Forks of the Ohio Homeschool Series

Students sift through dirt unearthed at Point State Park with state employees to identify the history of the Point through simple archeology. | Fort Pitt Museum
Students sift through dirt unearthed at Point State Park with state employees to identify the history of the Point through simple archeology.

One day a month during the spring and fall of 2018, local homeschool students in fourth through sixth grades participated in classes focused on the history and environment of the Forks of the Ohio River.

Students learned about American Indians, discovered how to conduct water quality tests, hiked along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, and worked with costumed living historians to learn about life at 18th-century Fort Pitt.

The Forks of the Ohio Homeschool Series was created to allow the Fort Pitt Museum and partner organization Point State Park to engage students through stories told beyond the museum’s walls.

Designed as a drop-off program, students participated in classes while families were welcome to visit the Fort Pitt Museum or the nearby Senator John Heinz History Center. Some classes permitted families to join the class on a hike along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and on a ride and tour of the Duquesne Incline.

The students started with an ice-breaker game that got them working together to solve a puzzle or complete a scavenger hunt. Then they read primary sources, wrote stories or observations, and spoke publicly to their classmates.

The most popular activities this year included scavenger hunts, interacting with living historians, hiking, crafts, and a phone call with Fort Pitt Museum consultant and Shawnee Tribal Member Jeremy Turner.

The September 2018 class focused on the museum’s commemoration of the 240th anniversary of the Treaty of Fort Pitt. The students read the treaty and learned its historical significance as the first treaty between the United States and an American Indian Nation. They also wove wampum belts and negotiated their own version of the treaty. The class culminated with a call with Mr. Turner, during which students could ask historically based questions about the Shawnee and American Indians, as well as questions about Mr. Turner’s job as a firefighter and his involvement with the Fort Pitt Museum and the Shawnee. Students were invited to meet Mr. Turner when he participated in the museum’s commemoration events for the treaty. He thoroughly enjoyed the students’ thought-provoking questions.

Student sift through dirt in Point State Park during this homeschool class coordinated with both Meadowcroft and the History Center. | Fort Pitt Museum
Student sift through dirt in Point State Park during this homeschool class coordinated with both Meadowcroft and the History Center.
Students designed their own fort at the Point. | Fort Pitt Museum
Students designed their own fort at the Point.

Thanks to the program’s popularity and to the homeschool families who offered ideas and suggestions for additional programming, the Fort Pitt Museum and Point State Park will offer classes again in 2019. The program will be two hours in the afternoon, instead of four, to assist families with drop-off and traffic in downtown Pittsburgh and will include offerings for older students in seventh and eighth grades as well.

Students designed their own fort and defended their project in the museum’s auditorium. | Fort Pitt Museum
Students designed their own fort and defended their project in the museum’s auditorium.
Students reading selections from the Papers of Colonel Henry Bouquet to learn how Fort Pitt, and soldiers in general, prepared for winter. | Fort Pitt Museum
Students reading selections from the Papers of Colonel Henry Bouquet to learn how Fort Pitt, and soldiers in general, prepared for winter.

Kathleen Lugarich is the education manager at the Fort Pitt Museum.

Leave a Reply

« « 5 Questions with… Interpreter Sarah Kizina | Wintering in the Ohio Country with James Smith » »