Today we took a field trip to Gore Place, a Federal period mansion and home of Massachusetts Governor Christopher Gore. The occasion for our trip was a special program they were offering for the month of October, which is archaeology month in Massachusetts. When someone shared a list of archaeology month activities to our local homeschooling group site, it grabbed my attention because Bella has been quite taken with her archaeology books (checked out from the library to coordinate with the introduction to Story of the World, which introduces the study of archaeology) and has even declared that she wants to be an archaeologist.
Many of the events were too far away and many more were only on Saturdays, which we’ve already set aside for our family farmer’s market expeditions; but Gore Place was only about half an hour away, and offered flexibility and a program that was open to children as young as Bella. A chance to observe a real life archaeological dig!
Visitors may observe an excavation and ask the archaeologists questions about how they do their work and what they are finding. The dig is part of the ongoing research by archaeologists from the Fiske Center at UMass Boston at this late 18th/early 19th century home of Massachusetts Governor and US Senator Christopher Gore and his wife Rebecca. Work this October and November will be on the site of the Gores’ 1806 greenhouse.
The dig looked just like the one in Bella’s book! And the archaeologist who we talked to was really quite wonderful. She was very good at explaining exactly what everything was, what everyone was doing. She asked the kids a lot of questions and listened to their answers. She tried to figure out what they already knew and then used that as a jumping off point to introduce them to new ideas and terms. She let the kids handle various artifacts they’d found: nails, bits of glass and brick and flower pots.
She showed us how they carefully record every finding and put them into labeled bags. She showed us the maps they make of the excavation site and demonstrated screening some dirt that had just been removed from the dig, letting Bella identify the bits she pulled from the screen. She explained that the procedures they follow for a 150 year old greenhouse in MA are the same as archaeologists would follow at a dig in Egypt for 2000 year old artifacts.
Of course that part of the day only took about twenty minutes or so. And after that the kids wanted to run around and play.
Facebook scored major points today. Last night when I made the last-minute decision to make this field trip I posted about it on Facebook. I was kind of hoping maybe other people I know in the area would be interested in going too. I was very surprised, though, when we pulled up to see my sister-in-law there with my nieces and nephews and two of her daughters’ friends as well. She homeschools too, but they live on the other side of Boston so we don’t see each other nearly often enough anymore. She thought a field trip sounded like a great idea and so packed up all nine kids in her van and came. This is one of the things I love about homeschooling: the way you can make last minute decisions, the way you can follow a passion or a momentary inspiration and make a discovery.
They did have to get back home to do their school work. And take care of the baby and toddlers. So after watching the kids climbing the tree and playing for a bit, she took off and I decided to take a walk around the estate, see what there was before we had a picnic lunch and then headed home ourselves.
We were thrilled to discover that the estate has a working farm with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and a guard llama as well as a small vegetable patch.
We also got an impromptu tour of the carriage house when I poked my head in the office to ask if we could use the bathroom. The woman in the office was heading over to the carriage house and said we cold use the bathroom there. We got to see a couple of old carriages and a sled as well as the horse stalls.
She was curious about how we’d heard about the place and when I told her it was on a homeschooling group site, she asked if there wasn’t a site she could post information to to push it to homeschoolers. I was most impressed at all the programs they had and how eager she was to help people find out about their programs. As we were leaving I noticed that the information kiosk at the parking lot actually had a QR code you could scan to get an audio tour of the property on your phone. Too bad I missed that. Would have been fun. Maybe we’ll come back for one of the Christmas teas. Or the nature walks or story times. Or for the sheep shearing festival in the spring. I think Gore place definitely needs to be one of the places we come back to.
It was a most successful outing.