Tuesday, June 10, 2008

End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

I'm finally getting back to finishing up my Portland posts. On Thursday, we headed over to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The center consists of two parts; a typical museum where you look at and read about the exhibits and a presentation.

In the exhibit building there were some things to look at but not touch. There were actual pioneer dresses, a wagon (you can see part of it in the background), and other small artifacts. There were only a few hands on exhibits such as this cardboard quilting activity Sammy is working on. There were two scavenger hunt sheets; a drawing-based one and a written one. There were maps that you can put a post-it note on with your family name to show where your family is from and a basic family tree worksheet. A couple of bonnets are available for your daughters to try on. But that was about it in the main rooms.

In a back room were some interesting activities. One of them was this "wagon" that you could pack with the items you need to take with you on the Oregon Trail. There were pans, buckets, bags of food staples, canned goods, and other items that the pioneers would have needed for the trip. It is the kids' job to attempt to pack all of these things in the wagon. When they are done, they must put it all back for the next visitors. In this room, there was also a wheat grinder, a photo board (you know those things boards with drawings on them that you put your faces in the holes?), some pioneer readers, and some pioneer toys to play with.

The most interesting part of the center was the presentation. A pioneer-garbed woman talks about the traveler's experience from purchasing items, to difficult decisions on what to bring, to things that might happen on the trail. In the process, she uses the props you see all around her in this photo and some audio files. We learned about how much items cost. She talked about how some people had a hard time parting with special family heirlooms and often made poor decisions to bring heavy, large items that later might be abandoned along the trail. She told us tales about the men learning to drive the oxen pulling the carts, shooting themselves accidentally in their excitement in shooting a buffalo, and about a baby that was bounced out of a wagon unnoticed until several miles later (he was found safe and unharmed later). Some of these stories really brought the experience to life. This presentation was geared towards upper elementary age students as far as content and holding a kids' interest. For mom, it was interesting.

After that presentation, we were ushered into another room for a multimedia presentation told from the perspective of four actual pioneers: two men, a woman/wife/mother, and a young girl. The stories told came from their actual diary entries, using their own words. It, too, was interesting. Between the two presentations, it was a bit much for younger children, though.

While I found the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center interesting, my kids had a different experience. The museum portion was uninteresting to them but the presentations were better. My 6 year old did fine with it but he's used to and good at sitting through things he doesn't enjoy. More active children who have a hard time sitting still or young children might have a hard time with it. Altogether, you'll only spend about 2 hours there, not counting lunch if you choose to picnic there.

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Montserrat said...

My girls absolutely love all things pioneer. They would really enjoy this museum. I think our Mormon Pioneer heritage has something to do with their love affair for pioneer times though.