Being Big for Kids: Conner Prairie

Being Big for Kids 2.0 (2)This is the thirteenth post in a series on being part of a Big Couple through Big Brothers Big Sisters. If you haven’t read the previous posts and would like more context, please click here for an archive of the posts. 

Conner Prairie is an interactive history park that utilizes volunteers, actors, technology, actual historical buildings, animals, acres of land, and children’s imaginations to teach children about life in the 1800s, animals, and Native Americans.

Recently, they held their second early-open-and-free-admission day for families with children who are on the autism spectrum, have sensory, or have developmental issues.

Our Little is on the autism spectrum, and we figured this might be a good day to take him to see Conner Prairie.

We spoke to a representative from the park about whether we would qualify to take him, and they said that as Bigs, we would be fine.

So we contacted our Little’s mother to see if she would be okay with us taking our Little, photo 1 (1)Ryan, and whether or not Ryan wanted to go. We also offered that, since this was a family event, she was more than welcome to take the family and we could stay behind or go our separate ways once in the park.

It turned out that she couldn’t go, but we had the green light to take Ryan.

So, on Saturday, April 11th, we got up really early and went to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.

The first thing you notice is the gigantic balloon. It’s bright yellow and orange and provides views of downtown Indianapolis. It’s connected by a cable (so it’s not a hot-air balloon), goes up 350 feet in the air, and is what nearly every kid wants to do.

It also costs $15 a person.

We couldn’t afford to go up in the balloon, and we felt heartbroken. Here we were, right out of the gate, and we had to deny our Little the first thing he wanted to do.

That sucks.photo 2 (1)

Luckily, the tram (a fancy golf cart) arrived and distracted Ryan from the balloon. We took it all the way to the 1863 Civil War Journey, where we were greeted by a store clerk whose store had been ransacked by Confederate troops.

He led us inside to see what had happened. Inside the store, we watched (on cleverly hidden screens) a glimpse into the raid that happened.

There were some flashing lights, bangs, and even a shelf fell down (there was a warning for these things out front).

One of the kids in our group got scared and started crying, but Ryan seemed to enjoy playing along with the store clerk.

Once we were led out of the store, we saw a building that had been burned by the troops in the video we had just watched.

We wandered down the pathway towards another building. This time, we were greeted by a soldier who was recruiting troops to the Union’s forces.

photo 4Ryan decided he wanted to join the Union, and we were led inside the building to watch another video. This video followed the stories of two preteens/teenagers as they struggled with trying to grow up during the Civil War.

We watched as Confederate troops made their way across the Ohio River into Indiana to attack the town, and we watched their eventual retreat and defeat.

It ended with a celebratory cannon shot that (oops, wink wink) went through the wall of the building we were in.

Then, Daniel and Ryan got to go through training exercises of a soldier and learned how to load a gun. Truth be told, neither of them were very good at it, but it was their first time, so I’ll cut them some slack. 😉

photo 5After that, we went on a nature walk that eventually led us over a bridge and into 1836 Prairietown. We went from building to building to learn about being a blacksmith, doctor, schoolteacher, child, store owner, innkeeper, pottery maker, and just a plain ole person back in 1836 Indiana.

After walking around Prairietown for about an hour or so, we made our way to the Animal Encounters barn where we met some awfully cute sheep, goats, and chickens (and baby versions of each).

There were two baby goats that kept running off on the young (maybe close to nine years old) volunteer. They would run out of the barn, have her chase them down, and as she got them back into the barn, they would run off again.

photo 1 (2)It was almost too cute to watch, and the volunteer was having just as much fun as the goats were.

Ryan seemed to enjoy petting the baby chicks, and we all had a hard time leaving, but hunger called.

We went back to the balloon area to grab some pizza for lunch (Daniel and I were worn out) and to take a bathroom break.

After we refueled, we headed into the Lenape Indian Camp. We learned about the fur trade, forced migration of the Native Americans, and about how Native Americans lived in the past and in the present-day. We also got to talk to a worker who was building a canoe out of a tree (we also told him about Big Brothers Big Sisters because he was interested in becoming a Big Brother, yay!).

photo 2
Our Little can canoe in midair. He’s awesome.

Once we left the camp, we headed over to a playground for some extra exercise fun on that sunny day.

We headed back inside the main building after we had thoroughly worn ourselves out to explore Create.Connect.

Daniel stayed behind to keep watch as I headed into the gift store. We wanted to pick out something small for Ryan since we couldn’t afford the balloon ride.

When I couldn’t decide what to get, we let him pick something out, and we left.

We didn’t get to do everything, so I hope we can go back sometime soon.

After we got back to Ryan’s home, we stayed and chatted with his mom for almost an hour while he rode bikes with his sisters. I’m super happy we aren’t just forming a relationship with our Little, but we’re forming one with his family, too.

All together, we spent about seven hours with our Little that day. We were tired but happy!

Overall thoughts and lessons learned:

-Money sucks, and you can’t do everything because of it. It sucks having to deny your Little an experience because you can’t afford it.

-Conner Prairie is awesome. Go there if you can. It’s even awesome if you go as an adult without a kid (Daniel and I have gone on our own before).

-Children have such wide imaginations; let them use it and don’t be embarrassed of how they express it.

Are you (or have you been) part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program? What is your favorite memory of it?

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