Shoal Creek & The Little House Project

Little House on the Praire at Starlight

    About The Little House Project: As a child, the very first "chapter books" I read were "The Little House Books." I remember watching the television series and falling in love with the history of pioneers through the Ingalls family. I wanted to share the stories with my own girls (we have three, just like the Ingalls) and I wanted the stories to jump off the pages and capture their imaginations just as they had mine. With Little House on the Prairie: The Musical coming to Starlight Theatre in Kansas City (June 22-27, 2010), I decided it was time to dust off the beloved books and introduce Little House to my girls. The "My First Little House" picture book series was a wonderful introduction for my young girls, and my oldest loves the original chapter books... but each book introduces new vocabulary and concepts unfamiliar to my 21st century kids. As we read about churning butter, trundle beds, covered wagons, ox yokes, and log cabins images of Kansas City's wonderful historic sites and museums came to my mind and thus the idea for The Little House Project was born. My girls and I are embarking on Day Trips in Kansas City exploring what life was like for Laura and her family through the wonderful museums and sites across our metro. This is just the beginning.... we encourage you to read along and journey with us as we escape to the 1800s with the Ingalls for the next six weeks in anticipation of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical in Kansas City! ~ Kristina Light

Shoal Creek Living History Museum: Childhood on the Prairie

    Laura's childhood is depicted in the Little House on the Prairie book series as the heroine of the series learns in a one-room school, worships in a country church, participates in chores from churning butter to gathering water, participates in town life shopping at the Mercantile, visiting her Pa at the Mill (although his was a lumber mill, not a grist mill), and playing games with classmates. We recently spent the day at Shoal Creek amidst a small prairie village where we experienced 19th century life through the eyes of a child.

Shoal Creek Scrapbook Day

Shoal Creek One Room SchoolShoal Creek Living History Museum: 7000 NE Barry Rd., Kansas City, MO. 816.792.2665. (Part of the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department)

Admission: FREE (no admission to visit the park on a regular day when no special events are occurring). $1-5/person for special programs and events.
About Shoal Creek: Visit over twenty historic buildings on 80 acres of rolling hills in northern Kansas City. Shoal Creek brings the 1800s to life through special events and programs. The facility is open each day for walking tours from dawn to dusk. During walking tours, you may look inside each of the buildings and read about their history, but hands-on activities are offered only in conjunction with programs (book a tour for your family) or special events.

Our Day at Shoal Creek: We participated in the Scrapbook Program at Shoal Creek where children are able to experience everyday life at each of the village's historic buildings. During the program, you are assigned a small group and given a "Scrapbook" to read as you spend time at each building in the village. You follow the Scrapbook as your guide and are greeted by a volunteer at each site where children participate in hands-on history. These are a few of the highlights:

One Room School: We were greeted by the school teacher who presented the rules to follow and cautioned that disobedient children would be reconciled to sit in the corner with a Dunce Cap. The children practiced penmanship as they learned to write on slates with "slate pencils" as Laura and Mary did. The 3 R's are presented in this old-fashioned school, just as they were presented to Laura and just as she presented them when she became a teacher as a young girl. Children typically completed only an eighth grade education, pursuing apprenticeships, early careers, and often marriage in their early teens. The children quickly noticed the absence of computers and calculators, but one thing hasn't changed... the kids loved recess most of all! During recess they learned the pioneer game "Graces," walked on stilts, and played with hoops and sticks.

Visiting the Doctor: The town pharmacy is the herb garden located behind the doctor's office. The children were able to touch and smell various herbs and learn how they were used medicinally. Most notably, the doctor often visited the patients in their homes, rather than patients visiting the doctor.

Crime and Punishment: The town Marshall introduced the laws and explained the severe consequences for horse thievery and other crimes. A few children wore the handcuffs, tried to lift the ball and chain, and visited the local jail! The Marshall was on duty all day and we witnessed a confrontation with a local criminal, complete with a "shoot out" (the cap guns were realistic enough to leave several children concerned about the rogue thief on the loose!).

Mercantile: At the Mercantile, the children wrote letters to be mailed to friends and delivered them to the post office. They were able to purchase toys, candy, books, and other treats at the mercantile and marveled that the merchant's family lived in one room next to the shop. A selection of candies and shiny new toys were on display just as they were at Oleson's Mercantile.

Blacksmith: The Blacksmith demonstrated his craft and answered questions as the children learned about apprenticeships. From horseshoes to tools, everyone relied on the blacksmith.

Home Life: We visited several homes, from upper to lower income, each house was unique and offered a glimpse into life on the frontier. The children made their own calling cards at the Senator's home, participated in kitchen chores in the cabin and farm homes (churning butter, biscuit baking, coffee grinding, and more), dressed in pioneer attire, and learned about pioneer toys and games.

Additional Favorites: The Mill was my favorite building at Shoal Creek... it is the only working Grist Mill at a historic site in Kansas City and it was amazing to watch the water wheel against the rolling hills of the frontier village. The local church was separate from the school and depicted a country church much like the chapel in Walnut Grove. The Cobbler's Shop displayed the tools for shoe making from children to adults. And everyone enjoyed peaking inside each and every homestead in town.

Tips: It's always fun to visit Shoal Creek and picnic on the historic grounds, but we strongly recommend visiting during a special event or participating in a program for the best hands-on experience. Call 816.792.2655 for information. Shoal Creek is a MUST SEE historic site in Kansas City! 

Shoal Creek Photo Gallery: You must have a Shockwave Media Player installed to view.

More on The Little House Project

The Little House Project continues through the end of June 2010! We'll be embarking on Day Trips across Kansas City to explore life as Laura lived for the next several weeks. To follow the newest installments subscribe to the eNewsletter!

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