School Field Trip Fun at the Historic Homes of De Smet

Spring is Time for Field Trips

A sure sign of spring at the Historic Homes is a flood of school children unloading from bright yellow school buses. The Historic Homes provide field trips for about 40 South Dakota schools from April 20 until May 20. On a busy day, there are 100 children learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder at the Historic Homes.


This year, there are new activities for the students to enjoy. Each group of students are divided into smaller groups to tour the Historic Homes. The three most popular activities included:

  • Surviving The Long Winter: Step right up to the table and learn how to grind wheat just like the pioneers did during the long winter. Then, learn about the lack of food in De Smet, because the trains were unable to push through the huge snowdrifts. Students in this session will learn about trains, grinding wheat and how to operate a “Hand Car” used by the railroad.
  • Pa Goes Hunting: Students can experience how pioneers prepared for a hunting trip and learn the art of “tracking” by making their own animal tracks out of Plaster of Paris. They will also have the opportunity to see and touch animal pelts while learning about their uses.
  • Pioneer School Day – Reading, ‘riting and ‘arithmetic: Who will help the teacher haul the wood for the stove or get the water for the students to drink? Find out what kind of books pioneer students studied from. What did they bring for lunch – boiled egg, ham or some potatoes? Students will do their schoolwork with a quill and ink pen or chalkboard and slate pen. After all, there were no jel-pens in a one-room schoolhouse!

A Sample Tour

Follow along for a peek at one group’s tour of the Historic Homes. In the Surveyors’ House, the students learned about Laura’s journeys and discussed the books.

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They also played a game of “Seek & Find.” Each student was asked to find a household item, with a pioneer twist. For example, these two were asked to find the “vacuum cleaner.” Since the Wilders didn’t have electricity, here is what the students found:IMG_9841

The students also toured The First School of De Smet. IMG_9858

They were able to practice writing with a quill and ink.IMG_9877 IMG_9874IMG_9889

When the students discussed how they travel to school, many replied they rode the bus or with their parents. Students in Laura’s day would have likely traveled on foot or by horseback or horse and wagon. These longer journeys required warm clothing for the cold winters. The students tried on a pair of fuzzy, rabbit fur gloves. IMG_9886

Next, the students hustled over to the Discover Center. IMG_9901

The students were able to see and touch pelts of many types of animals. They also discussed how Pa provided food for the family by hunting, not a trip to the grocery store.

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The students were very good at recognizing the species of each pelt – from otters, to skunks, to mountain lions!IMG_9936

To continue the hunting theme, the students made their own Plaster of Paris “track” of an animal’s footprint. Pa had to recognize footprints and track the animals in order to hunt. IMG_9935 IMG_9933 IMG_9928

After the students finished their tracks, they boarded the bus and rode across town to The Ingalls’ Home. DSCN9780

The Ingalls’ Home provides a great opportunity to talk about pioneer fun and games. The students talked about their favorite games to play after school. Wii, Xbox, TV shows and iPods all ranked at the top of their lists. The Ingalls girls did not have any of these toys, but they knew how to have fun! The Ingalls’ family enjoyed music and games.


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The students were able to make bracelets, create kaz00s with a comb and piece of wax paper, play the violin and play the pump organ.

These student have almost completed reading the entire Little House series, so they enjoyed seeing Laura’s world come to life on their field trip at the Historic Homes!



3 comments on “School Field Trip Fun at the Historic Homes of De Smet

  1. Connie in Colorado says:

    These students are lucky to have such great hands-on activities on their tour of the Ingalls Historic Houses. Thanks for sharing and continuing the Laura stories for a new generation.

  2. Thanks for sharing. It almost makes me want to go back to school.

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