knowing what to write about is actually a bit of a challenge.  So, instead I decide to show you a glimpse of just what this favorite place has to offer.  The pictures are from a couple of visits.  Anyway, this will at least give you an idea!

Children's Museum Main Floor

The first floor exists for the imagination of “What do you want to be?”  A pizza parlor, farm area, grocery store, vet’s office, fire truck, television station, hospital, and possibly my kids’ favorite: Nebraska football and volleyball players.  They recently  added a car body mechanic shop.  Kids can design their own vehicle.

Now you have to decide up or down.  In the colder months when my kids were littler, we tended to avoid the basement.  Why?  That was the area where the water play occurred.  Not fun to take your kids outside into the freezing cold with wet clothes.  Of course, that has always been one of their most requested places.

Children's Museum Basement

They have completely redone that area as well – the possibilities are amazing.  They also like the truck driving/truck stop restaurant area.  And dressing up for the stage.  And climbing through the “gopher holes.”  This floor also has the room that changes often with temporary exhibits.  Their current exploratory adventure?  KEVA planks that my kids are exploring on a smaller scale above.

Now on to the top floor …

Children's Museum 3rd floor

Makes sense that the upstairs allows the kids to “fly high” and features not only a plane and terminal area but also a space shuttle for the kids to blast off.  This floor was also updated to include a train the kids can “ride.”  Face painting areas can be found on both the top and bottom floors.  I have always liked it best when my kids “make their own face.”  My friend’s cute little girl demonstrates her efforts above. 🙂

Tomorrow for “Friday Photography,” I will share about my former favorite place in the museum.  The room my kids have now outgrown.

Children's Museum Kit's Corner


Categories: Lincoln, Metro, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Enjoying Edgerton Explore-it Center in Aurora, Nebraska

If you have ever been to Edgerton Explorit Center, you were probably able to guess where we were simply from the pictures.  Once you have been to Nebraska’s Hands-on Science Center,  you will always remember.  And if you happen to forget, your kids will definitely not.  For they will be begging to go back …  All of the fun possibilities make for a memorable experience.

Edgerton creations

We enjoyed making the trip to Aurora with several other homeschooling families.  Watching all of the kids find their favorite areas and experiences was definitely enjoyable.  As you can imagine, the room did get a bit noisy as the kids investigated and learned through play.  Who says education needs to be quiet?

Edgerton Bubble Collage 2

Every time I have been to Edgerton with kids (both as a classroom teacher & as a mom), the bubble area is always the favorite.  What made this trip more meaningful was arranging in advance for two different science demonstrations.  This elevated the outing from random wanderings by the children to structured, interesting learning.

Edgerton Bubble Collage 1

Not only did the instructor explain the properties of bubbles, but she also let several of the kids be in a bubble.  Whenever kids can be involved in the process, tangible learning takes place.  Interactive experiences will always add to knowledge.

Edgerton Science

The kids were able to explore the “Explorit Zone” again in between the demonstrations.  The 2nd session involved blowing things up and freezing things – always a hit with kids!  I appreciate how the center bring science to life for the kids!  We plan on returning to visit again sometimes in the next several months!

P.S. If you are not familiar with Doc Edgerton (the namesake for the center), he grew up in Nebraska.  As the developer of the strobe light, he is noted scientist.  Including prototypes, a whole gallery displays his photographs and experiments.  More to come on his work tomorrow …

P.P.S. Also – I realize I have been remiss at posting “Place at a Glance” boxes.  I actually have a speaking engagement tonight, so I will have to get to adding that later.  For now, I hope you enjoyed reading about our family’s wonderful experiences at the Edgerton Explorit Center in Aurora, Nebraska.  One of my favorite Nebraska towns!

Categories: Pioneer Country, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Where Is Nebraska Anyway?: Me on the Map

On a high school missions trip to California/Mexico, I was a bit surprised that many of my new found friends were completely unfamiliar with Nebraska.  They had a vague idea that it was a state in the middle of the country, but many of them had not given the Midwest much thought at all.  We used this fact to our advantage, convincing many of them (at least for awhile), that a frequent Nebraska activity was going out cow tipping.  Evidently they missed taking a simple geography class.

For one of our homeschool co-op classes this trimester, we are featuring this important subject of geography.  I get the privilege of co-teaching eight energetic kindergarten-first graders about the world.  Until this class, I am not sure that I recognized just how abstract the concept of “place” can be for younger ones.

