The Museum is closed until further notice due to lack of staffing.

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200 North Main St | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

Program Goals

Programs facilitated by educators at the McLean County Museum of History are designed to ignite curiosityinspire creative expressionelicit critical thinking, and provide a broad sensory experience to learners of all ages. While visiting the Museum, learners will:

  • Be constructive
  • Voice their perspectives
  • Engage with historic material culture
  • Recognize diversity in the community’s shared history
  • Experience historical empathy
  • Embrace avenues of lifelong learning

Learners will accomplish these goals by actively participating in a range of hands-oninquiry-driveninterdisciplinary, and object-based activities. These activities will help them to understand the challenges the people of McLean County have faced, the choices they have made, and the change—they have brought about.

All programs meet Illinois State Board of Education learning standards in several subjects and are facilitated by the Museum's Education Department.

Scheduling

Group reservations are required at least three weeks in advance. April/May and November/December are our busiest times, so plan accordingly! Don't see a program that aligns with your curriculum? The Museum Education Department is glad to collaborate on program offerings.

Programs are booked between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Wednesday mornings until 1:00 p.m. are reserved for weekly staff meetings. Programs generally run between 60 and 90 minutes, but can be tailored to fit individual class schedules and sizes. Following your email reservation or phone call, a confirmation letter will be emailed to the address provided. Any cancellations must be made at least 24 hours in advance of the program barring any unforeseen circumstances.

A minimum of one chaperone is required for every 10 students. Chaperones are expected to engage in the program, assist students when necessary, and be available at all times to assist with behavior. Ideally, chaperones should not bring additional children to school programs unless they have requested permission to do so ahead of the program date. 

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

The Museum follows all current health and safety guidelines according to the Restore Illinois Phased Plan for Reopening and CDC. By arriving onsite, you are self-certifying that NO staff, students, or chaperones are exhibiting any symptoms and do not have a temperature above 100.4 degrees. Masks are required to be worn by all program participants over the age of 2 regardless of vaccination status. Physical distancing of 3 feet will be maintained when possible according to ISBE guidelines.

We strongly encourage all students wear name tags during their Museum visit as it enables Museum educators to easily call students by name, which in turn fosters a comfortable and personal learning environment.

Parking

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), or in the $1 per hour Lincoln Parking Deck on Front Street (one block south of the Museum). 

All buses must unload and load students at the Museum’s Washington Street loading zone on the south side of the building. Please approach the Museum from the east to be on the correct side of Washington Street. The Washington Street side of the building is the only entrance to the Museum. Please enter through the street level door and proceed inside to the Visitors Center. A staff member from the Education Department will greet you and guide you to the first floor to begin your program. 

Buses that are staying for the duration of the program can park at the Douglas Street Surface Lot, two blocks north of the Museum Square. Click here for a bus parking map.

Contact

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

Hannah Johnson, Director of Youth & Family Education

Candace Summers, Director of Community Education

(309) 827-0428 or education@mchistory.org

Programs

All school programs can be scaled for older student groups upon request. Inquire by emailing education@mchistory.org

Filter by Age Group

Lincoln in McLean County

A. Lincoln Was Here

90 minutes

3rd to 6th Grade

Ever wonder what Abraham Lincoln did before he was President of the United States? This program will help your students learn about Lincoln the Lawyer, his friends and associates in McLean County, his impact on McLean County history, and how several important McLean County citizens helped Lincoln get elected as the nation's 16th President. Activities include guided interactive exploration of the Museum's Abraham Lincoln in McLean County exhibit, a craft station, and will learn about Lincoln's travels as a lawyer by playing the "Take the Eighth Judicial Circuit Challenge" game in our courtroom.

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Challenges, Choices and Change

Challenges, Choices, and Change

90 minutes

3rd to 6th Grade

In this three-part program, students will be introduced to the various migrant and immigrant groups who have made McLean County their home and continue to shape the county we know today. Activities include guided interactive exploration of the Museum's Making a Home exhibit, a craft station, and play time in the Museum's hands-on Discovery Room.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to consider and determine answers to essential questions, to verbally communicate their inquiries and conclusions, to defend said conclusions with supportive evidence, to address the ideas of change, continuity, and context, and to better understand the global interactions between the people of McLean County and the rest of the world.

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A student churns butter, learning about how early settlers once lived.

