Friday, September 5, 2014

A Carousel Ride Through History

An amazing idea.  Teach New York State history by building a carousel.  After all, what does a child love more than riding a carousel?  Why not make it an educational experience?  "Stealth learning", some call it.  To me, life is learning - why should we separate learning into something that happens only in school?

A couple of teachers, some 32 years ago, had an idea - why not teach history through a carousel ride?

At the Farmer's Museum near Cooperstown, NY, the dream took shape over the next 30 some years.  As time passed, the dream was carved in wood into a carousel.  In fact, the work is not yet finished.  This carousel, now called the Empire State Carousel, has spaces remaining where any city can contribute something to this work 32 years in progress.
Let Benny the Brook Trout and other carvings take you through history.

This is their dream in action - literally.

On the outside of the carousel, various quilts hang.  And, along the carousel interior, hand carved wood panels tell of history, or demonstrate beautiful artwork.

Each panel demonstrates an asset of New York State history or culture.

How about some pirates? What child doesn't love tails of pirates?

How about illustrating a Broadway play?

Various people,, some amateurs, some professionals, carved the carousel animals.  This one, Percy the Pig, cost a million pennies, which he carries in a money bag. (No, not really.)
Features of the animals sneak in "learning", such as this map of Long Island on a carousel horse.
This bear from the city of Waterloo, has the Finger Lakes on one side (photo above), an American flag in its mouth and Civil War gear on the other side.

The day we visited the Farmer's Museum, young children were squealing in delight as they rode the carousel, blissfully unaware that they were being educated.

I love carousels.  I live in what is considered the carousel capital of the United States, with six operational (and forever free) carousels donated by a local philanthropist to the children of the Triple Cities of Upstate New York. But we have nothing like this.  I was amazed.

I hope you were, too.

17 comments:

  1. What a fantastic idea, Alana. I've never ridden a carousel, but this is one I'd definitely want to take a ride on!

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    1. The carousel was on lunch break when we arrived - but it gave us a wonderful opportunity to tour it. Carousels are fun to ride!

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  2. How fascinating, Alana! I am even listening to the video clip as I write! Awesome! Question: How do they preserve the carousel?

    As for the "educational" bit: Sadly, what goes on in many schools is detached from what goes on in the real world, when, as you so beautifully describe, it would be so easy to integrate learning into the world around us.

    THANKS :) texts, photos and music all in one! What a delight!
    HUGS <3

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    1. You are right - at some point, the carousel will have to be restored and preserved, as the 100 year old carousels where I live in the Binghamton, New York area have had to be.

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  3. It just brings back some old memories. I have ridden them. The song was new for me though.

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    1. The song was a rock hit many years ago - certainly not true carousel type music. This carousel did have an old-style sound system-perhaps a topic for another post.

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    1. It is. Later in the day, we passed the carousel, and children were having a great time riding it.

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  5. You always have such interesting historical information! We recently took the kids on a carousel ride and it was a lot of fun!

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    1. It's wonderful when children can learn, and have fun, at the same time.

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  6. Kids enjoy a carousal ride. Nice, informative post.

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    1. Thank you - I know the children at the museum that day were both learning and having fun.

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  7. As students say that History is a dry subject inside the classroom....such ideas will definitely add freshness to it....informative post!

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    1. I was nearly a history major in college, and it has concerned me for years how history is taught. History is living, and is the story of humanity. History should never be boring, but too many schools make it that way.

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  8. Hey Alana

    Gosh! You just got me so excited!!! I ENJOY carousel rides AND history, so this ride is totally up my alley! ;)

    Now, I just have to convince my hubby to take me to the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, NY! WOOHOOO

    Thanks darling #HUGSS

    Much love
    Kitto

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    1. I hope you can get there one day. There is a lot to experience in Cooperstown, and you don't have to be a baseball fan (its main attraction) to enjoy the city.

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  9. I haven't been to the Farmer's Museum in a very long time; the carousel wasn't there at my last visit. I bet it's a bigger attraction now than the Cardiff Giant! My family likes to visit Knoebel's amusement park, where they have two carousels, one of which celebrated its 100th birthday last year. The panels that decorate one of these depict historic scenes from Central PA counties. Lots of coal mining depictions. Their Grand Carousel still has a working brass ring dispenser. Also, there is a carousel museum in the park which is quite interesting.

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