Lower Elementary Trip to the History Museum


Last week, the Lower Elementary 3rd Years joined the Upper Elementary students on a field trip to the Missouri History Museum for presentations on artifacts and sensory experiences of the history of St. Louis. It was a full day, packed with interesting information and group exercises with friends. 


Part of the fun of a field trip for VdM students happens to be the bus ride, where they tell stories, sit with friends, and point out their neighborhoods if they happen to pass nearby!


Upon arriving, the students were separated into two groups to complete tours and classroom experiences in more manageable numbers. One group started with the classroom experience downstairs while the other headed upstairs for a guided tour.



In the classroom, students were given the opportunity to experience four different historic places in St. Louis that no longer exist: the Riverfront, an old baseball stadium, Annie Malone’s Poro College, and Gaslight Square.


Above/below: The Riverfront, where students could smell wood smoke and listen to the sounds of work along the river. There was even an example of how cotton would have been packed and transported by boat in the late 1800’s. 




Above: examples of things found at Annie Malone’s Poro College, where Annie Malone, a pioneer in African American philanthropy, opened the women’s beauty college (which also had a large bakery). Through its school and franchise businesses, the college created jobs for almost 75,000 women in North and South America, Africa and the Philippines. The students were able to smell freshly baked bread and apple butter that would have wafted through the college. 


The presentation also included comparing some favorite places around St. Louis and the senses of smell, sound, sight, and touch. This group chose the City Museum and were quite descriptive in their experiences of the place!


Above/below: Gaslight Square, where students could smell tobacco and cologne, listen to some classic records, and touch instruments and a microphone from the time period. 




Above: the experiences of a baseball stadium – the smells of soda, leather, and bubble gum, along with the sounds of a ball game and even some old snack containers! 




Students then worked together to describe what they had experienced through their senses.


During the second portion of the field trip, the groups switched places. The first group then headed upstairs to the Galleries. Below, a description from the Missouri History Museum’s site about the experience:

In the Galleries
Students will visit three areas in the Currents and Reflections galleries. At each stop, they’ll encounter a different part of St. Louis’s and Missouri’s past, all while practicing a different skill to help them engage with the artifacts and discover the main ideas of the displays:

  • At Stop 1, students will engage in an inquiry-based group discussion. Like a real historian, they’ll use their power of observation, their reasoning skills, their prior experience, and the ideas of their peers to draw their own conclusion about historic artifacts. This activity will take place in the Disasters section, which tells the stories of St. Louis’s struggle with and triumph over natural disasters and public needs.
  • At Stop 2, students will use details they find in historic portraits, as well as their imaginations, to tell stories about people from Missouri’s past. This activity will take place in the Portraits section, which includes photographs and paintings of diverse Missourians from the 1800s to 1930s.
  • At Stop 3, students will connect with artifacts by comparing and contrasting them with objects they use today. This activity will take place in the Urban/Suburban Life section, which recreates the built environments of the city of St. Louis and its surrounding counties during the 1950s.


A favorite was the Historic Portraits section, where students had many observations about the diverse Missourians they encountered through art.


Thanks to the staff of the museum, who were gracious, patient, and open (and also had great senses of humor) with our students. We look forward to coming back some day!