Field Trip Guide to Kentucky Lincoln Sites

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Interested in taking your students to visit one or more of the Lincoln-related sites in Kentucky? Here’s information about the sites—and some words of advice and inspiration—from Nelson County educator Clara Mackin Fulkerson.

If you have ever felt the excitement of sharing some really great experience or resources with anyone, then you will understand my eagerness to share amazing resources right in “my own back yard.”

As the oldest of eight children, I was quite fortunate that my dad’s desire to “get in the car and go” resulted in many weekend trips with mom, dad, and the kids in the station wagon, and in summer vacations within Kentucky and Tennessee. Most of those summer trips were visits to amusement parks or tourist attractions, but our parents also made the effort to help us explore historic sites in our local area.

Greetings! I am Clara Mackin Fulkerson, a veteran of the Nelson County school system. I served 12 years as a middle school science teacher, seven years as an elementary principal, and have served in recent years as a Curriculum Resource Consultant. My duties include the CRC position and Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher for Cox’s Creek School (pre-K through fifth grade) and the New Haven School (pre-K through eighth grade).

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Cox’s Creek students at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace

I am very aware that many students in our school system may not be as fortunate as we were to travel and visit sites that have been remembered well into our adult years. That’s why as an educator I make a strong effort to provide field trips.

The Value of Field Trips

Our state has so many great sights and sites to share and explore. During my years as a middle school science teacher I was able to take students on field trips, and during the years I served as principal I had the opportunity to help arrange travel and learning experiences for students. I tried to accompany the students as often as possible; I enjoy observing students’ reactions as they encounter new experiences. Then, and now, I am able to see the sight/site through those fresh, young eyes of the students and, many times, gain a whole new perspective.

My current position as CRC/GT has altered opportunities to take students on trips, but I have learned to be very “resource-ful,” as I will explain later.

Discovering Lincoln

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During the summer of 2007, I was fortunate to participate in a three-day professional development experience for teachers from Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. The topic of the workshop was Abraham Lincoln, in anticipation of the celebration of the Bicentennial of the birth of the 16th President of the United States. During the workshop, I learned about and developed a desire to share, the life and times of Abraham Lincoln with students and other educators.

I began to research historic sites related to Lincoln, and I found an incredible treasure of historic resources to share. I engaged in a plan to share as much of this treasure as possible with the help of parents, teachers, and administrators who believe in the value of the visits. I also researched funding from sources other than the school budget.

In order to arrange trips for students, one of the first obstacles I had to overcome was the field trip policy in our school district. Students are limited to two field trips per year. Not wanting to prevent a teacher from taking students on other trips related to their curriculum, I decided to take advantage of the year-round schedule of our school district and utilize the intersession breaks in the fall and in the spring.

Intersession Field Trips

Pros and cons occur while arranging trips during the intersession. Participation is necessarily voluntary on the part of the students and their families, so not all students will engage in the experience. On a positive note, the amount of time spent on the trip is not restricted by the schedule of afternoon bus runs. Bus drivers who agree to drive for trips during the intersession are usually willing to participate in six to eight hour days; a bonus for them is the opportunity to visit the sites to which they drive the students.

Finding Funding

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My first intersession venture was funded by a $500 grant from the Kentucky Association for Year-Round Education (KAYRE). These grants are meant to be used during intersession periods to help provide students with experiences outside those in the regular classroom. Visit the KAYRE web site for more information about this organization.

To design the spring 2008 field trip I worked with Jan Lanham, principal of Cox’s Creek School and Michelle Simpson, Extended School Services Coordinator at Cox’s Creek School. We took approximately 50 students from grades 1 through 5 to visit sites in Louisville. Several staff members volunteered to accompany us on the trip. The primary students participated in an educational program at the Louisville Zoo in the morning and visited Crane House, the Asian education center in Louisville. The fourth and fifth grade students visited Farmington in the morning and the Speed Art Museum in the afternoon. We used one bus (with a very cooperative bus driver), and the round trip totaled 91 miles. Admission prices, bus driver, and mileage costs all totaled a little more than the $500 of the grant; the overage was absorbed through ESS funding.

Later in the spring of 2008 I became aware of the Lincoln Heritage Trail Passport promotion. This inspired me to develop more intersession field trips that would help interested students earn as many of the Passport stamps as possible before they finished the fifth grade. I also learned of field trip grants available through the Kentucky Historical Society. At the time, KHS was offering Heritage Education Grants that provided up to $250 for field trips within 100 miles of the school site. KHS hopes to re-institute the program in the future; visit the KHS web site for information about current resources for schools and educators.

The narratives required for the grants were uncomplicated and straightforward. In writing an application, an educator must be aware of and cite the connections between the curriculum studied in the regular classroom and the site visited during the field trip. Check with the appropriate agency for deadlines and continuing availability of these grants.

Our Lincoln Trips

For the fall 2008 intersession, I wrote grants for both Cox’s Creek School fourth and fifth graders as well as the eight graders from the New Haven School. I serve both those schools through the CRC/GT position. Josh Thomas, middle school social studies and reading teacher; Rose Wagoner, special education resource teacher; and Shari Mabe, middle school math and science teacher, agreed to give their time for the New Haven students. Mrs. Lanham, Mrs. Simpson, and I worked with the Cox’s Creek students for the trips.

During two days of the intersession, students from each school visited the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, the Lincoln Museum in Hodgenville, and Knob Creek, Lincoln’s boyhood home in LaRue County, one day. They visited the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington the other day. Each day’s trip was funded by a grant from the Kentucky Historical Society. Additional funding that was required because of an increase in fuel cost and driver per hour costs imposed by our school district was absorbed by the school system, but most of the costs of the trips were funded by the grants.

I again wrote grants for field trips during the spring 2009 intersession for students from both schools. That year sites included Old Fort Harrod and the Lincoln Marriage Temple in Harrodsburg, Camp Nelson near Nicholasville, Perryville Battlefield in Perryville, and Lincoln Homestead State Park in Springfield.

Planning the Trips

I found planning the trips to be just as exciting as the actual visit. I researched and created groupings of sites that could be visited in a single trip (especially on intersession field trips, when return time to school is not an issue). Those groupings and information about each site are included here. Many of the Lincoln sites offer excellent educator resources through their web sites that can help you plan learning experiences for before, during, and after the trips.

It’s Worth the Effort!

Whether you visit several or just one, I think you will find that visiting the Lincoln sites in Kentucky will be experiences that you and your students benefit from—and remember long after the trip is over.

Here are what some of my fourth and fifth graders had to say about the trips we took:

From Chaya:
“Farmington was awesome! I did not know that Abe knew Josh Speed.”

“When I went to Knob Creek, I had fun learning, and they had to walk two miles to school everyday.”

From Aaron:
“I even tested my Mom and Dad on what I learned. This was my best field trip ever.”

From Beth:
“My favorite place was the Mary Todd Lincoln House. I learned all kinds of things like what they used instead of a toilet was a chamber pot.”

From Maria:
“Another cool thing we got to do was get a Lincoln map that had different sites centered around Lincoln on it. Every time we went to one of the sites on the map we got a stamp on that site on the map.”

From Dane:
“In this field trip I learned more than I could have ever imagined. I learned that on the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination he told his bodyguard to take a break, and the bodyguard said ‘Don’t go anywhere.’”

From Jake:
“When we went down to see where he would adventure (Knob Creek), it was cool to see that he became President from a little log cabin. I think that I learned a lot more about Lincoln than I ever would at school.”