Calvert Elementary Fourth Grade Take History- Related Trip to Homestead National Monument
Calvert Elementary’s fourth grade got a treat when going on their annual trip to the Homestead National Monument on Monday, May 14.
Homestead National Monument is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act. The Homestead Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, allowed citizens to claim 160 acres of land, or one quarter section, to farm. By improving the land, building a house, and paying a filing fee, these homesteaders could own the land in five years.
Fourth grade teachers Dan Shaffer, Michael Henrichs, and Judy Crawford took 56 students to the Homestead National Monument, which expanded its educational program for the anniversary. The educational program can now involve 300 students, twice as many as before, and includes eight activities. These changes were introduced along with a wave of elementary and middle school field trips, most of which are taken by fourth grade classes.
The activity with the most impact included seeing the Homestead Act itself, which is on public display. Its move from Washington DC initiated changes in the Homestead National Monument, including increased security and the addition of a light and temperature controlled exhibit for the delicate document until it returns to Washington DC on May 28. Students were particularly excited to see Lincoln’s signature, which is rarely on public display. This exhibit also included a sheet of parchment paper which patrons could feel. Classes had their pictures taken to be put in records so they could be taken out at other anniversary celebrations for the Homestead Act.
Other stations included a new film which will only be shown this summer, a Stake-Your-Claim game which taught how to use primary reasearch, a chores relay race, a discussion about national parks, a tag-like game called Red Lion that pioneer children played, a lesson on Morse Code, and a discussion on travel and the railroad. These opportunities are possible because of the volunteers running the games and stations.
Homestead National Monument is open weekdays 8:30-5:00 and 9:00-5:00. From Memorial Day until Labor Day open hours will be 8:30-6:00 every day for the summer season. The Homestead National Monument will be having special events running from May 20-26 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act. The Homestead Act document leaves Nebraska May 28. NET and NET2 television are airing special episodes of “Nebraska Stories” concerning the Homestead act.
Before attending the field trip, the students had already learned about Daniel Freeman, the first homesteader, on whose land the Homestead National Monument is positioned. They had also learned other facts about the Homestead Act and pioneers.
Calvert Elementary’s fourth grade has gone on this field trip for the last several years to cap off their section on pioneering and reinforce what they’d learned that year. For Judy Crawford, this was her last field trip before retirement. Calvert’s fourth grade enjoyed this unique opportunity to learn about the Homestead Act and pioneering while playing games and seeing historic artifacts.