May 28, 2016

Adventures at The Great Serpent Mound

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the ability to plan field trips at the last minute based on whatever we are studying. I didn't have any field trips really scheduled for the rest of the year, but when Little Britches began studying a certain period of American History, I just had to throw in a spur the moment field trip to The Great Serpent Mound to take our learning further!

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We are currently reviewing America the Beautiful by Notgrass Company, which is an American History curriculum for 5th-8th grade.  The first 5 lessons of the curriculum are geared towards talking about the tribal nations of the Americas in the early 1000's AD. This week, Little Britches read all about the tribes of the Northeast, which included all the tribes that lived in the areas around the Ohio River Valley--where we live. One such group of nations were the mound builders. At the conclusion of his lesson, Little Britches showed me the photos of several of the more famous effigy sites--and mentioned that several appeared to be in Ohio. I smiled at him, and instantly knew it was time for a field trip. He was very surprised and excited to learn that one of the most famous--The Great Serpent Mound--was merely a little over an hour away in Peebles, OH. 

On Wednesday, I arranged for us to go visit this site. I was eager to go, because it was somewhere that I haven't been to yet either. Being only about an hour away, it was easy to throw it into our plans for Wednesday afternoon. 

Here are some photos of our field trip for your viewing pleasure--

We began in the museum. They loved all the artifacts--especially the war clubs!
 There is a very nice, small museum that has an 11 minute video about the effigy, and a collection of artifacts from the region. It is a great background on the history of the site and a great starting place. We were able to talk about how it was found and some ideas on its purpose before we viewed it ourselves.
We climbed the observation tower to see the whole serpent
 Right at the beginning of the serpent, you are able to climb up an observation tower. At the top, you are able to have a great view of nearly the entire mound--but especially the tail and body. 
Looking towards the body and head

One thing we learned in the museum is that almost every main point on the mound is in synch with something astrological. Every bend of the body lines up with either a moonrise or a solstice sunrise/sunset. They have these all marked with directional areas along the effigy. 

 The view from the tail portion is quite gorgeous, as it looks out over a valley. The Great Serpent Mound was built high up on the rim of a crater. Once you are up on it, you realize it's one of the highest spots in the area...something very common with ancient monuments.

If you stand at the very center and tip of the tail, you will face due north!

At the head of the serpent, you find the summer solstice sunset marker. It makes sense that this would be a special spot with it being the longest day of the year. When they first discovered the mound, there was the remnants of what appears to have been an altar in the middle of the "eye" of the serpent. In perfect allignment with the summer solstice sunset marking. This really backs up the belief that the serpent mound was of a religious nature and use.

Part of the head of the serpent

My beloved boys and I
Throughout the site, there are also several burial mounds predating the 1000's. The whole area was definitely somehow related to a worship/religion use as many burial grounds are found near worship sites.
After we viewed the Serpent Mound, we decided to go back into the museum and gift shop to grab some postcards. The boys enjoyed looking at all the toys and trinkets--I loved looking at the jewelry and books. As we were getting ready to check out, the curator of the site, asked me if the boys would like to try out an atlatl. Because I remembered what this was from our trip to Natural Bridge last year, I said I was sure they would and the boys came over to hear the man.
Talking about their purpose and showing them an authentic atlatl
 It was so cool! The man taught them all about it, including how it was used, the names of all the parts, the age they probably started training, the tribes that most likely used it, and more. Then he grabbed another version of the atlatl and we headed out front. The man demonstrated step by step how to use it...then he simply handed it to Little Britches and the three spears to Baby Britches, smiled and said "Have fun! Bring it back in whenever you are done!"

Oh my. And have fun they did!

Demonstrating the positioning of the weapon

Baby Britches loading his atlatl

Great form!

Let it fly!
When we were done throwing the atlatl, we decided to go on one of the nature paths and explore around the base of the cliff, near the river.

We had such a great time on our field trip and I loved being able to use Serpent Mound themed worksheets that I found over in Notebooking Pages (something I am reviewing and will be sharing more about later) to capture what we experienced when we got home. It was a great way to help take our lessons even further and yet another reason I'm so thankful I can homeschool and make these impromptu field trips possible!

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