Upwards of 200 third graders from the Dallas Center-Grimes School District got a taste of the rugged life of the Great Plains Friday during a daylong field trip at Forest Park Museum, the Dallas County Conservation Department’s little bit of living prairie history.
The children moved among eight stations, including squeezing into a log cabin for a taste of domestic life on the prairie and marching into a one-room schoolhouse for a lesson in flatlands mental culture. There was also time for traditional rural songs and stories and dances and games.
Forest Park Museum Curator Pete Malmberg led the children into the wilderness of Forest Park’s 13 acres of restored tallgrass prairie and arboretum, complete with a salamander siting.
The youngsters also got a taste of Iowa civilization in the middle 1800s when Sue Leslie of Perry welcomed them to the stark comforts of an authentic log home, and Miss Rosa Lee, played by Wilma Blom of Pella, waited in the Alton School to deliver the day’s lesson.
Before the children entered the one-room schoolhouse — tidied up Tuesday by volunteers from Nu Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an organization of women educators in Dallas County — Miss Rosa Lee asked the young people to form themselves into two lines, one for boys and one for girls. She brandished a little birch rod and explained the traditional method of discipline in Iowa schools.
Pioneer life in Iowa in the 1850s was probably much like life in Iowa is today: rough and raw for the most part, with little or no margin for sweetness and light. People mostly worked and read their Bibles.
Forest Park Museum field trips and tours are one part of the Dallas County Conservation Department’s extensive suite of outreach services available to the public. For more information about the facility’s many programs, visit their website or call 515-465-3577.