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Arizona Field Trips – Montezuma Castle and Well

Article and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale

Growing up in rural Indiana where farm lots meet wooded, deciduous forests, the seasons greeted me
with endless beauty: trout lilies, purple grape hyacinths, redbud blooms, and spring peepers in the springtime. In the summer there were quiet light displays of fireflies and noisy cicadas. Fall brought displays of color as maple trees shed their summer green. Winter gifted our region with pure white, powdery snow with an occasional red cardinal or squirrel darting across the cold terrain. I’d describe myself as a nature lover, and I fondly remember watching Marty Stouffer’s Wild America episodes with my dad, dreaming of being right there filming the scene of clashing, battling rams.

My move to Arizona as a young adult, specifically, the giant metropolis of Phoenix, was quite a culture
shock to this Hoosier. However, springtime in the desert is like coming across a buried treasure that might be missed if you aren’t intentionally looking for it. It is a most wonderful time of the year to be raising and homeschooling children in Arizona. Now is the time to go outside and enjoy the pleasant weather and the state’s natural riches. One of my family’s favorite places to visit is Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde; it’s a quick 90-minute drive north of Phoenix. Well-preserved Sinagua ruins rise above the riparian area in Verde Valley. Montezuma Castle is Arizona history: a cliff dwelling that bears evidence of the remarkable past culture in our state. It’s a short, easy walk to the dwelling, and the surrounding area is beautiful.

Plan a field trip with your family, and you’ll quickly unearth the truth: the ruins are inaccurately named
for Montezuma. Make it a true nature study and observe the trees, birds, reptiles, and insects that call this area home. Beaver Creek supports thriving vegetation. Day trips with our children break up the monotony of the school day. It’s an opportunity to learn with your children by exploring the area together, inviting young minds to communicate from their perspective. Can you see the order, attention to detail, beauty and intelligence wrapped up in nature? There is significant value in discovering the world through a child’s eyes, and in homeschooling time is on our side. We instill a love of learning by experiencing it outside a textbook. When Dad gets to come along, we all benefit from making memories and participating in the learning process.

 

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Don’t pass up visiting Montezuma Well, a nearby natural limestone sinkhole. Its origin remains a
mystery, and it hosts some unique organisms that you’ll definitely want to learn about. There’s a nice picnic area between the castle and the well with Arizona sycamore, cottonwoods, and lush green grass: a perfect place for a packed lunch. Look for the original canals built by hand that have calcified over time and were used to irrigate the fields of the past. As you climb the hill to reach the well, imagine being the first Sinagua to see it.

On our first visit we picked up Jr. Ranger Programs for the kids from the Park Service, and they earned their
commemorative Jr. Ranger badges by taking part in age appropriate activities. I pray that as you take time to enjoy the great outdoors here in Arizona in the springtime and in all seasons, whether it’s observing nature in your neighborhood or driving to Montezuma castle and well, something resonates in your heart about the beautiful memories to be made with your children.

While attending the AFHE Convention a few years ago as I took those first steps toward homeschooling. I realized I have a legacy to pass to my children. I want to give mine my very best effort. I looked back at my own school years and decided to take the great parts mixed with what I was learning about being a good teacher from other seasoned homeschoolers. I remembered that my favorite days involved field trips. So, I’ll be packing many more into our school years, and you should too. This is the freedom of homeschool. May you have your best family adventures this season!

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Arizona Field Trips – Mini Time Machine Museum, Tucson

Article and photos by Cindy Duell, Tucson

According to Smithsonianmag.com, only five museums in the US are devoted to the art of miniatures.
The Mini Time Machine Museum exists right here in Tucson,Arizona due to the generosity and vision of a passionate hobbyist whose private collection became the foundation for this marvelous museum, and it offers many delightful displays to discover.

You might primarily think of miniatures as dollhouses, and that is partially correct, but visitors here see
so much more than that! Guests of all ages find plenty to fascinate and spark the imagination. Beyond the welcome desk, seeing the enormous “tree” inviting you into the Enchanted Realm Gallery is irresistible! Here you may look down on a little wintry village through the glass floor beneath your feet, find cohorts of dragons and elves, and admire collections of vintage toys (perhaps some of your – or your grandparents’ – favorite childhood playthings). For scavenger hunt lovers, the quest to find Caitlin (the resident fairy) keeps you looking around every corner throughout your visit.

