Pamela Jackson - Guest Services
It’s spring, and after we survived the long winter months, we hope you’ll join us in welcoming both spring and the 2011 season at Conner Prairie. We’ve got lots of exciting events coming up, so give us a call in Guest Services if you aren’t sure what programs are appropriate for you and your family or group.
First up is our acclaimed Follow the North Star
program, an Underground Railroad simulation that runs Fridays and Saturdays the first three weekends in April. (The last weekend is sold out; remaining available dates are April 8 & 9). If you plan to attend, stop and say hello to me at the Guest Services ticket desk, where I will be checking in tour groups with reservations and handing out release forms.
A lot of these groups consist of school children, but since Follow the North Star is not recommended for persons under age twelve, these school groups tend to be high schoolers or even college students. We have many teachers and sponsors who return year after year, eager to introduce their students to this very effective learning experience. There are also other participants arriving from nearby or far away, many for the first time, and full of questions:
“Will they touch us?” (No!)
“Will we get lost?” (You may think you’re lost, but we know where you are at all times.)
“Will it be cold/rainy/windy?” (Maybe, so we hope you’re dressed for the weather.)
“Are we going to get yelled at?” (Absolutely!)
Follow the North Star is such an intense experience because guests assume the roles of fugitive slaves. Our Conner Prairie interpreters – you know, the ones who are usually so friendly and helpful while in 1836 costume – take on different personas for this program, and can be either very intimidating or quite helpful to the “slaves” on their journey to freedom. This program is designed to create a learning experience unlike any other, not by reading or listening or watching, but by doing. As such, it is not for the faint of heart!
You see, when I’m not at the ticket desk, I also participate in Follow the North Star in various capacities. Perhaps I am walking the groups out to begin their experience, admonishing them to remember it is 1836. Perhaps I am in costume waiting to assist them on their outdoor journey, or – not to give too much away – perhaps I see that groups arrive at their final stop relatively unscathed.
So come on out and try our Underground Railroad simulation if you have a sincere desire to learn in a unique fashion. If that is not for you, then we hope to see you during the daytime for an enjoyable visit back in time!
Jane Grimes - Guest Blogger: Founder and President-Hamilton County Autism Support Group
April is Autism Awareness Month
and I wanted to take the time to express my sincere thanks for all the support and training that Conner Prairie has invested and continues to invest in their overall Conner Prairie experience for children with autism and other special needs
. Many of you know that I am genuinely passionate about autism and our community with the role that I play as Founder and President of the Hamilton County Autism Support Group
. I was humbled to be involved in the autism training and with my firsthand experience as a parent of a child with autism, I have to say that our experiences on the grounds have been much more fun. Simple things like quiet areas and staff realizing that our children with autism may need to learn things a bit differently or have smaller groups to incorporate learning has been great!
One thing that I have been in awe about over the past months is how our young adult and adult community with autism has increased and experiencing their feedback. Many people with autism are visual thinkers and need visual experiences to learn. Conner Prairie naturally has this in many of their experiences on their grounds; however our adult population has just discovered how great a place Conner Prairie is for them. I often wonder how other organizations can make such small changes to adapt and collaborate together to strengthen their connection to the autism community.
Did you know that 40% of individuals with autism are non-verbal? Did you know that Indiana is the 7th highest state today with the highest prevalence of autism in the US? Social deficits are significant in most individuals with autism so they are challenged with one-on-one discussions as well as group discussions.
I work at The Applied Behavior Center for Autism where many of our children are extremely excited to be able to go to Conner Prairie on a regular basis and experience programs and activities. Our center works one on one with children with Autism and Down Syndrome to help increase language and decrease behaviors in a world that is already confusing-organizations like Conner Prairie help our communities become a better place in the world by including our children and individuals who have daily challenges.
I encourage Conner Prairie to keep doing what you are doing…..we so appreciate your support, encouragement and positive experiences. My advice next in thinking into the future: employ more individuals with disabilities and try to envision Summer Camps for individuals with disabilities to experience community. Thanks for all you do!!