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Fourth grade Pioneer Immersion Project Exhibit opens at Vesterheim

Posted: Sun, May 12, 2019 1:23 PM
Pioneer Immersion Program participants Teagan Menke and Mara Baumann sawing wood with Vesterheim volunteer Bob Sersland

A Vesterheim exhibit highlighting pioneer projects done by area fourth-grade students will open to the public on Monday.  The projects were created by students while they were participating in the Pioneer Immersion Program, a collaboration between area schools and Vesterheim.

The exhibit will be open in Vesterheim's Main Building from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday, May 13th through the 19th.  There will be an Open House from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16th, with free admission. "This is an opportunity to see the projects and journals, and meet the students who made them," says Vesterheim Youth Educator Jennifer Kovarik.

Each spring, Vesterheim becomes a classroom for fourth-grade students, who visit the museum and immerse themselves in the history and culture of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century immigrants. This program uses the Norwegian-American experience as a jumping-off point for exploring the experiences of other immigrant groups.

Prior to their visits to the museum, the students create immigrant identities for themselves using immigrant diaries, documents, and often their own family stories. The students record their impressions and thoughts in their journals as they take part in activities at the museum, like packing an immigrant trunk, constructing a "log" home, and completing a series of typical pioneer chores. Along with their journals, students make a project related to immigrant or pioneer history.

The students participating in the exhibition are from the Decorah Community Schools and St. Benedict School, plus homeschoolers. The Pioneer Immersion Program is funded in 2019 by Barbara & Rich Amundson, Joann Voltmer, and Sons of Norway Decorah Lodge.