MARQUETTE - A group of kids from the Little Friends Daycare in Negaunee spent Monday morning inside the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, learning about their ancestry.
"It's been unique to see a preschool group using the facility as their classroom," said Barry James, historian and educational coordinator for the museum. "Typically, the groups that visit are in third grade because that's when they study Michigan history."
James said the museum has a unique relationship with the day care, committing to providing the use of the museum twice a month for Little Friends.
Historian Barry James of the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee Township shows kids from the Little Friends Children’s Center an interactive display that demonstrates the ways iron is used in daily life. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Josie Mechling, 3, turns plays with an exhibit at the museum. As the wheel spins, a new photograph emerges on the wall in front of her. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The Children's Center has been taking advantage of the relationship since October.
The day care sends a group of 13 children to the museum, where they have full use of the new and improved auditorium as well as the numerous interactive exhibits the museum has to offer.
As the kids walked through the exhibits Monday, they tried out some of the many hands-on displays, including a favorite among the toddlers: turning a wheel to rotate through a series of photographs involving iron ore.
The children clamored to receive a turn to turn the pint-sized wheel that could make a wall-sized photograph move.
Kaylin Parkinson, a caregiver at Little Friends, said the kids enjoy being out in the community, having class in a place other than the Children's Center.
"It gives them a break from being in the day care and it shows them where they came from," Parkinson said, adding that the interactive displays were great for young kids. "It shows them, it doesn't just tell them. It actually shows them with some of the things here."
The students also did a walk-through tour of a replica iron ore mine, complete with minors, dark conditions and a cool temperature. The kids ran their hands along the rough rock walls inside the mine as Parkinson talked about iron ore and the special clothes the minors were wearing.
Children found Negaunee and Marquette on an oversized map of the Upper Peninsula and shouted out answers as Parkinson asked them what the minors dug out of the ground and gave to ships on Lake Superior.
"Gold," many yelled before a small voice in the middle of the pack shouted out "iron ore." One little boy expressed his amazement at how difficult the job truly was.
"That's a lot of work," he said.
Barry said any age is a good age to learn about the mining roots that are deeply embedded within the history of the U.P.
"They're learning about their heritage in the U.P.," Barry said. "The immigrants that came here to work in mines left a legacy that continues today."
While still being kid-friendly, the museum also offers a wide variety of activities for adults as well.
Slated for the year include presentations on iron and the automobile, iron and the Civil War, the Negaunee Jackson Mine and an archeological survey of the Yellow Dog Plains, just to name a few.
For those who prefer outdoor activities, the museum has a new outdoor trail network and is also offering a heritage bike tour that will take participants from the museum through Old Towne Negaunee and back again via the new Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
In June, the museum will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a reception and 19th century music from Dodsworth Saxhorn Band.
Admission to the museum is free, though donations are accepted.
For more information on these and other events, call the museum at 906-475-7857.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.