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Conner Prairie And “Follow The North Star”

May 3, 2009

Here is a most interesting way to teach history.  I often ponder ideas on how to make people care more about our past, and how to have history better presented by making them teaching moments.  When I read about Conner Prairie, and the “Follow The North Star” program I knew this was a winning method for the participants at the interactive history park.

Become a fugitive slave on the Underground Railroad, running from captivity, risking everything for freedom. Will you find safety? Will you be captured by slave hunters? Every moment is filled with uncertainty, with new twists all along the way.

Conner Prairie’s Follow the North Star experience, developed after several years of research, is unlike any other. Immersed in the life of a runaway slave, participants live through one of the most compelling periods in Indiana history. This powerful and interactive glimpse into our shared past affects guests in ways that reading a book or watching a movie about it cannot.

Playing the role of a runaway slave, participants encounter a slave sale and a variety of characters like a belligerent Southerner, a reluctantly helpful farm wife, a slave hunter, a Quaker family and a free black family.

Through authentic interaction with costumed characters and each other, participants learn to depend on each other. As a result, Follow the North Star is an effective tool for civic, church or corporate groups seeking exceptional and powerful diversity training experiences. Teachers, see our field trips section for ways to include your students in this award-winning program.

Follow the North Star is not for everyone. This program takes place outside in all kinds of weather, and participants walk approximately one mile on rough terrain. The emotional effect of the program is intense, as participants are treated as slaves, being told to keep their eyes down and not to speak unless spoken to. Because of the nature of the experience, participants must be 12 years or older.

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