April and May are always hectic months for any museum that hosts field trips. We see 1/3 of school children for the year in these months alone. The gift shop is constantly reordering “kid friendly” souvenirs. Bathrooms are monitored around the clock. All frontline staff put in extra shifts and eagerly await some vacation time in June and July. While these days are extremely busy, they are also some of our favorites.
At Dallas Heritage Village students participate on self-guided field trips in small groups with an aid of a History Hunt and a chaperone. This History Hunt can be one of five possible themes which are designed to engage the students at a deeper level within our houses, asking them to interpret what they are seeing. At the Village we also have 13 acres and are able to accommodate more students than the average museum. This means that we actually allow up to 700 students in a single day.
You read that correctly, 700 students on a single day. Are we potentially crazy? Potentially! You may be wondering what this means for our walk-in visitors that aren’t attached to schools. How could someone possibly enjoy a trip to the Village among these herds of school children?
Here are some of our suggestions!
One thing to keep in mind is that we usually go above and beyond with staffing for these busy days. So that means you get tours of Millermore and Sullivan from our excellent Volunteer Docents, but you also will interact with at least two to three History Host interpreters (sometimes even more!). That means you will get multiple tours and often times get to ask questions and learn even more. Plus we usually break out a small hands-on element at a couple of our buildings for the students, so you get the opportunity to touch artifacts and learn right along with them!
Secondly, when you are in a building with students you can actually learn more because many times they ask questions that you didn’t even think to ask! It’s encouraging to see these school kids learning about their history and trying to make their own connections to the past. They think long and hard about how these houses are different from their homes and they can be very insightful. So listen to what the students have to say, chances are you may learn just as much from them as you do from our staff.
Third, there are “peak” periods for certain things during school field trips. All the schools usually arrive between 9:30 and 10:30. This means that our parking lot and front gate area are packed with students and buses. This usually calms down as the buses are finally parked and the school kids get started on their History Hunts. There is a slight lull afterwards which is a great time for walk-in visitors to purchase their tickets and get started on their own visit. Things usually remain calm through noon as the schools finish up their lunches, but afterwards the gift shop is packed (which is also where you purchase your tickets). On days with 350+ students we actually open up a second gift shop, just for students, in our Law Office which cuts down on this traffic. So be warned the time period of noon to about 1:30 could be difficult to get your visit started. Around 1:30 is when most school groups need to start loading the buses and head out. The staff often remarks how eerie it is when we are filled with students one minute and the next minute it’s as if they all disappear and a palpable hush falls over the grounds. So after 1:30 is another good time to come and purchase your tickets and actually miss the school groups entirely!
If you are interested in trying to visit the Village and experience along with school groups, check out our Facebook Page. At the beginning of every week we post a Field Trip Forecast which outlines how many students we are anticipating on each day. If you just want to get your feet wet, you can come on a day with a smaller amount of students. If you are feeling brave, try your hand at a 700 student day! Or maybe you would rather have the Village all to yourself once the schools are gone, in that case just come visit us at 1:30 or 2:00.
Just because it is Field Trip Season doesn’t mean you have to miss out on visiting us!