Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our Week of Field Trips - The Rest of the Week

I already told you about Valley Forge on Monday. On Tuesday we didn't go anywhere, just let the girls all play together for the day.

Wednesday we visited "America's Oldest Pretzel Bakery", Sturgis Pretzels. It was such a fun tour!! They started it by lining us all up at the rolling table and giving us each a piece of dough and showing us how to form a pretzel, while telling the story of why pretzels are shaped the way they are.

Then they took us on the rest of the tour, telling us how there came to be a pretzel bakery, and also showing us how the Sturgis family made pretzels there in the 1800s. They also briefly told us how pretzels are made today. It was a fun, informative little tour.

After that we headed over to Wilbur Chocolates, to see that museum/tour, but it was more just a few things sitting around the store. We indulged in buying ourselves some chocolate and headed out.

Today we went to Hopewell Furnace. What an awesome national park! The rangers and volunteers renewed my faith in the Junior Ranger program LOL. They didn't have the fancy, professionally printed, book that Valley Forge has, but as soon as we walked in a ranger called the girls over to a counter low enough for them to see, and showed them the photocopied page, talked them through how it worked, and everything. Not only did they give one to each of the big girls, but he gave me one for Little Bit too, and said "you can help her, but she'll have fun with it". She didn't really get the "scavenger hunt" concept of it, but she had SOO much fun having a "map" like the big girls. Every time they stopped to mark something off, she'd ask for her "map" and pencil and would draw little scribbles somewhere on her page, it was great!  And throughout the park, the rangers and volunteers offered to help with the junior ranger page, asked if they were having trouble finding anything, etc.  It's amazing what a difference caring people can make!

We had a blast!! The visitor center had a fun "touch table" with all kinds of things to touch and figure out. They also had an interesting short video about the history of Hopewell Furnace.  The water wheel is amazing! Then we headed over to the barn where we saw the chickens and sheep and then got to visit with the horse. He's the perfect personality for being at a place like that, calm, but friendly. The girls had fun feeding him grass and asking the ranger questions about him.

The house was abit of a disappointment, you can only see a couple rooms, nothing upstairs, and not even all of the main floor, but oh well.  Next we stopped by the store (I need to go back sometime when I have money to spend LOL, such cool handmade things, many of them made by the volunteers right there at Hopewell Furnace!) the lady who was tending the store was doing cross stitch while she waited, so MiniMe peppered her with questions. Just recently, MiniMe had noticed embroidery hoops at the craft store and asked me about them, and I'd told her that some people use them to do cross-stitch and similar but I personally don't like using them, and couldn't really tell her why they used them. So she was quick to ask the lady at the store why she was using one, and then just kind of branched out from there with her questions. Then the lady took them into the store and had a selection of old fashioned toys to play with (and then, of course, the same types of toys were for sale). The girls had fun with that, and then she called over another volunteer (her son, I think) and he was better able to demonstrate some of the toys. The girls had alot of fun with that.

Next we headed to the cast house to learn about how they actually cast the iron.

First they showed us how they would make the sand molds to cast the pieces in. They let all the children help pound the sand down. Little Bit was nursing, so I couldn't get great pictures, and they were pounding so fast that you can't even see the hammer things, but it was pretty fun.

After the mold was done, they told us about how the furnace worked, and such. Pretty amazing stuff.

He also mentioned that, while the blacksmiths usually are only there on weekends, there was one in the blacksmith shop today, he didn't say why. So, when we left the cast house we went over to the blacksmith shop. The blacksmith was GREAT! Sassy and MiniMe had a million and one questions, and he patiently answered ALL of them. He'd answer a question and then ask if they (or anyone else, but they were pretty much the only ones asking questions) had any more questions. Until they finally ran out of questions. It was great! Judy joked that they should hire Sassy & MiniMe to just stand there, and other places, and ask questions, since it provided information for all of us, in a more interesting format than if the blacksmith had just "lectured" about what he does LOL.

Our final stop was the charcoal makers. Those volunteers were less . . . talkative, so it wasn't as interesting a stop, but such is life.

We headed back to the visitor center to get the girls' Junior Ranger badges and then enjoyed a picnic in the nice picnic area there.

On the way back, we decided to drive through French Creek State Park since it's right there. As I expected, Little Bit fell asleep pretty much right away, so when we came to a play ground in the state park, we stopped and the big girls played on the playground while Judy & I visited and Little Bit slept (the weather was GORGEOUS today, so it worked well). Once Little Bit woke up we let her play for a little while too, then headed home.

And that ends our week of field trips. I certainly wouldn't want to do that much "running" every week, but it was alot of fun, the girls learned a ton, and a good time was had by all!

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