At Niagara Falls, Teachers Can Show, Not Just Tell
Which would make a bigger impression on your class?
a) Tell them that Niagara Falls has 3,160 tons of water flowing down it every second.
b) Take them to the Falls and stand under the pounding waters as they plunge 175 feet off the ledge above their heads.
Niagara Falls is an ideal student destination, giving visitors a lesson in history, ecology and industrial significance. And since, much like Napoleon’s army, student groups tend to travel on their stomachs, you’ll be glad to know there are several onsite options for hungry visitors.
Niagara Falls State Park, America’s oldest state park is a do not miss for you and your group!
A Trip Into History at America’s Oldest State Park
Created in 1885, Niagara Falls became a state park and even before that it was already known as a tourist attraction and a honeymoon spot, thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger brother Joseph, who vacationed here with his new bride in 1804. And before that, it was an explorer’s goal; the first known European sighting of the Falls took place in 1678.
Fittingly, then, history is a big deal at Niagara Falls. The onsite Niagara Adventure Theatre plays a 30-minute film on the topic on a 45-foot-tall screen with surround sound.
What Does Niagara Falls Teach Kids About Natural Science?
- Niagara Gorge Discovery Center is a good place to start, but the miles of hiking trails are better. Students will learn about the natural and local history of the Niagara through interactive displays. Then students can embark on a variety of hikes like Devil’s Hole Rapids or Whirlpool Rapids.
- Maid of the Mist is arguably one of the best ways to experiences the falls. Students will climb aboard this double-decker tour boat and set sail into the frothing waters of Horseshoe and American Falls. The Maid of the Mist will leave your students awestruck by the power of the whitewater and the grandeur of Niagara’s monstrous rock formations.
- Cave of the Winds Tour will walk your students on the wet and wild side of the falls. Begin by plummeting 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge, then gear up in a rain poncho and prepare to brave the falls. Stroll through a stormy mist zone as you follow wooden walkways that wrap around the Niagara River and end at the Hurricane Deck.If your group comes by in the spring, special editions of the Cave tour allow visitors to see the decks and boardwalks being built for the upcoming peak season. And after peak season, an abbreviated version of the tour leads guests to observation platforms. Either way, it’s a uniquely up-close way to visit the Falls.
- Goat Island, located between American and Bridal Veil Falls, is another place that students interested in biology will want to visit. Students will get up close and personal with the creatures who live in and around Niagara Falls at uninhabited Goat Island. This spot offers views of both the American and Canadian sides of the park.
- Aquarium of Niagara is only a few blocks away from the state park is a top-tier aquarium that showcases the ecosystems of everything from coral reefs to the Great Lakes. Here, your students can enjoy over 40 exhibits brimming with exciting creatures like sea lions, penguins and sturgeon.
What Can Kids Learn About Engineering at Niagara Falls?
There are three ways that students can learn about engineering on their trip to the Falls. And the emphasis in engineering in the Niagara Falls region is, understandably, on electricity. Combined, the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls can produce over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which the U.S. and Canada share.
- The Terrain Map will help students can explore the idea of how electricity is made by seeing, a scale model of the Niagara area that shows how electricity can be produced from the mighty Niagara River.
- The Schoellkopf Power Station was constructed in three sections between 1905 and 1924, and at the time of its completion was the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. The complex included offices, gatehouses, and other buildings at the top of the gorge, and turbine-generator stations located at the base of the gorge. Water was diverted from the Niagara River above the falls, by a 4,600-foot canal that ran through the city to the edge of the gorge. When the last section of Station 3 was built, a pressure tunnel was constructed to bring additional water to the site. Water was collected at the forebay gatehouses where it entered penstocks down to the turbine-generator stations below. On June 7th, 1956, two-thirds of the power station was destroyed by a series of rockslides. In 2013, the Maid of the Mist began construction on the site as a location to store their boats during the harsh winter months. As part of that project, the original elevator shaft was restored and elevator access to the Gorge and the Schoellkopf site was granted.
- Illumination of Niagara Falls has been an attraction since 1860. Calcium flares were used originally to light the area however they were expensive and did not last long. In 1881, Charles Brush of Euclid, Ohio arrived in Niagara Falls with 16 electric carbon arc lights and a generator to illuminate the Falls. Schoellkopf offered the power from his water turbines to power Brush’s generator. This marked a milestone in the history of the illumination of Niagara Falls. Today illumination of the Falls occurs every night throughout the year.
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What Dining Options Are Recommended for Student Group Trips to the Falls?
At some point, no matter how great the destination is, kids need food. Or else, as we all know, you can forget about learning – or even a moderate amount of happiness. A variety of places throughout Niagara Falls State Park can help you keep your kids happy and energized. Boxed Lunches are also available for student groups.
For a quick lunch or a snack, your group has a couple of convenient options. Prospect Point Cafe and Grille is located in the lower level of Niagara Falls Visitors Center (the Grille is outside). On Goat Island, the Cave of the Winds Snack Bar keeps hunger at bay with pizza, fries and other quick bites.
If you want a truly memorable dining experience, don’t pass up the Top of the Falls Restaurant. Snacks you can get anywhere; views are not so easy to come by. And that’s what Top of the Falls specializes in. Also on Goat Island, and with scenic views of the waterfalls, this is the place to enjoy modern takes on American food. Whenever possible, ingredients are locally sourced, and dietary restrictions are honored. The menu includes regional twists on mac and cheese, fish and chips, and salads, plus kid-friendly choices like grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza.
Maybe this will be the year when you get to do more than just tell your students about how great the planet is. Maybe this is when you’ll get to show them – by a trip to Niagara Falls State Park.
Been to Niagara Falls with a student group? Let us know how it went! Tell your story in the comments section below. Thanks!