Children's Museum trip gives students memories to last a lifetime

by Gretchen Lees, 4th grade teacher

posted on May 8, 2012

Last week, the fourth grade students from Red Cloud and Our Lady of Lourdes visited the Children’s Museum in Brookings, SD ( The trip across the state took eight hours each way, but as far as the students were concerned, it was completely worth it!

The first inkling that this museum was unlike most came when Dusty, a museum volunteer, met our group outside, welcomed us, and said, “We want you to touch everything in the museum (with only a few exceptions)!” This statement grabbed the attention of the 10 year-old students. They immediately thought, “We get to touch things at a museum? Is she kidding?”

The museum has several rooms that imitate life, including a car garage, a café, a grocery store, a large farm, a post office, and a television news station. These rooms are fully equipped with everything necessary for the children to pretend they are carrying out various adult tasks. In the café, their teachers were served delicious sandwiches and lattés. The students decided who all were to be the owner, the manager, the cook, the waitress, and the dishwasher. Their imagination soared as they continually added new tasks and responsibilities.

The Sensations Room was located at the far end of the hall. Within this room there were several other rooms, all dealing with our different senses. Students created music using the drums, xylophone, cymbals, and certain bowl-like instruments, which hum for a very long time. In another area, students worked as a team to manipulate the pegs in a peg light board to spell out various messages. No normal tiny game pegs, these were 6 inches long, and the display board was about 5 feet by 10 feet. Writing a message on this light board is like creating your own billboard!

High on the list of favorites was the “Walk in the Clouds” station. This is difficult to explain, but imagine a series of broad surfboards, painted white to resemble clouds. These “clouds” are securely positioned around a central stalk, which reaches 30 feet high, like a giant plant with leaves. The whole arrangement is encircled by a safety net. The students climb from one cloud to the next. Finally, after a stepping on 10 or 15 different clouds (depending on the path the students choose) they reach the top and are able to look out over outside parts of the museum, including a sod house, a tipi, a garden, and a farm.

According to one trip member, the sense of exhilaration she received from walking in the clouds was equal only to climbing a huge cottonwood tree!

Finally, any account of the museum would be incomplete without a mention of the dinosaurs. Red Cloud Elementary fourth grader Ilyanna Fills Pipe wrote this in her trip journal: “My favorite part of the Children’s Museum was when we met two [life-size] dinosaurs named Mama and Max. The mama was scary! I kinda didn’t like her. Both of them have sensors [that make them move and roar]. The first time you see her, you get scared! I did! Max still had feathers. Did you know that when baby dinosaurs first hatch, they have feathers?”

If the students didn’t know that before, they do now! It was a great and memorable trip.

The fourth grade would like to thank the Larson family for sharing their wonderful "home away from home" and for opening their arms and hearts so fully to us. Our students were treated like kings and queens and created memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you to Dale and Patricia, Maree, Carmel and Bridget for your warm and generous friendship.

For a photo gallery of the students' museum visit, you can go HERE.