Writers Rising Up, the Eden Prairie non-profit organization promoting writers who portray place, natural habitats, and wetlands in their work, is seeking submissions from children over the summer.
“Beat the Bushes, Poke Around” will focus on creative ways for kids to experience the mid-1800s when the writer Elizabeth Fries Ellet visited Minnesota in 1852. For more information, visit the submission page.
One way to do so is by visiting the Elizabeth Fries Ellet Interpretive Trail (EFEIT), which winds its way through the historical habitat of the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie. Vicki Pellar Price shepherded the trail to reality in 2007 as director of Writers Rising Up.
As the title “Beat the Bushes, Poke Around” implies, kids are urged by Writers Rising Up to “look everywhere, search and discover things you don’t know about early Minnesota in books, on the internet, trailing at the EFEIT with signs as your guide, and with experiments and projects you create.”
That’s what Ellet, credited with naming Eden Prairie, did in retelling her Minnesota experience in her book “Summer Rambles in the West.”
“She left no stone unturned and ventured out in the wilds with the men on her tour, to new areas most women wouldn’t go,” Pellar Price said.
The following list includes research areas and opportunities to make projects at home during the summer months. That includes scrapbooks of your own plant cuttings from a pioneer kitchen garden you can plant, cut-out dolls of what women wore in the 1850s, preparing a Sioux meal, and discovery nature walks at the EFEIT.
Spring, summer and fall are wonderful times to walk the EFEIT as an inspiration for at-home projects, Price said. Kids are encouraged to share their projects with classmates in the fall.
Winning projects will be featured on the Writers Rising Up blog.
Here are some ways to experience the mid-1800s when Elizabeth Fries Ellet visited Minnesota. You can find examples of different habitats, flora and fauna at the EFEIT trail and online.
1. Understanding that each biome (habitat) has specific flora, fauna, and insects, pick a biome and create a chart containing images you’ve designed of plants, animals, birds, insects and trees of that biome/habitat.
2. Create a historical timeline of the Mdewakanton Native Sioux Indians. What did they teach their new Minnesota residents?
3. Make traditional Native foods like Fry Bread and name the herbs and plants the Mdewakanton Sioux ate, bring samples to your class.
4. In the late 1800s, when Ellet traveled to the Midwest, Victorian “travel etiquette” was in place. What was it exactly? Did Ellet follow it? How does it compare to now? Make an etiquette chart.
5. What did women of the mid-1800s wear when traveling? Corsets and pantalets, boots with wooden bottoms, what else? Make Pioneer cut-out dolls.
6. How did Minnesotans of the 19th-century travel, and what form of travel did they use most? Create a diagram.
7. Create a cardboard model of how a daguerreotype worked (camera), researching and explaining the lengthy process.
8. What shoes did Minnesota pioneers wear? Do research into handmade wooden clogs and discover why there are few samples of shoes from that period.
9. “Godey’s Lady’s Books” — Ellet was often published in what could be referred to as a Women’s Home Journal. Two well-preserved books from the 1850s were donated by Pellar Price to the Eden Prairie Historical Society and can be viewed by appointment at the Eden Prairie City Center. Images are also on the Elizabeth Fries Ellet Interpretive Signs at the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area. Note that Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, and many other famous writers were also published in “Godey’s Lady’s Books.”
10. Create your own journal article reflecting aspects of your life as an early Minnesota pioneer in a story with images.
11. Make a model of a flatboat, keelboat, and modes of travel on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers for tourists, shipping and general travel in the 19th century.
12. Cartography: Make a map of a particular area (biome/habitat) you explored, naming trees and plants and their habitat.
13. Bird and Insect Watch: Bring your cell phone and camera and capture images of the insects, birds, or bird nests you see. Create an ongoing diary of visits to present to your class. Let them know what you learned.
Submission guidelines for Writers Rising Up can be found here.
Editor’s note: This list of ways to explore Minnesota history is included in a book by Vicki Pellar Price and Susan Thurston-Hamerski being considered for publication. Project questions cannot be reproduced without attribution.
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