By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — It’s not just fun and games at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
It’s history, and art, and science — even math. And on Thursday, the museum brought that message to families throughout Western New York with its first Home School Day, an event designed for home-schooled children and their parents.
“We’re always looking to add new programs,” said Katie Loveless, museum director of education. “We often review what other museums are doing, and this is something we’ve seen pop up in a few places, so we thought we’d try to tap in to that by creating an event just for them.”
The museum sent information on the event out to Western New York and Rochester area home-school groups. Loveless said the response included residents of the Tonawandas, but also those from Amherst, Williamsville, Buffalo and farther afield.
Each family received an informational packet with a museum map, curriculum correlations and activities and worksheets for students to continue at home. All activities are linked to the New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum, Loveless said, and touch on history, math and art standards.
“We’re structuring it as activity stations through the museum, so that families can move around at their own pace,” she said.
On Thursday, students and parents explored the facility, taking part in a math activity (in which students studied the speed of horses on a carrousel), crafts in the children’s gallery and learning about music rolls for band organs while watching a demonstration. In the wood-carving area, they were able to talk with a master carver ... and try soap carving.
As student gathered at a table with bars of soap, templates and carving tools, parents watched from nearby, including Carrie Hallack of Wheatfield and Katrina Puscheck of Pendleton.
“Sometimes you get in a rut, doing the same thing every day,” Puscheck said. She said it’s good for students to get hands-on experience, and “listen to someone else talk, not just mom.”
Hallack, who visited with her three children, agreed.
“It’s so much better than from out of a book, because this is real life,” she said. “We’re very thankful they put this together today.”
Chris Agrez drove from Scottsville, near Rochester, with her son David, 10. She said he likes to figure out how things work, and she asked if he wanted to check out the museum’s program after their visit to the Adirondack Carousel in Saranac.
“It’s something unique,” she said of the Home School Day. “It’s sometimes hard to find different activities that include some of the different areas of school.”
In the Lockman Gallery, the focus was on history and immigration. Surrounded by hand-carved horses (and other creatures) from different eras, students colored pictures of carrousel horses while listening to museum educator Samantha Chavanne read “Feivel’s Flying Horses,” the tale of a Jewish immigrant to the United States who finds work carving a Coney Island carrousel in hopes of bringing his family to his new country.
Theresa Blackstone of Buffalo watched her children, ages 7, 5 and 3, take part while she walked around with their 1-year-old sister. Blackstone said the family visited the library after deciding to take part in the event and took out books about carrousels, from history to fiction.
“It gives you an opportunity to step away from the same things you do every day,” she said. “This is fun. It’s something different. It’s always nice to have a break from our normal stuff.”
Blackstone said museum staff did a good job making the event accessible for children.
“I can imagine if I brought them here on my own, it would just be me reading this and trying to hold their attention,” she said, motioning to a museum exhibit.
Loveless said that with educational standards becoming more and more defined, it’s important to connect the fun activities and the learning ones.
“Everybody has to justify everything they’re doing these days, but hands-on experiential learning is just so important. We don’t want people to skip out of field trips and hands-on learning, but we want to make sure they’re not here just to ride the carrousel,” she said.
“A lot of people, this is their first time here, so hopefully they’ll have a good time and they’ll come back.”