Previously, I had used the book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney and Annette Cable in teaching my own kids.  This book does an excellent job at putting a child’s own places in order: room, house, street, town, state, country, continent, planet. Progressive steps to explain a distant reality.

Book cover image from Amazon

As I was looking for interactive geography ideas, I was very excited to find a mom that had taken the time to plan an activity that would bring this book to life for the young ones!  Finally in First originate the activity, and then Teach Mama added her own spin. Circles of varying sizes to show all of the places each child can call home.  The largest one is earth, and then the smallest of the seven circles is house.

This project did take a bit to duplicate for 8 people.  I cut out most of the circles in advance.  Partly to fit them in the baggies, partly because I knew that even the gluing part was going to take a bit of time.  This lesson needed to emphasize understanding places, not the cutting or gluing part – requiring both would have taken too long.

I did follow their suggested links to finish the projects.  Your Child Learns has one of the best collections of online maps that I have seen.  I did use their Nebraska map.  I liked the fact that they included several major cities and major rivers.  I printed a copy, then shrunk it down 50% to get the map to fit on the “state circle.”  For multiple copies, I was able to fit four of these 50% size Nebraska maps on one page.

If you are looking to help your child or students understand the abstract concept of places that are personally relevant, the above activity is a great one.  If you are wanting to simply introduce the idea of a map, the book There’s a Map on my Lap is a fun one.

Book cover image from Amazon

This title is from the “Cat in the Hat” learning series.  In true Seuss fashion, Author Tish Rabe uses nonsensical places to begin to explain the concepts of maps.  The book is FULL of information.  My students did not appreciate the fact that I would stop after each page for a brief further explanation of the skills presented.  (They just wanted to enjoy the book! 🙂 )  Always a good deal to learn more about maps.  After all, everyone should know where Nebraska is located!

Categories: Activities @ Home, Recommended Reading, Region or City, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marvelous Morrill Hall (Discovery Center): Hands On Learing in Lincoln

DSCN3648_697August Nikon 13

Yesterday for Wordless Wednesday, we were at Morrill Hall – specifically in the Discovery Center downstairs.  My kids could stay in that room for a VERY long time.  And we were probably there at least an hour and did not even begin to see half of what is contained in that room. This room is crammed with so much to see and do that I decided to use pictures to show, then adding captions to tell what you are seeing, rather than including lots of text.  Since my pictures were definitely a bit cryptic yesterday, I will start by including a complete picture of the four close-ups featured yesterday.

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Cuter than they probably are in real life!

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Reminds me of a Georgia O’Keefe photograph

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Am fine with seeing this animal mounted rather than live and in person!

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Their “tree” demonstrates the different seasons and also explains about different animals.  You can see the puppet show/stage in the background.

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You can take down a box, then illustrate what you see!  Great for those who have an artistic eye.

The remaining pictures were actually taken by my son, Zechariah.  He has decided that he may want to be a photographer someday.  So, he practiced at the museum and snapped 234 shots (not including the ones he deleted to make room on the SD card for more pictures).  He wanted me to attach them in a file for you, but I decided instead that I would just include a few favorites! 🙂  (You’re welcome!)

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You can pretend to “dig” for dinosaurs with Ashfall (located in Northern Nebraska) pictured in the background).

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Both “animals” for crawling under, not climbing on top!

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Collections to play with, and you can see just a glimpse of the puzzles and books underneath.

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Collections to observe (strangely reminiscent of a project I completed in 4th grade long ago!)

DSC03083_388Ferg & Gov8.13

Just outside the door – the closest I ever want to get to one of these!

If you never made it to Morrill Hall, now is your chance.  Admission is FREE tonight and next Thursday from 4:30-8:00.  For active military members, this is also a Blue Star Museum – free admission still for a few more weeks.  The rest of the museum also happens to be fabulous.  (Although I will say from a personal viewpoint, I do not completely agree with some of their evolutionary conclusions, but …) I will write more blog posts in the future on some of Morrill Hall’s additional areas.

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My little photographer

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Somehow my oldest only made it into this picture.  Another great area in the museum for another day!

