The Sooner State offers student groups a vast array of educational and entertaining sites. While Oklahoma presents plenty of opportunities to explore the identities of cowboys, Indians and all those traditional trappings of Western identity, there’s actually plenty more it can offer to traveling students, including science, sports and culture.
Students in Stetsons: The Cowboy Experience
Oklahoma City’s Western Heritage Museum is the perfect first stop for students wanting to learn all about the Wild West. The museum addresses the historical realities of cowboy life as well as the popular mythology of cowboys in film in pop culture. Art and sculpture, including Native American pieces, also reflect the cultural power of Oklahoma’s Western spirit. Various artifacts and historical recreations demonstrate Oklahoma’s history. Guided museum tours are offered for student groups.
For an even more immersive learning experience, visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Run by the Chickasaw Nation, it prides itself on being more than a simple museum. A “Living Village” replication of a traditional Native American village shows students Chickasaw farming, crafting and hunting practices. Leisure, lifestyle and spirituality are also explored. Theaters, galleries and even Holisso, a center for the study of Chickasaw history and culture, all offer students a truly enriching experience.
Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum is singularly notable for having one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Western art and artifacts. From sweeping Romantic Western vistas to stylized Mexican-American, slice-of-life paintings, this museum works hard to capture the full spectrum of the Wild West experience. Guided tours of the museum are available for student groups.
The Wild West has hardly disappeared from Oklahoma, though. To catch a bit of today’s Oklahoma Western spirit, enjoy a horse show or rodeo. Oklahoma has plenty of shows throughout the year featuring daring horse and bull riders. IPRA or PRCA Rodeos take place all over the state, in cities such as Pawhuska, Carnegie and Shawnee.
Learn More Than Cattle Roping: Science in the Sooner State
Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City was made with interactive fun in mind. Exhibits teach kids about topics ranging from simple machines to the human body. Each exhibit was designed to be a truly hands-on experience, giving visitors lasting lessons on space, weather, human perception and more.
For a more specialized scientific experience, learn about bones at the Osteology Museum in Oklahoma City. Exhibits feature a wide variety of animal skeletons. School groups can take self-guided tours or sign up for scavenger hunts and other educational programs.
If you’d like to see some exotic creatures that are still breathing, head on down to the Tulsa Zoo. In addition to a beautiful carousel and exciting Camel Tours, the zoo is notable for its local and exotic animal displays. Meet grizzly bears in the WildLIFE Trek exhibit and learn about dinosaurs up close and personal in the high-tech Zoorassic Park exhibit. Tulsa Zoo has a number of educational tours and programs for student groups.
Tulsa’s Oklahoma Aquarium offers another opportunity to learn about science from living creatures on tours and educational programs. Students can learn about the aquarium’s sea turtles or sea horses, what goes on behind the scenes at the aquarium and the environmental dangers today’s ocean wildlife face.
Cruising through the Capital
Oklahoma City is a great spot to enjoy sporting events. The Oklahoma City Dodgers baseball team plays at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Alternatively, the Chesapeake Energy Arena houses the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team. In addition to getting to see the game, OKC Thunder is looking for student choirs and bands to perform the National Anthem before the game begins.
If you’re looking for a great way to get around the city, look no further than the Oklahoma River Cruise, a boat ride along the Oklahoma River. Use the ride to get from one point of the city to another in style, and enjoy the scenic view of OKC’s skyline. Specialty cruises like the History Comes Alive Series or the Cartoon Cruise are also available.
At OKC Museum of Art student groups can take docent-led tours of the museum’s varied collection. Exhibits include the colorful glasswork of Dale Chihuly, European and American art and a special selection of films. The museum’s field trip sponsorship program ensures kids can learn about its collections by reducing travel and admission costs for the school.
Oklahoma’s variety of fun and engaging travel destinations give Western spirit a whole new meaning. Whether students want to learn about cowboys and science or enjoy the sights and entertainment of the capital city, they’ll find crowds of helpful folks making sure each student group has a great time and learns a lot about Oklahoma and the real Wild West. Have any special experiences from your time in Oklahoma? Feel free to tell us all about it in the comments below.