Mix History Plus Beach for Homeschool Lesson During Vacation
Take a trip back in time and let your students experience history firsthand at one of the many museums and historical sites along the Alabama Gulf Coast. One of the great advantages of homeschooling is the ease of taking children on field trips. Watch their faces light up when they see the battlements at Fort Morgan or navigate the passageways of the USS Alabama. It's a sure sign that history has been drawn out of the books and into reality. As an added bonus, many of these museums have free admission - a plus for any visitor!
Start with the area's early history during a visit to the Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum that houses local artifacts and memorabilia relating to our Native American and fishing heritage. The museum is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; groups of five or more may book reservations at other times. For more information or reservations, call 251-981-6039. Admission is free.
Next, take your teaching lab to the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum for a trip back to 1859. Climb the 177 steps to the top of the lighthouse and see the great views of Pensacola Pass, where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. From the top of the lighthouse you can see three forts, the Pensacola skyline and the historic Navy Yard. The restored Keeper's Quarters built in 1869 is home to a museum and gift shop. If you time your visit right, you can catch a Blue Angels practice at eye level. It's an experience that you and your students will remember for a long time. Admission is charged.
After the lighthouse tour, you'll probably be ready for lunch, or at least a snack. Take the nature trail over to Quietwater Beach and savor the peaceful beauty of a shoreline that is largely untouched. After a quick rest, keep the history going with a trip to the National Naval Aviation Museum. More than 150 aircraft showcasing Navy, Marine and Coast Guard aviation history are on display. Stroll through the exhibits of planes, including a Japanese Zero shot down by Allied fighters. See artifacts from a Navy training plane that crashed into Lake Michigan and experience life aboard an aircraft carrier in a simulation that literally puts the wind in your face. It's an exhilarating learning experience that can be visited time and again as the museum updates and adds more exhibits. Admission is free, but there is admission to the IMAX movies shown and for some of the simulators.
Next on your list is a not-to-be-missed trip to Fort Morgan at the westernmost tip of Pleasure Island. The clanging of the flagpole seems a reminder of bygone days when the fort was the watch guard over our piece of Mobile Bay. Fort Morgan, constructed in 1819, had a role in the United States' coastal defense through 1944. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David Farragut's famous words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” were uttered during the Battle of Mobile Bay in the American Civil War. It was a decisive victory for the Union troops because Mobile was the Confederacy's last open port on the Gulf of Mexico. Check the Fort Morgan website for special events, including living history re-enactments. Admission is charged.
Want to explore more of our nation's military history? Motor over to the Mobile Bay Causeway for a tour of the Battleship USS Alabama. As one of the battleships that served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters earning nine WWII Battle Stars, The Mighty A, as she was known, led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay after the war in September 1945. The submarine USS Drum, also on display, is the oldest Gato Class U.S. submarine on display. It earned 12 campaign stars and was responsible for sinking 15 Japanese ships. Admission is charged.
A little closer to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are museums in Foley and Elberta detailing our medical, railroad and rural heritage.
All aboard for a trip to the past at the Foley Railroad Museum and City of Foley Museum Archives! The Foley Railroad Museum houses an “O” gauge model train exhibit that depicts rail service in the 1950s. The exhibit is 24 feet by 60 feet and has a quarter mile of track. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The former L&N Railroad Depot is now used as the City of Foley's Museum Archives, housing artifacts from the early days of south Baldwin County. It's open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission to both areas is free.
Last, but certainly not least on your learning tour, should be a trip to the Holmes Medical Museum, also in downtown Foley. The museum is housed in the first hospital in south Baldwin County, operating from 1936 to 1958. It's open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and admission is free.
For more about these intriguing places and other historical sites along the Alabama Gulf Coast, visit the History page on our website and starting planning your homeschool field trips today!