Finding McLean County

1 hour

Pre-K to 2nd Grade
In this two-part program, students will explore lifeways of early settlers in what is now McLean County through immersive, object-based activities. Students will examine period items and discuss means of travel in the Museum's Making a Home exhibit, as well as visit the Museum's hands-on Discovery Room where they can dress in period clothing, milk a cow, harvest corn, plow a field, and more.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to consider and determine answers to essential questions, to verbally communicate their inquiries and conclusions, and to address the ideas of change, continuity, and context.

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General Gallery Tour

General Gallery Tour

90 minutes

All Ages

During this program students will explore the entire museum to learn about the varied history of McLean County. After a brief introduction to the Museum, students will be divided into smaller groups and guided through the exhibits by a Museum educator. Total number of students should not exceed 75-80. Larger groups are encouraged to consider a self-guided program. Contact the Education Department for further details.

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Farming in the Corn Belt exhibit.

Growing McLean County

1 hour

Pre-K to 2nd Grade

Featuring the Museum's exhibit Farming in the Great Corn Belt, this program explores themes such as: food culture, advancements in farming technology, animal husbandry, history of corn planting in McLean County, urban sprawl, and more. Activities include exhibit exploration, hands-on manipulation of period artifacts, and the option of seed planting or butter making. Contact the Education Department for specific details. Program can be adapted for older students.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to consider and determine answers to essential questions, to verbally communicate their inquiries and conclusions, to address the ideas of change, continuity, and context, and to better understand the relationship between people and the geography of McLean County.

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Image of one of our education staff Anthony Bowman helping two students with an educational craft

History of Toys and Games

1 hour

Pre-K to 2nd Grade

Toys and games may have changed from generation to generation, but the process of learning through play is as old as time. In this program students will investigate how modes of play have evolved over the last 300 years in McLean County. Students will not only experience the history of these toys and games firsthand, but will also craft their own toy to take home.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to consider and determine answers to essential questions, to verbally communicate their inquiries and conclusions, and to address the ideas of change, continuity, and context.

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Curator for a Day

Making a Museum

90 minutes

3rd to 6th Grade

In this customizable program, students will explore the idea of museum literacy by completing activities inspired by the roles of a museum curator. Students will actively examine the effectiveness of an existing museum exhibit from the perspective of a museum visitor, will consider the relationship between objects on display and informational text in a museum exhibit, and will have the opportunity to draft a design of their own museum exhibit. Elements of this program can be incorporated into other relevant program offerings upon request. Content can also be scaled for older students.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to consider and determine answers to essential questions, to verbally communicate their inquiries and conclusions, and to address the ideas of change, continuity, and context.

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Self Guided Tour

Self Guided Tour

1 hour

All Ages

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. Teachers are welcome to create their own worksheet or activity, or just explore the Museum freely.

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Standing on the Corner

Standing on the Corner

45 min to 1 hour

All Ages

Students will witness history with their own eyes during this guided walking tour of Downtown Bloomington, where art and architecture abound. By the end of the tour, students will become familiar with a range of architectural vocabulary and the names of a few of Bloomington-Normal's most notable architects. Interior tours of the Museum's architecture can be added to any walking tour upon request, and can also substitute an outdoor walking tour in cases of inclement weather. This program can be adapted for all ages.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to evaluate historic source material, to consider the economic incentives of a downtown district, and to more generally address the ideas of change, continuity, and context, as well as place.

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Kickapoo of McLean County

The Unconquerable: Kickapoo in McLean County

1 hour

Pre-K to 2nd Grade

In this two-part program students will learn about the people native to McLean County, including those of the Kickapoo tribe. Students will explore the Museum's Making a Home exhibit - complete with a replica wigwam - and will engage in hands-on manipulation of period artifacts. Students will be taught period games, as well as learn how to grind corn, and use a pump drill. Native traditions pertaining to food, clothing, home life, and family roles will be discussed. Program can be adapted for older students.

Standards: This program satisfies various Illinois Social Science standards by encouraging students to consider and determine answers to essential questions, to verbally communicate their inquiries and conclusions, and to address the ideas of change, continuity, and context.

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Zoom: Black History BINGO

This virtual program engages students in the names, faces, and places of Black history in McLean County. A partner program with the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, this program offers insight into the pasts of the local Black community and looks to the future through contemporary examples of community engagement and history making.

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Other Group Programs

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