Battle Lake, MN, May 26, 2017: After a year of research and curriculum development, Prospect House and Civil War museum announced the successful launch of a new educational tour based on Minnesota’s role in the Civil War, the Dakota War and Resettlement after the war. The program, targeted at the 6th grade level, invited its first two groups of students Thursday.

40 sixth grade students from Underwood School, plus teacher Jesse Arbuckle and adult chaperones, moved through three learning modules in different locations around the museum. Module one introduced the main points of the Civil War, including examining many artifacts and ending in a timeline challenge, with reproduction Union and Confederate money prizes. Module two explored the life of a soldier, including an encampment with a “dog” tent kids could try out, artifacts and a soldier mannequin in full uniform to examine, and a discussion of the changing roles of women and children on the home front. Module three explored the Dakota War and Resettlement of West Central Minnesota after the war, including a history of the area and establishment of the Prospect House Hotel, ending in a bingo game based on module facts. Each module was set against the backdrop of artifacts and stories collected by Civil War veteran James “Cap” Colehour, who built Prospect House after the war.

A learning assessment at the end of the tour revealed some important take-aways the kids learned.

In module one, many kids liked seeing the original sword, guns and money in the Civil War room, and the authentic uniform sleeves of Cap Colehour showing the bullet holes where he was shot. Several mentioned the fight for freedom of slaves Harriet and Dred Scott.

The dog tent was popular in module two, with kids talking about how it was to live during the war, that soldiers were as young as 9 years old, understanding that more soldiers died from disease than battle, and how popular amputation was. Several mentioned the Brogan shoes that could go on either foot, and the “mine ball” bullet that shattered bones.

In module three, it was clear students understood that Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the area. A couple of impressions of the students regarding conflicts between Native Americans and settlers included “They were cheated many times and disrespected (Cole),” and “They were here first and we just invaded (unnamed).” The bingo game at the conclusion of module three was by far the most popular activity of the day, with kids answering questions about the module topics, and filling in the game board with Necco wafers, a candy popular with Civil War soldiers.

The tour day was directed by Education leader Julie Fietek who wrote the curriculum, and organized by Education Project Manager Darla Ellingson. Fietek has a Master’s degree in elementary education, certification in ecommerce and web development and over 11 years of experience teaching at the elementary level, plus a decade of developing training programs and curriculum. Ellingson has degrees in Communications and Broadcast Engineering, with a background in media and over 15 years’ experience in non-profit leadership and program management.

Volunteers played a key role in executing the new program. Jan Solomonson led module three, and Kathy Schmitz managed distribution of materials and artifacts in module two. Carrie Fisher was the timekeeper, helping students rotate through modules.

Museum board president (and Cap Colehour decendent) Jay Johnson provided an introduction for the day, and his wife and museum administrator Abby Johnson photographed events.

This program soft launch, with the feedback from students, teacher and chaperones, will help museum personnel further refine the education program before the full program is made available to sixth grade students in the region. The museum is currently fundraising for the continued operation of the program.

The first phase of a companion historic preservation program is also complete. The Civil War room collection has been cataloged, and the room has been refurbished with new paint, lighting, exhibit cases and an exhibit wall hanging system. Donations are being sought for historic preservation efforts for the remaining three floors of the museum.

More about The Prospect House and Civil War Museum:

The Prospect House, a Georgian-style "mansion," was the first house and later the first resort in Battle Lake, MN. James A. “Cap” Colehour, a veteran of the Civil War, migrated to Battle Lake, MN, and built the first house in town called the “Chicago House” in 1882. In 1886 Colehour built an addition onto his house and began to offer his home to visitors, which he then called "The Prospect Inn," as a seasonal resort hotel. He operated the resort until 1924 when he retired at age 82. Cap’s daughter, Kathrina, and her husband, Ernest Wilkins, remodeled the interior five years later in 1929. The house’s furnishings and décor have not been changed since that time.

Continually inhabited by descendants of Cap Colehour since 1882, the four stories of Prospect House are filled with priceless artifacts, including a large exhibit room on the lower level dedicated to the Civil War. Historical markers around the yard tell the story of the Prospect House, which is on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

The Prospect House and Civil War Museum is open year round. Call (218) 864-4008 for a tour appointment reservation. The Civil War Education curriculum development project was made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society, through the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund by the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008.