Students Dig into History at 11 Arkansas Attractions
Arkansas is a student-friendly destination that offers outdoor recreation and indoor education. From prehistoric artifacts to the Oval Office, the attractions are educational and interesting for students of all ages and abilities.
Art and Entertainment
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville offer themed tours focused on art, architecture and nature. Educational tours include the Frank Lloyd Wright House, and Experience Art Studio is always open for students to create their own masterpieces, play games and unwind. Other tours are guided by artists and focus on American history and artistic materials and techniques. The museum features work by Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter.
Fayetteville’s TheatreSquared is a groundbreaking troupe of actors that perform and host events for students. From recent Tony Award-winning drama All the Way to a world premiere stage adaptation of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the plays are meant to educate and entertain young people. The theater is a huge contributor to Arkansas’ “Arts in Education” program, so student groups are welcome to buy subsidized tickets that are extremely affordable.
Maxwell Blade’s Theatre of Magic and Curiosity Museum
Maxwell Blade’s Theatre of Magic and Curiosity Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Hot Springs. Indulge in student-friendly magic and comedy shows that will amaze and mystify students of any age. Visit the Curiosity Museum to be further astounded by over 300 rare and unusual exhibits from all over the world.
Parks and Recreation
Buffalo National River
Buffalo National River flows freely for 135 miles, making it one of the last undammed rivers in the contiguous United States. Students can spend the day on the water with activities such as kayaking through whitewater or floating in an inner tube down the calm portions of the river. The water is home to more than 300 species of wildlife and has been a safe-haven since the Paleoindians inhabited the area more than 10,000 years ago. Students can learn about the river’s ancient history by participating in one of the many ranger-led programs, or they can explore the park and discover preserved historic sites and prehistoric artifacts on their own.
Blue Springs Heritage Center
Blue Springs Heritage Center in Eureka Springs allows students to connect with a spring known for its emotional and physical healing powers. The spring acted as a respite for American Indians during their forced migration along the Trail of Tears. Students can admire the power of Blue Spring as it pulls more than 38 million gallons of water from the depths of the earth and into the clear lagoon. Students can also explore Bluff Shelter to learn about artifacts discovered there from 8000 BCE, or they can walk over a mile of trails through the gardens to see flowers blooming year-round.
Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo
Hot Springs is home to the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, where students can connect with animals and learn about the prehistoric relatives of alligators. They can get friendly with pygmy goats, deer, emu, ponies and sheep, hold baby alligators and pet the famous tame alligator, Dundee. The farm will even let students feed the hungry alligators in the summer.
Berryville’s Cosmic Cavern proudly boasts two bottomless underground lakes. Researchers have made multiple attempts to locate the bottom of these large bodies of water, but have yet to even come close. Trout were introduced to South Lake about 50 years ago, and the generations of fish have since lost their eyesight and pigmentation. The cavern is also home to Ozark Blind Salamanders and bats, as well as rock and mineral formations, flowstone and cave bacon. One of the most jaw-dropping parts of the cave, “Silent Splendor,” was discovered in 1993 and features beautiful and fragile pristine white soda straws and helictites so pure that they are nearly transparent. The cave is open for tours and offers an adventure to suit students of all ages and abilities.
Crater of Diamonds State Park
Students can dig for precious gems at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro and keep whatever they find. It’s the world’s only diamond-producing site that is open to the public and boasts a “finders, keepers” policy when it comes to gems. Students can dig in a 37.5-acre field on the site of an ancient volcano and walk through the Diamond Discovery Center to learn about the park’s history and geology, as well as the best methods of finding diamonds. There have been several famous finds, including the most perfect diamond the American Gem Society has ever certified, and the ground is plowed regularly to bring diamonds to the surface.
History and Culture
Ozark Folk Center
Located in Mountain View, Ozark Folk Center uses traditional music, crafts and herblore to preserve the heritage of the Ozarks. Students can explore Craft Village to see craftspeople demonstrate blacksmithing and pottery-making. They can even participate in educational programs to learn skills and crafts that the pioneers of the Ozark region used. They can explore one of the many gardens and learn about the history and lifestyle of the area’s early settlers.
Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center
Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center offers students the chance to learn about the history of Japanese American internment in the United States between 1942 and 1945. Though the camp is mostly lost to history, the stories of the 8,000 citizens who were detained there live on through an onsite museum that educates visitors about the racial prejudice and hysteria that led to the imprisonment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans. The museum showcases first-hand accounts and pieces of art that were created by internees during their confinement.
Clinton Presidential Center and Library
Clinton Presidential Center and Library in Little Rock is a must-see destination for students. They can explore the library to learn about the life and legacy of the former president. There is a replica of the Oval Office where students will sit behind the desk and imagine their future as a president. Tours allow students to see the presidential limousine and the Cabinet Room. They are welcome to participate in an educational program that allows them to tour non-profit organizations at the Presidential Center and learn about the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and abroad.
By Sara Stokes