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This school district keeps kids grounded in their American Heritage with a living history museum.

Updated on April 10, 2013

What better way to help kids understand their American Heritage than to have an outdoor hands on learning environment?

As our modern day technology continues to push our youth into the virtual reality world, we seem to be losing touch with old world things that our ancestors did to have fun and make their own toys, games and homemade products.

What better way to help kids understand their American Heritage than to have an outdoor hands on learning environment?

This is what actually happens each spring and throughout the year in Katy Texas. Katy I.S.D. maintains a historical living museum named The Kenneth D. Welch Outdoor Learning Center.

It is located just behind the main high school campus in Katy Texas in a wooded area. It is full of the old time way of living from weaving, quilting, gardening, animals and folk culture.

Before those jump to the conclusion on if tax payer dollars are being spent wisely, you need to understand the magnitude of this school system, the area it serves and the student success stories it achieves.

Katy I.S.D is one of the largest school systems in the United States and continues to grow with now over 53 schools of which there’s currently six high schools.

Katy I.S.D. is building one new school almost every year. As soon as a new school is built they still have to bring in portable class rooms until another school can be built.

The Katy area is booming with a very diverse economic culture, which is also rich in the oil and gas industries. Many of the major gas and oil corporations are head quartered just between Katy and Houston.

Many also know that the original Katy High School is very famous for their outstanding football program with several state championship titles many of the players have graduated directly on to become star athletes in both college and the NFL teams.

Countless stories and even books have been written about the Katy High School Tigers.

Several Katy High School graduates have also became famous musical artist and actors.

This living history museum will be well utilized for years to come.

Throughout the year the museum is also utilized by surrounding school districts in and outside the Houston area for short day trips.

The museum also features a full display of Texas reptiles and artifacts.

The museum is set up during the spring Folk Life Festival, which is open to the general public, with work stations for kids to experience such things as the old fashioned way that corn was shelled and then ground into flour.

Kids get an up close encounter with farm animals and even honey bees. They are actually able to see a working honey bee hive and how they form the combs, and if they're lucky they can find the queen bee.

Vintage craftsman and collectors dress up in period clothing and show the kids the old time muzzle loaders and how they made the lead shot to hunt with.

Musicians play music on homemade dulcimers and tackhead banjos. The kids even get to experience washing clothes in an old wash tub and scrubbing board.

A full functioning covered chuck wagon is displayed to show how the early wagon pioneers were able to travel cross country, camp and cook large batches of food.

The kids can even try Scrapple, which was a basic food source during that era. It consist of scraps of pork or other meat baked over a camp fire in a skillet or Dutch oven with cornmeal and shaped into loaves for slicing and frying.

These old folk art games and toys demonstrated at the Katy Folk Life Festival can also be easily adapted into other fall festival attractions by those looking for new ideas.

Corn husk dolls are made of nothing but corn husk, some string, and brown yarn for the hair.

Corn husk are allowed to soak and then are folded and tied to form the doll facial features and dress.

Corn husk dolls were made for children by farmers who couldn't afford regular Christmas gifts and have since become a folk art tradition.

You can Google how to make corn husk dolls and find several sites offering full instructions and videos.

Rag dolls are another old tradition that have become folk art. They are made from scraps of left over fabric from sewing projects.

These dolls would also be made for children by mothers. Considering the era and the period when people used everything they could to sew and make clothes and quilts including flour sacks, these rag dolls would still be a sacrifice.

If you Google Rag dolls you will find pages and pages of different styles, most require sewing. Google "no sew rag dolls" to find similar ones being made in the picture.

Mini bean bag toss, this is a creative eye and hand coordination game. It consist of two tuna cans screwed on to the end of a stick.

Note the cans face opposite directions so not only do you have to catch and flip out the bean bag you also have to flip the stick over to the other can. We couldn't find any instructions on building this one. It is pretty simplistic, the bean bags are about the size of a quarter.

Corn Cobb Yard darts, these are fascinating instead of the modern day yard darts these use only a corn cob and some feathers.

An old fashioned bushel basket is set out in the yard and the player stand back and attempt to hit the basket. They look much more safer than the modern day versions as well.

Paddle and ball, this is another good hand and eye coordination game. The game is made out of ¼’ luan or birch and is drilled with a series of holes. A template can be made to make several of them at a time.

The holes are numbered and a small wooden craft ball is strung with a string fastened to the paddle. The object of this game obliviously is to flip the ball up and into the highest scoring holes.

Ring toss, sorry we were able to capture this game on the camera, but opponents would face each other each holding drummer sticks. A plastic ring about 12” in diameter would be placed on the end of the drummer sticks and then tossed forward to the other opponent.

The trick is to catch the ring with the drum sticks without touching it and then tossing it back across to the other facing opponent.

We look forward to each spring and being able to spend the day at this living history museum.

Pictures are courtesy of Cottage Craft Works .com sustainable living old fashioned online general store.

Traveling the country to bring back memories of old fashioned ways of living the American Heritage.

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