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Prairie Village Museum camp teaches history and culture

By Staff | Aug 8, 2014


Children are running around, playing with bugs and small animals, painting with their hands and learning. For some parents, this could be a nightmare. But camp instructor and Minneapolis native Leah Peterson enjoys every moment of it.

Every year, the Prairie Village Museum hosts a camp for the kids in Rugby and surrounding area. This year’s camp had a prairie life theme to it, with the campers studying everything from the wildlife around the museum to the culture of natives and settlers.

“We’ve been working on prairie science and field biology for most of the week,” Peterson said Wednesday. “But we are working into the culture of the prairie people later in the week.”

The campers asked questions and pestered for more knowledge during this five day camp. On the first day, the group got hands-on experience in basic prairie ecology. They spent time looking at plants and insects, and making sketches of them. On the second day, the subject was pollinators, with a special emphasis on honeybees and conservation. On day three, the kids went to the surrounding marshlands and grasslands on a special field trip. They caught a number of insects and studied plants.

On the fourth day, the focus shifted from science to culture.

Thor Skjelver/PCT Rugby third-grader Ella Jacobson shows off a captured bug on Wednesday.

The group made replica rawhide bags and painting them with mineral paints, rabbit hide glue, and buffalo pone paint brushes. On the final day of the camp, the campers learned about wagon trains and Germans from Russia. Pioneer games, cooking over a fire and a creative writing activity that involves stories of these settlers took up most of the day.

Peterson knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the prairie. Currently working at the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis, she has the hands-on experience in these fields and has a number of colleagues to call on for help.

“It’s really fun,” rising third grader Ella Jacobson said. “We get to learn a lot about insects and animals. We get to use these (microscopes) to look at the animals and the bugs. It’s my favorite part.”

She added that she’s not sure if the bugs feel the same way about her. Another camper, fourth-grader Andrew Duchscher, can’t say enough about these few days.

“I think this is super awesome and cool and interesting,” he said. “My favorite part is probably getting to catch the animals and learn about them.”

Even the teacher shared what her favorite part of the camp was.

“My favorite part was talking about the honeybees,” Peterson said. “I don’t know why, but the kids’ eyes lit up and started asking questions so fast I couldn’t answer them all. I loved their enthusiasm. It’s so much fun when you get to learn from the kids when they share what they know.”

Even though Peterson lives out of state, she’s no stranger to the Rugby area.

“I work with Cathy’s (Jelsing, Prairie Village Museum director) daughter at the museum,” she said. “I come up here for vacations to get away from the city. It’s wonderful.”

Working with kids is another passion of Peterson’s.

“I love working with these kids. It’s a pleasure and a challenge,” she said. “They keep me on my toes and ask me awesome questions.”

During the Village Fair on Sunday, the campers will set up two booths and share what they learned. One booth will be for biology and ecology items and the other will be a cultural exhibit, including readings from the campers’ own stories.

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