Although interactive museums that explore natural history, life on the sea floor, the history of mankind, and science and technology are common school field-trip fare, museums today are finding innovative ways to create hands-on exhibits appropriate for and enticing to all ages.
Whether your group stays inside to explore the relationships among gems at Chicago’s Field Museum, the evolution of the American automobile at the Henry Ford or their own cells on a microscopic level at the Discovery Center of Springfield, or go into the field with naturalist-guided walks with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History or to the stars with the University of Nebraska’s planetarium, these Midwest museums will transport them.
Having sprung from the Colombian Exposition at the 1893 World’s Fair and showcasing architecture, art and technology from around the world, the Field Museum has grown and relocated several times over its 121-year history to bring even more of the world’s history and culture to the city of Chicago.
From the gem hall that features 700 cut, uncut and decorative stones to the Ancient Egyptian collection of 23 mummies and the skeleton of the largest T. rex ever unearthed, the Field Museum’s 35 permanent exhibits can fill several days of visits.
The group sales office can coordinate a 60-minute highlights tour for groups with limited time at the museum or create longer programs that mix docent presentations in temporary exhibits with interactive activities like scavenger hunts, sustainable wine tastings and behind-the-scenes explorations with museum research staff.
For lunch, groups can choose from catered lunches in private spaces; vouchers for independent dining in the museum’s two restaurants, the Field Bistro and the Explorer Café; or a selection of box lunches to enjoy on the lawn. The museum’s field-to-table program works with local farmers and seasonal ingredients.
The Henry Ford
When you think Henry Ford, cars, assembly lines and revolutionizing American manufacturing may come to mind, but the Henry Ford museum takes a broader view of American history.
“The Henry Ford is actually an umbrella term for four venues: the Henry Ford Museum of American history, which is not a car museum, though there is a car museum inside; Greenfield Village, which is an outdoor museum where Henry Ford collected things that made a difference in American history, like Edison’s laboratory and the Heinz House; the Ford Rouge Factory, where visitors can see the final assembly of a Ford F150 truck; and the largest Imax theater in Michigan, where we show films with educational topics, like National Geographic features,” said Odelle Cadwell, senior group services coordinator.
A day and a half is required to tour the entire 178-acre facility, and Cadwell offers groups looking to do so an “all-American” package that includes all the buildings except the Imax theater, lunch and a voucher for the gift shops.
“We have a lot of groups coming for a few hours on the way to Mackinaw or something, so we have shorter options like the 1.5-hour highlights tours or the museum or the village,” said Cadwell.