Plan a History & Cultural "Schoolcation" for Your Family
Augment your children's homeschooling or distance learning curriculum with an experiential exploration of Lane County's history and cultural heritage. These field trip ideas make easy day trips, but will be even more impactful and exciting when rolled into a much needed local "getaway" by adding an overnight stay. School — now fun for everyone!
History & Culture "Schoolcation" Themes
Delve into Lane County's cultural history starting with our area's Indigenous people. In the early 1800s, the Kalapuya peoples had a population around 15,000 — the largest Native American group in the Willamette Valley. Visit the Whilamut Natural Area in Alton Baker Park and find the "Talking Stones" which connect Kalapuya language with natural sites. Dorris Ranch in Springfield offers a "living history" program showcasing a modern day replica of a Native American plank house alongside a replica trapper's / pioneer's log cabin.Fifteen artistic boulders resurrect Kalapuya language and place names. Photo of "Talking Stones" by Melanie Griffin
The University of Oregon campus also recognizes our Native American community with the Many Nations Longhouse and the Oregon Tribal flagpoles. Learn more at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History where you can see collections of Native American baskets, cloth, masks and more in person or online. Expand your lesson plans with resources from the Oregon Department of Education.
Next, head to the Oregon Coast and walk Amanda's Trail. This approximately six-mile trail memorializes the forced footsteps of a Coos woman driven from her home in 1864 along with other tribal people on a march to reservation land.
To the south of Amanda's Trail is the Heceta Head Lighthouse which was finished in 1894. The assistant light keeper's home has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Stay overnight and imagine what is was like on this quiet coastline a hundred years ago.A grotto has been dedicated to Amanda's story. Photo by Melanie Griffin
Community museums across Lane County, including the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum in Florence, the Creswell Historical Museum, and the Applegate Pioneer Museum showcase Kalapuya artifacts and/or pieces of history from pioneers and settlers following the Oregon and Applegate emigrant trails. Plan ahead as many museums may not be open at this time, or may be operating with limited hours.
Explorers, Pioneers & Settlers
Interpretative kiosks and monuments also mark the Applegate Trail from Creswell to Veneta. This trail, traversed by Jesse Applegate and Levi Scott in 1846, was thought to be a shorter and safer route to the Willamette Valley. Stay in a road side hotel or campground and explore local trails for the experience of what it was like walking through the valley. Return to Dorris Ranch to see the old homestead replicas.Applegate Pioneer Museum in Veneta by Taj Morgan
Eugene Skinner was one of the early pioneers to declare a homestead in the vicinity, along with Elijah Bristow, William Dodson and Captain Felix Scott. Skinner Butte Park now marks the site where he built a house and operated a ferry business before Eugene's township eventually took shape, formerly established in 1846. Tour historical markers in the park and visit the Eugene Public Library where a bronze statue commemorates the city's founder.
Book a stay at the historic Campbell House Inn adjacent Skinner Butte Park. This home was built in 1862 and now operates as an elegant bed and breakfast. Also nearby is Shelton McMurphey Johnson House which has re-opened for limited hours, so you can tour the historic home and learn about what living was like for several prominent Eugene families.The Lane County History Museum is currently closed but resources are available online. Photo by Nick Chase
In Junction City, the Camas Country Mill has preserved an old school house from one hundred years ago. Imagine what is was like attending school there! Now you can order pastries and fresh baked bread to go.
For an even deeper dive into early pioneer days, sign up for Singing Creek Educational Center's homeschooling program. Previously held in Cottage Grove's historic Dr. Snapp house, the curriculum is now available online.
When Wiley Griffon arrived in Eugene in 1891, he was one of the first known African Americans to live in the city despite an exclusion clause in the state constitution that made it illegal for Blacks to settle in Oregon. Griffon drove a mule-drawn trolley and worked as a janitor for the University of Oregon. A plaque honors him near today's EWEB building downtown close to the site of his former home. A mural in his honor adorns the residential walls across for the Civic Park in South Eugene.
