A plethora of hands-on opportunities await your students in Idaho. The most important part of Idaho is its connection to nature and history. This large state is made up of untouched wilderness landscapes. From valleys and mountains to lakes and rivers, nature is everywhere. And with nature comes plenty of outdoor adventures. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Idaho played a large role in America’s history and there are many museums to commemorate these occasions.

Travel Back in Time

Have you ever wondered what life was like along the Oregon Trail? Well one way to gather an understanding of this way of life is through a classic computer game from the 1970s. Another, more immersive, way is to travel to Montpelier to the National Oregon/California Trail Center. Students experience a stimulating, hands-on, 1850s wagon trail experience that includes a trip to the gun shop (to pick up provisions before starting their journey) and a ride in a covered wagon, topped off with a campfire in the evening.

Barker River Trips, located in Lewiston, offers an excursion to help students gain insight into two of the most popular explorers in American history, Lewis and Clark, through The Lewis and Clark Experience. Young explorers spend four days traveling with Lewis and Clark learning about their journey across uncharted territory. Along the way, students will learn how to build a canoe and all about the Nez Peace Tribe, including their thoughts on the exploration.

Detail of "Lewis & Clark at Three Forks" by Edgar Samuel Paxson, mural in lobby of Montana House of Representatives. Credit: Wikipedia

Detail of “Lewis & Clark at Three Forks” by Edgar Samuel Paxson, mural in lobby of Montana House of Representatives. Credit: Wikipedia

Idaho is called the Gem State because it contains almost every gemstone discovered to date. Visitors of the Crystal Gold Mine near Kellogg can test their luck mining for gems, specifically gold, after learning about the rich history of mining. Put on a hard hat and go underground for a tour to experience the life of a miner. Students learn about the tools they used, including hand steels, single jacks and double jacks, as well as how miners juggled these tools while illuminating the path in front of them using hand-held candlesticks. After seeing actual gold located in the walls of the mine, students can sift through the sand outside of the facility to find more gold and identify other gems.

Learn from Mother Nature

Hot springs are a major feature in the town Lava Hot Springs. They have numerous year-round, all-natural hot springs packed with minerals that are perfect for relaxing in after a long day filled with adventure. There are multiple sites to go tubing along the Portneuf River as well as a zip line course. Not only is this town a great spot for adventure, it is also a great place for education. South Bannock County Historical Museum teaches students about the history of the area and about the importance the hot springs played in Native American history. The Native American tribes thought that the hot springs were a spiritual place that had healing powers. From adventure to relaxation, this area has plenty to do.

Yellowstone Bear World in Rexburg contains multiple trails, perfect for any sized vehicle, so visitors can see animals interacting in their natural habitats. There are guided tours available that allow visitors to sit on top of the vehicle to gain a better view of the wildlife preserve. This tour also includes the opportunity to feed an adult bear with supervision from the tour guide. Along this trip, students can see various animals including rocky mountain elk, American bison, timber wolves, arctic wolves, black bears and grizzly bears. Before or after the tour, there is another chance to feed the animals, except this time you can bottle-feed a bear cub. Inside the park is a petting zoo that includes barnyard animals and birds, which gives students the opportunity to interact with and learn about numerous types of animals. After a day exploring nature and observing animals, students can have fun at the amusement park, which includes rides such as a train and a small roller coaster.

bear feeding Yellowstone credit facebook

Yellowstone Bear World cub feeding. Credit: Yellowstone Bear World

If you’re in search for a more mellow experience, the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise displays beautiful trees and plants. This living museum aims to enrich students’ lives by teaching them the importance of plants and the environment. They offer multiple programs and tours to compliment biology lessons taught in school, such as the structure of flowers, how flowers grow and the role of the water cycle.

Bug Day at the botanical garden. Credit: Idaho Botanical Garden

Bug Day at the botanical garden. Credit: Idaho Botanical Garden

Only in Idaho

What would a trip to Idaho be without going to the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot? Here students learn about the history of the potato and also learn how to grow and harvest them. It even houses the largest potato chip ever made! Complete with trivia and videos, a tour of this museum gives students a better understanding of this influential vegetable.

The Museum of Idaho, located in Idaho Falls, is a great place to learn about Idaho’s history. They have a wide range of exhibits including Race for Atomic Power, which provides an in-depth description of the discovery of nuclear energy that occurred in Idaho. Another exhibit is the Children’s Discovery Room, where children have an array of hands-on activities to choose from, such as climbing through a bear cave, playing in a pioneer log cabin and exploring an authentic tipi. The museum also offers summer camps (designed for kids and educators) that focus on preserving and understanding nature.

Visit Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise to uncover the mysteries of science through hands-on demonstrations. One exhibition, Fizzyolog, focuses on the science of bubbles and their impact in the world around us. Students even have the chance to see how many people can fit into a giant bubble ­­­— before it pops! From frozen bubbles to a bubble geyser, every type of bubble you can think of is available for students to create and play with. Other activities include busting science myths, learning how to code and building robots.

Playing with bubbles at the Fizzyology exhibit. Credit: Discovery Center Idaho

Playing with bubbles at the Fizzyology exhibit. Credit: Discovery Center Idaho

With miles of untouched nature and a history that helped shape America, Idaho has numerous opportunities for almost any interest. If you have visited Idaho, tell us about your favorite student-friendly activities below!