If your most recent encounter with Iowa is from Chris Soules’ season of TV’s The Bachelor, it’s time to take a better look at all Iowa has to offer student groups. Iowa’s long-running history with farming provides for unique destinations that show students the importance agriculture has on the country’s economy. The Hawkeye State, offering a wide variety of opportunities, is more than meets the eye when it comes to student travel.
Feel Like a V.I.P
Enjoy Broadway without the hustle and bustle of New York with Des Moines Performing Arts, which performs musicals like Wicked, The Lion King and West Side Story. Before the performance, students can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the stage to see what goes into a large-scale production. Be sure to ask about a meet-and-greet with the actors after the show. Throughout the year the theater brings in Broadway performers for classes and workshops.
Iowa is a major producer of industrial equipment, and your students have the opportunity to see how large machines are made with CNH Industrial Manufacturing Tours. The site is an important part of the culture in Burlington and even gives the city its nickname, “Backhoe Capital of the World,” because the main product at this plant is backhoes. See world-class manufacturing firsthand as construction and agricultural equipment are produced.
At Studio Fuzzishu in West Des Moines students get to learn a new skill and take home a handmade souvenir. The studio specializes in glass blowing and, on a special tour, students see how glass objects are made. At the end of the tour students can try their hand at glass blowing by making jewelry, ornaments and glass beads.
Get up close with animals at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. Spark curiosity in your students as they travel through tunnels like prairie dogs and shadow zookeepers taking care of animals. Student groups are given the chance to have a meet-and-greet with various zoo animals and can even pet and play with some of them.
Experience One-of-a-Kind History
If the phrase “If you build it, he will come,” means anything to you, head over to the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville. Your students will explore America’s favorite pastime by running the bases and listening to a “ghost” player recount the history of this Hollywood film site. There are several Sundays every summer when the field hosts a baseball game with players in vintage uniforms, taking you back to the days of Shoeless Joe and the Chicago Black Sox.
The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, part of the Grout Museum District in Waterloo, has a new exhibit commemorating one of the longest wars in American history, the Vietnam War. The exhibit includes individual stories that are told by members of all branches of service. A replica bunker with a touch screen features film clips from the war, and a mock 1960s living room has reports playing on the television. Celebrate the 115,000 men and women from Iowa who served in the war as you experience what life was like in the field and at home.
Phelps House Museum in Burlington is a Victorian house built in 1850 and was later expanded in 1870. It once served as Burlington’s first Protestant hospital, which is commemorated in the exhibit Medical Memories. The rest of the nine-bedroom house serves as a living museum of America’s past with furnishings from 1774, a large textile collection and a wedding dress trunk show that happens once a year.
Have you ever wondered what living on a farm is like? Living History Farms in Urbandale, just outside Des Moines, takes you through three centuries of farming history. The 500-acre, open-air museum contains three working farms that are dedicated to different time periods: 1700 Ioway Indian Farm, 1850 Pioneer Farm and 1900 Farm. A town called Walnut Hill replicates an 1875 frontier community. It includes 18 shops, businesses and homes along the main street, as well as a church and school.
Give Back During Your Visit
Easter Seals of Iowa and Camp Sunnyside in Des Moines has a mission to help people with disabilities or special needs and their families. The camp offers canoeing, horseback riding, archery, nature trails and an accessible indoor pool. Your students can help this organization by reading to kids, painting and doing yard work.
Volunteer opportunities are also available with Kiwanis Miracle League at Principal Park in Des Moines. This organization creates recreational opportunities for kids with special needs through a baseball league. Everyone gets a chance to bat and the game ends in a tie. Volunteers are needed to help kids run around the bases and clean up the park after games.
Students can help preserve the natural landscape of Iowa with Polk County Conservation in Granger. Day-long volunteer opportunities vary depending on the time of year, but usually volunteers help pick up trash to keep the area clean. The organization also provides environmental education that students can take with them.
With so much to do in Iowa, from volunteering to visiting a famous movie set, there is a little something for every student. If you’ve been to Iowa and know of any great student group opportunities, tell us about it in the comment section below!