Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art and history combine at historic Rittenhouse Town

Spring is the perfect time of year to start incorporating more field trips into your homeschool routine. One memorable field trip that I have organized for my homeschool co-op has been to historic Rittenhouse Town. Located within Fairmount Park, historic Rittenhouse Town holds a special place in history because it is the site of the first papermill in North America. William Rittenhouse, who came to Pennsylvania in 1688, built the papermill and successive generations of his family continued to operate it until competition and new technology led to it's demise in the late 1800's.

Although you can visit this site as a family, it is best to organize a group in order to take advantage of the discounts and add-on classes that enhance the experience. A group can be as small as 10 people, not including chaperones. Of course, as a homeschooler, you will most likely want to participate in the program rather than be a passive observer. If you are not part of a homeschooling group, just call a couple of your homeschooling friends to create your own impromptu group.

The site offers three separate programs for groups of 10 or more to choose from. The first program includes a tour of the property and interactive discussion of the importance of historic Rittenhouse Town within American history. During the tour, visitors get to view the 1707 Rittenhouse Homestead and the restored bakehouse. Inside the visitor's center, a working model of an eighteenth century paper mill and early American kitchen are also available for viewing. This option is available for $2.50/per person. The second program includes the aforementioned tour as well as an exciting hands-on papermaking class. In this program, visitors get to make their own paper using traditional techniques. This class is great for kids and adults of any age. My children loved this class when they were in kindergarden and third grade. Each visitor leaves with their own sheet of hand-crafted paper for merely $5.00/person. To gain the full experience of early American life, you can add a German Colonial cooking class to the papermaking class and tour. In this class, visitors have the opportunity to use Colonial tools to prepare a genuine Colonial German dish cooked on the hearth. The German Colonial cooking class is only available for groups that have 25 people or more. At $10.00/person, it is a terrific way to make early American living come to life.

With or without a group, taking a trip to historic Rittenhouse Town will make early American history come alive for your children.

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