Moving on from the Enchanted Realm, you enter the History Gallery. Featuring historical recreations,
antiques, and scale models of actual buildings, these creations reflect a great variety of time periods and
settings. My favorite is the model of the Gamble House in Pasadena, a celebrated example of the
Craftsman style of architecture from the mid-20 th century. Your favorite might be the “Little House on
the Prairie” log cabin! Some of the models here are quite old, themselves, constructed as long ago as
the 1700s!

The MTM has a third permanent gallery, dedicated to Exploring the World. The models and items here
depict architectural styles and furnishings found in very different cultures, and they also demonstrate
how miniatures themselves are used in other countries. Throughout the museum, visitors will see
exquisite (and yes, amazingly small) examples of handicrafts such as pottery, needlepoint, jewelry,
carving, sculpture, and clothing.

Temporary exhibits have featured such marvels as miniatures carved on the tips of pencil leads, hand-
built figures of famous people throughout history, mechanized miniatures, and much more. There is a
gift shop with souvenirs, dollhouse furniture, and kits to construct on your own. Classes and seminars
are offered throughout the year for children and adults. You can even take a virtual tour at the
museum’s easily navigated website, theminitimemachine.org.

I hope you will enjoy the Mini Time Machine Museum as much as our family has!

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Arizona Field Trips – Sky Harbor Airport

Article and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale

Through the giant glass windows minute after minute we watched commercial jets of all colors take off and approach for landing. From our high view at the PHX Sky Train platform you could see the long length of the runways, the mountains in the distance, and the beautiful blue Arizona sky. It’s a perfect viewing spot for my boys who are fascinated with airplanes. Dubbed America’s friendliest airport, I understood why as the pleasant tour guides described their passion for air travel and passenger comfort at Sky Harbor Airport.

At the beginning of this school year, our family visited this major airport for a guided tour. Airport staff and volunteers were ready for us with a headset for each attendee. First we visited the different aviation levels starting in the baggage area. Then we learned about the airport’s history, operation, and amenities. Next we spent time at the art museum, and took a ride on the PHX Sky Train. In addition there is an outdoor eating area.

Unquestionably, my children’s favorite part was the sky high ride. We stepped into a large pod without seat belts and glass windows from the floor to ceiling surrounded us for the ultimate viewing experience. Traveling above the ground at a good speed is like something out of the movies for a young person. Who else gets to spend the middle of their school day standing on the platform at a busy airport watching massive jets haul packages and people from one destination to another?

Some of my family’s best elementary years are spent stepping into the real world and getting up close and personal with the people who work in areas that interest my children. Arizona has endless opportunities for us to meet the world. My children make connections between what they’ve learned and real life when we do field trips together. It’s fascinating to learn about airport work: the sights and sounds help sear the learning into my children’s memory. I love these special times with them.

The tour at Sky Harbor continues as volunteer navigators explain the current airport improvement projects including the modernization of terminal 3 and how the airport operates daily to ensure safe, timely flights. With 44 million passengers every year it takes great organization and efficiency to meet the needs of each traveler. Sky Harbor works hard to help put passengers at ease as they proceed through the airport. Free pre-scheduled airport tours are offered each month. Your family can do a self-guided tour or organize a trip. We enjoyed one with our support group. Overall, this family friendly tour satisfied every child’s desire to ride elevators, escalators and watch air traffic go in and out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

With a little bit of prep work you can easily tie this trip in with a study on aviation. Be intentional and use field trips to enrich your lesson plans. Sometimes I have my boys think up questions they can ask during a tour. How do the 1,200 planes a day keep from crashing into one another? Where does the baggage go once it leaves the check-in area? What skills are people using during a work day at the airport? What education do you need to become a pilot? Questions can be used to encourage learning and focus the attention to certain things we want our children to pay attention to during the trip. I follow up our trips with asking my children to retell the best part of the trip or what was something new they learned. Older children can write a summary. Sometimes we’re spurred on to do more research. Whatever direction the wind sock may be blowing today, one thing is sure: you cannot go
wrong with adding a little air-venture to your school day.