Fall fun at the Harn Homestead: five tips to plan your visit - MetroFamily Magazine
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Fall fun at the Harn Homestead: five tips to plan your visit

by Callie Collins

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Oklahoma City family fun fills our autumn days.

Fall is in the air and outdoor traditions are part of the season. Hayrides, pumpkin patches, s'mores around a backyard bonfire: there's so much to see and do this time of year. Halloween is already on the horizon, with events popping up to fill our October calendar.

Before we get there, though, I want to experience an authentic Oklahoma autumn, with all the best local fall traditions.

One outstanding venue to do that with children is the Harn Homestead. It's an example of a venue that's hidden in plain sight, part of the urban landscape that blends in and looks nothing like its surroundings near the Capitol.

When you take the 23rd Street exit and follow Lincoln Boulevard past Byron's Liquor Warehouse, the Clara Luper Corridor and the state's office buildings, a historic barn, home, school house and gardens aren't what you'd expect to find.

 There it is: preserved and waiting, the Harn Homestead is set back from the road and all that surrounds it to welcome school children for field trips, families for events and tours. 

I visited with my son's fourth grade last week as part of a field trip and it was totally worth attending. Here's why: I had heard of history coming to life but that cliché sounds a lot less tired when your child repeats it back to you as an original thought. 

Sam is 9 and he contributes to MetroFamily's Kid Review section. Here's what he had to say when asked the experience: "What made the visit stand out was how it connected what I’ve seen in school with what I saw at the Oklahoma History Center a few months ago and made it seem like real life. We visited the Oklahoma History Center and learned about the Land Run [at a Hands-On History First Saturday event] but I didn’t think about how that time would have been for regular people who lived here before Oklahoma was even a state. At the Harn Homestead, I started thinking about how people then had farm animals and kids who went to school and how they just did ordinary things like making food but in ways that were more complicated. It would have been really difficult to live at that time because you had to wash all the laundry by hand and there were no antibiotics or even phones really. I just didn’t think much about the people then as real people with families." 

You can read Sam's full Kid Review the first week of October. 

We went on the field trip with our baby and toddler too, ages 21 months and 4 years. They had a great time being outdoors. I was glad there was a picnic area and also an accessible restroom where we could change diapers and wash hands.

Here are our five tips to visit the Harn Homestead:

  • Plan your visit: The Harn Homestead isn't open to the public on the weekends. It makes for a very hands-on field trip and you can always attend an event or schedule a visit with help from the Harn Homestead's staff. Hours that the site is open to the public can be found here. Check the website for special events that feature fall crafts and mark your calendar for Haunt the Harn, an annual event that features hayrides, trick-or-treating, pumpkin bowling and other seasonal activities on Oct. 27.
  • Prepare with a history review: Reserve a book from your public library that's just for kids about the Land Run and Oklahoma's early history. There are some awesome titles for kids that take the boring right out of history lessons, including some first-person novels set at the turn of the previous century. Having an idea of what the world was like then at all can provide context. I realized we needed some when one of the fourth-graders asked if iPads were around then. Fair question. That's their reality and knowing that the world was different in a relevant way lets kids see the contrast. Even if you YouTube it, there's a framework.
  • Wear comfortable shoes/dress for a mess: It sounds like a really simple tip but just know that there is a lot of ground to cover and dress for the season, as you'll be outdoors during most of the visit. There might be mud or hay; it's part of the experience. 
  • Bring a picnic lunch: There are really nice grounds on which to host a school picnic or sit down for a sack lunch. Bring something extra to drink; kids tend to get really thirsty with all of the walking. 
  • Enjoy what's simple: Tasting herbs, grinding corn, spinning hemp strands into rope and milking mechanical cows were the hands-on activities were tried. They may sound simple but both Isaac, 4, and Sam enjoyed them. They were entirely new activities to both children, besides to the majority of the fourth-graders. 

The Harn Homestead makes for a memorable afternoon. Learning doesn't always take place in a classroom; sometimes, the best way to really understand something is by seeing, doing, trying. 

Sam said it best: "I didn't know I liked history until I saw that it meant people, not just dates in a book."

As a parent, I'll take that this fall or anytime of year.

Knowing your city, your community and how it all got to be what we're seeing today is part of appreciating where we live. Field trips definitely have their place in being part of it, a background before kids participate as grown-ups. 

Enjoy exploring OKC together! 

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