Thursday, March 24, 2011

Field Trip to Our State Capitol - Topeka Kansas

Monday we went on a field trip to Topeka Kansas and took a tour of the capitol building. I was very impressed at how well behaved Gess was. She paid attention the entire time and never tried to leave the group. It was very informative and we were blessed with a tour guide who happened to have a song for every stop along the way. Gess even said her favorite part was when he had us all sing our state song together, which for the state of Kansas is "Home on the Range." Here is Gess with Larry, our singing tour guide.

Before we went to Topeka we spent a few weeks studying about Kansas and of course learning what all our state symbols were. Our local library had the book Fun Kansas History Projects by Sally Toth which has reproducible activities in it. We did the Kansas Symbols flip book which was really fun. Upon completion of it, Gess was able to name all the Kansas symbols without help. She now knows what our flag and seal look like and knows our state motto (in English) as well as our state animal, amphibian, reptile, insect, bird, flower, and tree. Here are a few of the pages she did.

Now that Gess had some of the symbols down and we had read a few books about Kansas and it's history, we were ready to head to Topeka and tour the capitol. Having not grown up in Kansas myself, I learned quite a bit too. My main concern was not that Gess learned lots of facts during the tour, but that she got to experience the feel of the building and have some visual tools to teach her both the history and importance of what our government does and has done.

There are murals all throughout the capitol building that tell about different parts of Kansas history. The Kansas Historical Society has a neat package they offer every child that visits which consists of the main mural, as well as other historical figures, a puzzle page, a fan of the capitol craft and a tour book. Here is the mural The Tragic Prelude colored by Gess!

The Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry shows John Brown, the abolitionist, during the time called "Bleeding Kansas." This mural has many examples of symbolism. Below are the symbols and what they represent.

1. Tornado - A force of nature representing the gathering storms of the Civil war
2. Pioneer with oxen and wagon - The steady stream of settlers moving west
3. Sharps rifle - The weapons sent to help free-staters fight pro-slavery forces
4. Union flag - represents the North in the Civil War
5. John Brown with blood on his hands - the abolitionists who wanted Kansas to be a free state no matter what the cost
6. Union and Confederate soldiers' bodies - Representing the more than 600,000 who died during the civil war
7. Bible with Greek letters alpha and omega - representing the beginning and ending of slavery
8. Confederate flag - the southern cross, the battle flag of the south
9. African American slaves - the fighting in Kansas and eventually the entire Civil War was centered around these people
10. Prairie fire - Represents the fiery destruction the Civil War would cause
11. Sunflowers - The Kansas state flower

We saw many other murals and learned a lot more of our history too. Congress was in session so we were not able to tour the chambers, but we were taken into the old Supreme Court room that was used until sometime in the 70s when it moved to another building. It is now set up as a conference room, but is still very beautiful as it has recently been restored.

They ended our tour and allowed us to go in and watch the session of Congress taking place. We were warned that there was to be no flash photography and no talking. I was not sure how Gess would do sitting still after an hour long tour, but as it turned out I did not have to worry. We sat in session long enough for them to call a Congressman to the floor who moved that the session break until 2:00pm. It was lunch time! Oh well, at least we got to see them "officially" dismiss!

The Capitol is under quite a bit of construction and restoration work. We were unable to go to many parts, including the dome because of it. In fact, as we drove up and saw all the green safety gates or what have you that surrounded the dome Gess said, "That looks strange." Indeed it did! Here Gess is walking down another hall under heavy construction.

And here she was as we were about to go start our day in the Kansas State Capitol building! She was excited...and a little goofy!

I just don't think there is a better way to learn than to see first hand what you are studying. Field trips have the be the best hands on experiences! We will continue doing some of the crafts in the book I got from the library and work on the hand outs we got from the capitol. Now that she has seen it in person, I know it will mean so much more to her. We also went to another museum while we were in Topeka. I will share more about that in my next post.

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