Place at a Glance

Name/Location University of Nebraska Museum of Natural History (14th & Vine in Lincoln)
Website/Facebook The museum is also known as Morrill Hall; Museum on Facebook
Open hours Monday-Saturday 9:30-4;30 (Thursdays until 8); Sunday 1:30-4:30
What to Know This museum features natural and cultural history items
Cost Adults: $6; Children 5-18: $3; under 4 free; maximum cost for a family is $13; additional cost for planetarium;   UNL students & faculty are free; Blue Star Museum
Parking Free parking outside museum; must write down license plate #
Group Tours Self-guided tours are free; extra for gallery or planetarium tours
Museum Manners Many items are irreplaceable; supervision is necessary for much of the museum; discovery room is kid friendly but still requires child observation
Recommended Ages Stroller accessible; most kids and adults any age would enjoy the visit
Categories: Blue Star Museum, Lincoln, Lincoln "Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown", Metro, Wordless Wednesdays: Where Were We in Nebraska? | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Riding” Tractors in the City (of Lincoln)

Did you guess our location from my pictures yesterday?

July and August cell phone 258

Place at a Glance

Name/Location Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum in Lincoln (UNL East Campus)
Website/Facebook UNL Tractor Museum; Larsen Tractor Museum on Facebook
Open hours Tuesday-Friday from 9 to 4; Saturdays from 10-2; closed major holidays
What to Know Mostly stroller accessible – (stairs to get inside but could use alt. entrance?)
Cost Donation
Parking Lot directly north of the white museum building
Group Tours Can definitely happen; smaller groups may work better
Museum Manners Do not climb on any tractors without permission (different guides have different expectations); no running as cement floors can be slippery
Recommended Ages About age 2 + to be able to sit on the tractors and really enjoy the fun

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One of the older tractors in the Museum.  Not exactly the same Ford Motor Company, but somebody happily borrowed the name.  Then produced some shoddy tractors.

A little history … the word “tractor” was not used in the general population until around 1906.  Around this time, they were being introduced to farmers and would have been widely successful.  Except for the fact that the machines broke down … A LOT!  A man named Wilmot Crozier had personal experience with this, so when he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, he helped to pass the the Nebraska Tractor Bill.  This law required every tractor to be tested before being sold to the public.

This law was extended to other states.  In just under a century, 2,000 + tractors have been tested at the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory.  As this is the only test spot in the continental U.S., all tractor models must come here before they go to market.  This testing is usually done, partially by agricultural students, in the fall and winter.  The Tractor Museum Visitor’s Guide gives more details on the history and background of the tractor testing.

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The tractor test track is in the background.  Since the 0.4 mile track was not being used, the museum guys encouraged the kids to run the distance instead. I probably looked silly, but I jogged right along with them. 🙂

Although the museum part has been open for 15 years, the place was not exactly on my radar until I had boys.  We have now visited many times, and something about climbing on tractors never gets old for them.

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The huge room is filled with mostly tractors of every shape, color and size.  Some are easier to climb on and a few are more for just looking and enjoying.

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One of the few non-tractor machines.  A college professor used to drive this beauty daily to work.  And this car is only for looking, not for getting inside!

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One of my favorite thing about this museum is the retired gentlemen who give the tours.  My grandpa was a farmer, and as many of the guides are retired from farming in some way, these men remind me of conversations I had with my Grandpa Gus.  This gentleman had lived on a farm in his younger days, so he was telling my older boys all about his experiences driving these tractors when he was growing up.

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My daughter enjoyed the experience just as much as her brothers!

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This is the tractor that the kids are always free to climb in and “drive.”

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The room full of old-fashioned farming implements.  We will be exploring this sometime during the school year when we are studying pioneers.

P.S. For whatever reason, trying to find the exact location of the museum on UNL East Campus was a bit confusing to me as the white building is not directly on a main road.  Until I realized that the vertical stack is nearby.  Now I look for this every time and drive right there!

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The building directly behind the museum to the north.

Categories: Agriculture, Lincoln, Lincoln "Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown", Metro, Nebraska History, Wordless Wednesdays: Where Were We in Nebraska? | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Park for Pioneers: Lincoln’s Wildlife Refuge

Does being around people too long make you claustrophobic?  Would you love to see prairie instead of buildings?  Would 668 acres of land only sparsely filled with buildings do?  Long to go for hike?  How about 8 miles of hiking trails?  You will find all of this and more at Lincoln’s Pioneer’s Park.

