Sunday, June 4, 2017

One of the Best for Every Kid in a Park: Booker T Washington National Monument

It's delightful to live where there are so many treasures nearby.   We had part of a Saturday open ahead of a graduation party and decided to strike out to the Booker T Washington National Monument, a beautiful National Park Services site not far from Smith Mountain Lake, Bedford, and Roanoke, Virginia.  Incorporating a small gallery-style museum, a working farm site with animals, and an expanse of land for exploring, this is a National Parks Services site that can captivate a whole family, including kids of varying ages.  E, age 8, definitely came away with improved understandings of African American history, educational history, and agricultural history.  This site always reminds K of what a privilege it is to be an educator.

E, G, and K set off primarily to earn another Junior Ranger badge while J was giving a tour of Lexington to students.  E is so enamored with the Junior Ranger program that he now says that any day that he earns a Junior Ranger badge is one of the best days of the year.  If you are unfamiliar, persons of any age, but primarily kids age 5 to 13, can become Junior Rangers at most National Park Service sites by completing a few activities. Most are provided in a small booklet you can ask for (or download in advance from some park websites) and include a variety of activities like scavenger hunts and topical word games.  They really do help cement the understandings of young kids on site at various important places, and the Booker T. Washington Junior Ranger booklet does a particularly good job of incorporating a good variety of activities and providing space for children to record their own thoughts. If you are new to the Junior Ranger program, this is a fabulous site to begin your adventure.

When you arrive, check out your Junior Ranger booklet and take in the orientation film--it is definitely worth your time and is narrated by a grandchild of Booker T Washington himself.  Then, spend some time in the interactive gallery with exhibits, a helpful place to discuss the realities of life before the Emancipation Proclamation in particular.  In the interest of time, K had to pull E and G along to the outside--we spent over 45 minutes in this area.  As regular blog readers know, we Haltermans are serious about our museums--and it was great to see the kids so involved in learning in this space.  Outside, there are several interesting plantation buildings including barns and multiple places to observe livestock; we saw ducks, horses, cows, and a very bossy turkey.

If you go, know that admission is free, the rangers are friendly, and the parking is ample. There are generous picnic grounds and two hiking trails that can be tackled with kids.  There's also a small gift shop.  Check the event schedule, perhaps by calling the park and/or checking their Facebook page, as there are many intriguing events for kids and others, especially in the summer. You are also about five short miles from locally-famous Homestead Creamery for ice cream--check and see if Laker magazine has any current discounts.

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