I went with a group of 150 (students, teachers, some parents and others) to Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, on Friday, April 29th. The museum is an open-air village, with wagon rides, workshops, and re-enactors of Pennsylvania German life from about 1750 to 1900.
It's a beautiful location, with the buildings and heritage seed gardens creating a village, and the Landis Brothers' collection of artifacts bringing the past to life. The most "famous" of the Pennsylvania Germans (or Dutch, from Duetsch, the language, not the Netherlands) are probably the Amish and Mennonites, but there were numerous Germanic groups who came to settle in this, the most highly productive non-irrigated agricultural area in what is now the United States. Their tools, crafts, and aesthetics are brought to life in a number of buildings, and the guides and re-enactors are filled to the brim with knowledge to share.
Our students (high-school age) first had a workshop; the one that I attended showed the natural dyes process, and I was very pleased with the natural but thorough way that the various chemistry-related topics were woven through. The kids got a chance to dye squares of cloth in the bubbling pots of dye, choosing between madder root and cochineal. (You know: ewww, bugs!) The other workshops were reported to be quite good, too; the 7th and 8th grades got a taste of school in 1890, for example.
Wagon rides in the big farm wagons and guided tours of the various buildings took the rest of our time there--except, of course, for our time spent eating lunch at the picnic grove and shopping in the gift store! There's quite a wide variety of local goods available there.
I definitely recommend Landis Valley for school groups--they were very easy to work with and certainly educated and entertained--as well as anyone with an interest in the workings of an agricultural community of the 17th and 18th centuries. I've got pictures here: http://travel.webshots.com/album/580166806blzRVb
On the way home we went to the Sun and Earth environmentally friendly cleaning products factory in King of Prussia; they're so friendly and welcoming, and we had a tour of the facilities, watching the fairly low-tech process and hearing all about their innovative plans, including refill stations at the supermarkets! We got to send a bottle through the line and get the product at the end--in our case, a spray bottle of their very effective orange oil cleaner. (Prudently, the kids didn't get their spray bottles until they got home. )
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