Free Field Trip Programs at the McLean County Museum of History

Are you looking for an interactive learning experience for your students to augment your classroom curriculum? The Museum is an award winning educational institution accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and offers FREE hands-on, educational programming for grades pre-K through college.

The Harriet Fuller Rust Education Endowment funds admission fees for all pre-arranged educational tours and for all individual students using the Museum's resources for class assignments. Donations are always gratefully accepted!

All programs meet Illinois State Board of Education learning goals in several subjects and are taught by the Museum's Director of Education and Education Program Coordinator.

Group reservations are required at least three weeks in advance. April/May and November/December are our busiest times, so plan ahead!

Tours are booked between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Programs generally run between 60 and 90 minutes, but can be tailored to fit individual class schedules. Limited program changes and time adjustments may be made with advanced notice. Following your phone call or email reservation, a confirmation letter will be mailed to the addressed provided. Any cancellations must be made at least 24 hours in advance of the program.

A minimum of one chaperone is required for every 10 students. Chaperones are expected to help students with activities and must assist with discipline. Chaperones should not bring additional children to school programs and must turn off or mute cell phones the entire time.

Parking in front of the Museum is limited to 90 minutes and is strictly enforced by the City of Bloomington. If traveling by car, we suggest you park in the free 4-hour parking deck on Market Street (lower level). Buses and school vans may park in our loading zone on the north side of Washington Street for the duration of the program. Bus drivers are welcome to tour the Museum while they wait.

To schedule a program or for more information, please call or email:

Candace Summers, Director of Education, Hannah Johnson, Education Program Coordinator, or Anthony Bowman, Outreach Program Coordinator

309-827-0428 or

Please click here to download a copy of our Fieldtrip Guide.

Pre-K to Kindergarten

  • photo of students learning about prairie pioneers
  • Prairie Pioneers
  • Students will learn about early pioneer life in what is now McLean County by exploring the People Gallery and passing around objects that pioneers once used. The program will conclude with a visit to the Pioneer Discovery Room. Students will be able to try on period clothing; milk the pretend cow; play with toys and games from long ago; and much more.
  • 60 minutes
  • Learning Goals 1A, 4A, 4B, 12B, 15B, 16, 17C, 18C

  • Students learning about Life on the Farm
  • Life on the Farm
  • How did people get food? What types of things are found on a farm? Who cared for the animals? How did farmers plant their crops? We’ll answer these questions about the history of farming and more with a visit to the Farming Gallery. Students will examine historic farming tools to understand how farming practices have changed over time and will become farmers themselves and plant their very own bean seed to take back to their classroom. Program can be adapted for older students too.
  • 60 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 1A, 4, 15, 17C

  • Students learning about native americans
  • Native Americans of McLean County
  • Students will learn about the Native Americans of McLean County by visiting the People and Farming galleries. Native American food, clothing, home, and family roles will be explored through hands on activities. Students will also play traditional Native American children’s games, learn how to grind corn, and use a pump drill. Program can be adapted for older students too.
  • 60 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 1A, 4A, 15, 16, 17, 18

2nd — 5th

  • Students making a Chromotrope, a traditional Pioneer toy
  • Encounter on the Prairie
  • Students will do a scavenger hunt in the People gallery to learn about the first five ethnic groups that settled in McLean County. Next, students will learn about the toys of yesterday while making a traditional pioneer toy, called a chromotrope, to take home. The program concludes with a journey to the hands-on Pioneer Discovery Room where students can pretend to be pioneers.
  • 90 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 1, 4, 16,17,18
  • Pioneer Toys and Games
  • History of Toys and Games
  • Children used to make their own toys and games. Today, children buy them at the toy store. But do kids learn from toys? Do they still play with the same toys today? This program will discuss the evolution of toys as tools for learning. Students will see historic toys and games and discuss how they were made and the many skills taught to children. Talk about what today's toys can teach us - with lots of play time, too. Participants will make a traditional pioneer toy called a chromotrope at the end of the program.
  • 60 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 1A, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5C, 15C, 16
  • Image of Asahel Gridley
  • Finding Lincolns Friends
  • Abraham Lincoln made many friends in Bloomington where he was a lawyer before he became President of the US. Students will complete this scavenger hunt inside and outside the Museum to find seven Lincoln statues, plaques, or portraits. Next to each Lincoln is a photograph and short biography of one of Lincoln's Bloomington friends, one of which you can see pictured above. Find all seven to complete the mystery and learn who Lincoln's best friend was. May also be done as a self-guided tour if arrangements are made with education department.
  • 45 minutes
  • 1, 5, 14D, 16

6th — 12th

  • Image of Downtown Bloomington
  • Standing on the Corner
  • This walking tour of downtown Bloomington will teach students about the significance of historic architecture in the community. Students will also be taught several architectural elements during the tour. This program is also a great self-guided tour using our guidebook. A scavenger hunt of architectural elements inside the Museum (the old McLean County courthouse) will be substituted during inclement weather. This program can be adapted for younger students too.
  • 60 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 4, 9, 16, 25A, 27B

  • Miller-Davis building
  • Lincoln in Downtown- Walking Tour
  • Join the Museum’s Executive Director, Greg Koos, for a tour of downtown Bloomington sites associated with Abraham Lincoln. Learn about the people and the town where Lincoln spent more time than any other place outside of Springfield.
  • 60 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 4, 16, 18

All Ages

  • image of students in work gallery
  • General Gallery Tour
  • During this program, students will explore the entire museum to learn about the history of McLean County using work-sheets or the Family Workbook. After a brief orientation of the Museum, students will be divided into smaller groups and led through the exhibits by a museum educator. Groups of more than 100 students can be accommodated per day but must be split into two different start times the day of the program.
  • 60-90 minutes
  • Learning Goals: 1, 4, 15, 16, 17, 18
  • Family touring exhibits
  • Self-Guided Tours
  • Sometimes the best way to engage a student is by individual exploration of the Museum. A self-guided tour allows teachers to bring their class, with chaperones, to tour the exhibits at their own pace without a staff interpreter. The Family Workbook is offered as a guide to the permanent galleries; it provides post-visit activities to enhance the experience. Teachers are welcome to create their own worksheet or activity, or just explore the Museum freely.
  • However much time you need

Other Group Programs

Contact the Museum Education Department by phone at 309-827-0428, or by email at, and Museum Staff will work with you to create customized resources or experiences that meet your educational needs.