Pioneer Park Nature Center Buffalo signs

Place at a Glance

Name/Location Pioneer’s Park Nature Center: near Coddington and W. Van Dorn: Lincoln
Website/Facebook Pioneer Park Information; Facebook (includes event updates)
Open hours Monday-Saturday: 8:30-5:00; Sunday Noon-5; closed only 3 holidays
What to Know The park itself is open from sunrise to sundown; only building hours are limited; BUG SPRAY IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; allow at least two hours to explore if you are coming from a distance
Cost Free, although donations are always welcome
Parking Directly in between the two nature center buildings: West part of the park
Group Tours No reservations needed, although you may want to call first if you are hoping for a specific talk to make sure there is adequate staff.
Museum Manners Most exhibits and animals on display are for touching – occasionally certain animals may need space.  Always check when in doubt.  Only real “rule” to follow is no running inside – could scare the animals that live there.
Recommended Ages Child friendly for any age; sturdy strollers recommended for long hikes


The word “pathfinder” is a synonym for “pioneer,” and this Lincoln treasure allows you to do just that.  If you have time to explore, you never know what you will discover.  So, grab your walking shoes and go!

Pioneer Park hobbit hole

A place we stumbled upon that my kids like to call “The Hobbit Hole.”

Both of the two interpretive nature buildings are full of many items and animals to touch.  They have nature books to browse through, puzzles to do, animal skins to feel and even various live reptiles and birds to interact with.  We have been many times and still have never managed to see everything.  (Or even half of what they have available at this park.)  If you live close by, you could make many quick trips to explore.  But if you are driving from a distance, I would allow several hours to even begin to appreciate all that is available.

Pioneer Park island

This island area near one of the center buildings is full of wildlife.  My kids love to cross the bridge and see the deer as well as many other animals that call this park home.

I first really explored Pioneer’s Park when I was in high school.  As a former cross country runner, this location was our main race course.  Having traversed the race path many times, this park provides an unexpected glimpse of the beauty of God’s creation despite its close proximity to such an urban setting.  (Too bad I had to keep moving and was not allowed to stop and appreciate the wonders!)

Indian smoke signals at Pioneer Park

This “Smoke Signals” statue is another favorite destination of my kids.

Want to know more about how Pioneer’s Park came to be?  Visit: Pioneer Park’s History.  This post explain just a bit of what is available – I didn’t even mention the pillars area or the amphitheater or the ponds or the buffalo or …  Guess you will have to head there yourself to find out more!


Categories: Lincoln, Lincoln "Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown", Metro, Passport Pursuit Programs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Czech out the Costumes: Nebraska History Trunks

Have you ever wanted to experience history as opposed to just reading about it?  The Nebraska History Museum actually has trunks full of artifacts and activities that are available for families and classrooms to check out.  We have borrowed both the archeology trunk (where we had fun digging for treasures).  We also “czech”ed out that heritage trunk as well and enjoyed trying on costumes when we studied the Czechoslovakia several years ago.

Czech Gabriel

A traditional Czech outfit for boys.

Czech Zeke

This shows a bit more of the intricate detail on the costume.

Czech Kaylee

The outfit was definitely was too big on her, but she still looked really cute!

(My youngest was only 2 – he was WAY too little this time for the costumes! 😦 )

Here is the information (directly from the Nebraska History Museum website)that explains about the trunk that we were able to bring home.

The Czech trunk provides educators with reproduction Czech objects for use in hands-on activities. Objects include: a feather baster, a cornhusk doll, an egg decorated with the batik method, festival clothing for a boy and a girl, Sokol uniforms for a boy and a girl, photographs, transparencies (of the Czech Republic in 1993, a typical farmstead, a Nebraska map, and a linear village plan), an audio tape for music and dance, video tapes featuring Sokol gymnastics and Czech dancing, and recipe, culture, and tradition books. Eight lesson plans are available on the topics of Czech farmsteads, stories and legends, clothing and costume, crafts, Sokol gymnastics, food, music and dance, and festivals. In addition to the lesson itself, each lesson plan includes background information, objectives, and a list of objects to be used with the lesson. A glossary is also included. Contact your ESU for information on borrowing a trunk. If you are not affiliated with an ESU, contact the Nebraska State Historical Society.  1-800-833-6747, or 402-471-4764 in Lincoln

Besides this trunk and their Nebraska archeological trunk, there are two others. Past-times & plaything (Victorian-era toys) and a fur trade trunk.  You can pick up & return the trunks in person or pay a shipping cost.  They are available on a first come, first serve basis.  They also have activity carts that you can enjoy in person at the Nebraska History Museum (located in Lincoln).  But more on that in a post to come …

Categories: Activities @ Home, Nebraska History | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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