One of the first Black-owned properties in Eugene, the Mims House, was built in what is now Alton Baker Park (outside Eugene at the time). Black artists Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong stayed here when they performed in Eugene as local hotels were not friendly to Black entertainers. Today you can visit this historic home currently occupied by the NAACP who offers a small museum, free loaner library of books on topics such as feminism and race. They also host frequent small community events.
Explore our local Black history with the exhibit "Racing to Change: Oregon's Civil Rights Years — The Eugene Story." Learn about today's Black community and expand your lesson plans with presentations and resources from the University of Oregon's Black Cultural Center or check out anti-racist education supplements from Eugene's Ayisha Elliott and Black Gold Culture Camp.
Junction City was settled by Danish immigrants in the early 1900s. The community's popular annual festival celebrates the town's Scandinavian heritage which is reflected throughout the area. While the festival is on hold due to COVID-19 protocols, you can still explore its historical roots on a walking tour. The original Danish Lutheran Church, established locally in 1902, held services in Danish until the 50s. Now in its second location, and known as the Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, the largely Danish congregation still gathers — and proudly serves up aebleskivers at the festival. If health protocols don't prevent it next summer, children can learn traditional Scandinavian dancing for free each Monday evening leading up to the festival.
The Gold RushBohemia Gold Mining Museum Cottage Grove by Colin Morton
Sift through the region's "gold rush" history. Set up basecamp in historic Cottage Grove for your era explorations and learn about gold at the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum, which has re-opened with limited hours. Then hike up Bohemia Mountain, skirting an abandoned mining town. Be cautious of old mine shafts in the vicinity (most have been closed off).
You can pan for gold at Brice Creek or Sharps Creek. Gold panning is allowed on most U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and you don't need a permit — just a pan. Cottage Grove also has six historic covered bridges that you can tour while you're here.
The Oregon Timber Industry
Oregon's logging and timber industry built several of Lane County's communities from Springfield to Oakridge. Stay in the historic Westfir Lodge, near Oakridge, which was once the administrative office for the Westfir Lumber Company. Ask to see the old vault! If it is open, explore the Oakridge Pioneer Museum.
Float the rivers used for transporting felled timbers, such as the Willamette or Siuslaw Rivers. Join a guided hike through a working forest, periodically hosted on the 675-acre Bauman Tree Farm which sustainably manages for wood production while protecting water, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. In Springfield, try the sport of axe throwing (you must be at least 12 years old) and learn about today's use of wood at cool places like Urban Lumber.
Eugene's "Counter Culture" EraKen Kesey's bus called "Further" by Melanie Griffin
Eugene's peace, flowers and love legacy blossomed in the late 60s and early 70s. From the Saturday Market to Nancy's Yogurt, this was the budding of many things to come. Learn about the local author Ken Kesey and his bus "Further." High school students might consider a book report on one of Kesey's books. Check out the origins of the Oregon Country Fair and tie dye some t-shirts. Shop some of Eugene's original natural foods markets like the Kiva and Sundance. Take the kids on a culinary tour, sampling tofu and growing their own sprouts. Start at the Saturday Market, then explore the wholesome menus at Morning Glory, Cornbread Cafe and New Day Bakery. The eclectic Whiteaker neighborhood will give you a modern taste of how the legacy of Eugene's counter culture has shaped the town today.
Eugene's creative thinkers, artisans and local innovators are the genesis for many nationally-recognized and environmentally aware products like the Burley bike trailer and today's Bike Friday travel bicycles. You can also learn about tech start ups, food products from Yogi teas to Toby's salad dressings, and recycling businesses like BRING. There are many environmental groups offering voluntarism opportunities that children can partake in. All of these avenues demonstrate the community's alternative and pioneering approach for improvement.
These suggested schoolcations are not intended to be complete, historically exact, or fully representative of our region's rich history and cultural heritage. Instead they are designed to spark excitement, interest and an investigative spirit within your own family to delve into these topics and learn more.