It was a beautiful morning in Tulsa a few days ago as we headed to the Woody Guthrie Center downtown. The center opened in 2013, but this was our first visit and it was a blast! I’ll be honest and tell you besides hearing my grandparents play his records when I was little, and his obvious calling card “This Land is our Land”, I really didn’t know too much about Woody Guthrie. The center certainly took care of that.
The story of who Woody was and his contributions to the world are presented in a sensory interactive way that brings him to life during your visit. There was very little reading required to enjoy this museum, so even the littlest ones were fully engaged. The first thing you come to is a theatre playing a movie about Woody’s life. I really didn’t expect to be so touched by this film, but the way they emphasized how “American” his style of traveling and taking in different influences from the people around him, got me. Maybe it reminded me of another Okie I know, just a little!
The Beatles exhibit now on display was an added bonus of musical fun. There was some major arguing over whose turn it was to do the “lesson with Ringo” on the drums. That was such a hit. Penny liked listening to the audio of them from one of their first press conferences. She said they sounded a little bit like One Direction.geez.
One more thing, the Woody Guthrie Center has a great selection of lesson plans of their site to supplement your visit. I used This Land is your Land for grade 3 before we went to spark some discussion, and plan to use the Dust Bowl lesson later this week.
Last week the kids and I made the trek to Oklahoma City to visit Harn Homestead with our homeschool group. Harn Homestead is the former home of William Harn who came to Oklahoma to help sort out land disputes after the land run of 1889. He donated half of the land needed to build the capital building, which is right down the street. His niece lived there until 1967 when she handed over the property to Oklahoma City so that children could learn about the life the Harns led. Which is where we come in..
The first stop on our tour was the farmhouse on the property. The house is set up in a surprisingly hands on way to teach kids about the work involved in farm and family life in the turn-of-the early nineteenth century. The kids could “cook” in the kitchen, play in the living room and get dressed in pioneer clothing. It was a full immersion experience and they loved it!
True to form River had his own interpretation of the pioneer look.
Next we visited the one room school house and the kids got a taste of what school was like back then. The visit was complete with bench seats, boys on one side girls on the other, slates and chalk, and a teacher who stayed in character as a pioneer schoolmarm. For a moment I was nervous about our modern manners holding up in this situation, but the children rose to the occasion and played right along!
Just like today, recess is everyone’s favorite part of the school day.
Our last stop was the barn where the kids were given a lesson on the Harn Homtead motto of , “waste not, want not”, by seeing how things on a farm can be used and reused in so many different ways.
When we planned the trip to Harn Homestead, I assumed it would be in a rural area but I was completely wrong. It is a six minute walk from the capital building, right in the middle of the city! Since the Harn’s are part of the history of the land run, Harn Homestead has land run reenactment days in the spring. Our day at Harn Homestead brought an important period in Oklahoma’s history alive and the children left with a personal connection to our state’s pioneering days. Thank you Mr. Harn and Ms. Wilson!
The Tulsa Zoo is a perennial favorite of ours. I think everyone has gone though an animal phase of some kind that could only be satisfied by frequent zoo visits. Since we have a membership, I ask the kids what two or three things are on their must-see list before we go. If we don’t plan ahead this way, I feel obligated to make the trek around the entire zoo which always seems to wear the little ones and mama out past the point of maximum zoo enjoyment!
my map man
On our latest visit we decided to trade our treasures and exchange some nature knowledge at the Cox Nature Exchange. The Nature Exchange is located fairly close to the entrance of the zoo, near the train station.
To participate in the nature exchange, simply bring in any item found in nature, with the exception of most bird related items as those have too many protection laws to chance it. The Nature Exchange helper will assist you with identifying your specimen, and engage with you in conversation about your find. You can then turn in your item and earn points for other items they have in the exchange. If your child doesn’t want to part with their treasure, they can also earn points for any knowledge they share. It’s a brilliant concept for those who love to collect specimens and ask questions and discuss them with others who are interested.
presenting our finds
items you can trade
Honestly, things gathered from nature and brought home for study is one area where I have a hard time matching my children’s enthusiasm so I really appreciated this experience for them!
Everyone left with a plan for what they could bring on their next visit!
We made it over to Claremore this week to say hello to Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers, at the Will Rogers Museum.
To get everyone’s head around what a guy he was, we watched The Story of Will Rogers, narrated by Bob Hope. The movie has great footage of him with several presidents which was cool for the kids to see because we have been all about the presidents lately!
In front of the building is the tomb and memorial of Will Rogers. Clever quotes are everywhere at this museum, and none more memorable than the one he requested for his epitaph.
” I never met a man I didn’t like” – Will Rogers
Inside the museum there are several rooms each with a different themed display. We enjoyed the large room devoted to family information and mementos. There were lots of photos and some Cherokee writings and bows and arrows which the kids thought were amazing.
Viggo and Penny checking out the display of miniatures depicting scenes from Will’s life.
The lower level of the museum is set up as a play area for kids. There are building stations and a mini stage and backstage area, much like the one Will had made for his own children at his California ranch. River and Willa took advantage of the ropes and things they had out for kids on the lawn.
I really enjoyed our day here. I love when the people working in the museum are genuinely excited about what they are sharing with their guests and that is definitely the case here. One man gave a talk on Will’s life using Will’s style of roping while casually tossing out his signature wit. He also stopped kids all though the museum to ask questions and give them the inside scoop!
I found this scavenger hunt on the museum site and printed them out to use as review once we came home. Scavenger hunt activities can be fun for kids if that is what you are focusing on, but I find they can also take you out of the moment a bit, so a lot of the time I will use them as a before or after supplement to our visit. It was interesting for me to see what they remembered!
While we were out running our midtown errands the other day, we decided to make an impromptu stop at one of our Tulsa favorites , Philbrook! We only had a few minutes to spare so I asked the friendly docent at the desk if there were any new children’s activities or exibits we should try. She suggested we give the Philbrook Scavenger hunt a whirl. Its quick and light and gives children a look at Philbrook as a home, built by a family who were gathering their inspirations from around the world and bringing them home to Tulsa.
Ask for the “Secrets of the House” paper at the front desk. You read through simple clues that lead from one place in the museum to the next. The whole thing took us about 25 minutes to complete.
Grandmother Pam teamed up with Viggo.
Anyone ever noticed these initials before?
We ended our expedition in everyone’s favorite spot, the gardens!
If you are looking for a place to let your children release their excess of energy in a stimulating and educational environment, the head over to the Tulsa Children’s Museum!
Not only do I really enjoy this place, I’m also just really grateful it’s here now. Having spent the first few years of parenthood traveling to almost every major city with kids and babies in tow, desperately searching out places for those little people to run free, I practically became a children’s museum connoisseur. I have seen them all. Really, all! Whenever we headed home to T-Town, I always found myself thinking, “Where is our children’s museum?!”
Well, here it is!
The kids took off their shoes and went straight to enjoying the fun and practically indestructable exhibits in the large room of the museum.
A huge slide made entirely of tape! A dream.
Willa was beyond proud of herself for being brave enough to slide. She went “again!” and “again!”.
Viggo was digging this bungee maze and was reenacting the scene from Get Smart where Max and 99 limbo around the lasers. That kid.
Another play area where kids can scoot around and catch balls flying out of tubes, or just have your big sister provide all your entertainment.
I couldn’t resist these chairs. They are almost untippable!
In addition to the main exhibit hall, there is a temporary exhibit called red dirt dinosaurs. The exhibit includes animatronic dinos and information on species found right here in OK.
And as if all of this wasn’t enough to engage everyone, there is one more room tucked away in the back of the dinosaur exhibit, where kids can sit down and work through a simple science experiment with the help of the staff. They told us the experiment changes weekly to give frequent visitors something new.
Another snowy day in Tulsa called for a trip to the Oklahoma Aquarium. Here we could at least pretend we were in a tropical environment, observing their wide variety of underwater inhabitants!
We don’t make it to the aquarium as often as I would like because its further south than we usually drive, and since I haven’t purchased a membership, admission for our group can get pricey. However, I discovered a program on their website called “Fish Tales”, which offers children half price admission if you print out a form and fill it with a drawing or story about a fish. It’s a great way to get everybody excited about the aquarium and save a little money too!
Tales are displayed inside the aquarium.
I love how many hands on exhibits there are for the brave ones in the group.
Hey River! Get out of there!
Probably the most impressive element of the aquarium is the shark tunnel. You walk through and under 15 bull sharks on the move! It’s amazing! The tank is also home to four nurse sharks who are usually found lazily positioned in front of the vents near the bottom, letting fresh oxygen flow over their gills. The bull sharks however must swim constantly which makes for an exciting live action show as you walk through the exhibit.
As Ezra and I hurried ahead to shorten our time underwater, an employee stopped to inform us that under the thick acrylic walls of the tank is actually the safest spot in the museum, and their designated tornado shelter. Thanks but no thanks!