As we begin a year-long curriculum on the fifty states, it seems fitting to start with the history of our current state, Oklahoma. We headed to Bartlesville, home of the first oil boom, and the town that put modern-day Oklahoma on the map.
This was a reverse field trip - primarily because of the hours that each place was open - so we learned about petroleum by-products before learning about the oil boom itself. Our first stop was Keepsake Candles, where we took a factory tour to learn about candle-making. The paraffin used is a petroleum by-product....along with about three-quarters of the everyday items that we use nowadays.
We learned the process of creating a mold from silicone, creating the artwork to embellish each candle, and how the candles are colored and scented. At the end of the tour, the boys each had a chance to create their own candle, as a souvenir.
Our family has worked hard to get petroleum-based products OUT of our home, so we only bought a small token when leaving, and then used it for a gift. We do, however, try to purchase something small from these free factory tours, to support the business.
By the time we finished learning about candles, the Woolaroc Ranch, our main field trip focus, had opened for the day. This was the playground of Oklahoma oilman, Frank Phillips, and his band of thieves and outlaws (his words, not mine). Today, it is a wildlife preserve, and features living history exhibits, a Native American & Oklahoma history museum, and his "getaway lodge."Woolaroc! The name is a conglomeration of woods, lakes, and rocks. These are things that Frank Phillips wanted to preserve for his enjoyment, while modern-day oilmen take no issue with cutting down entire mile sections of forest to erect another well. At the entrance, they give you a map showing general areas for the various wildlife, and a nice CD to narrate your drive along the five-mile trail.
We saw deer, longhorns, ostriches, emus, and bison wandering freely and undisturbed. The ranch is designed to make you feel as though you've stepped back in time at least a hundred years, and it does a good job of conveying that spirit. Along the route, we came to the Mountain Men camp, one of the living history exhibits.
The boys learned about fur trappers and traders, the Mountain Men of the early 1800's, and how they co-existed peacefully with the Native American tribes. (Our guide had his (real-life) Cherokee wife nearby making crafts from bone and shell.) They also learned to throw tomahawks, make a pouch from a turtle shell, and stretch beaver skin.
It was hard to top the Mountain Man exhibit, which was by far their favorite stop on the trail! We stopped by the petting barn, playground, and bison exhibits.Then, we headed to the Woolaroc Museum. Frank Phillips, founder of Phillip 66, wanted to preserve the western spirit of Oklahoma for future generations. Half of the museum focuses on Native American heritage. The boys were particularly fond of this pow-wow exhibit, in which the dancers actually sing and move around a carousel.
The other half of the museum is dedicated to Phillips and the beginning of the oil industry in Oklahoma. If you feel the disdain dripping from this post, bear in mind that I wear oil-colored glasses, being surrounded on four sides of our homestead by pipelines and fracking operations. Though we live in Oklahoma, I have little love for the petroleum industry or it's playboys. HOWEVER. It is a pertinent piece of state history, and thus, I promised to teach my children about it with as little bias as possible.....One piece of the museum that we found fascinating was the 1927 Dole Air Race. Of the eighteen planes entered to fly from northern California to Hawaii, only two landed safely. Phillips entered the race as a publicity stunt, to get his new oil products into the spotlight; and he won the race in 26 hours, 17 minutes, earning him the $25,000 first prize.
At his "getaway lodge," which could double for a good-sized hotel, you will see numerous trophies on the walls. I found it ironic that a man who would create a wildlife preservation would be so into big-game hunting....in psychology, we call that reaction-formation. It's difficult to see, but the elephant head on the wall came from the Ringling Brothers circus. During a poker game one night, he won the entire circus, but later allowed the circus owner to win it back. When the elephant died, Mr. Ringling had it stuffed and sent to Mr. Phillips as a token of the 'time he owned the circus.'
From the lodge, there are beautiful hiking trails that lead down to a large lake and picnic area. We spent a lot of time hiking, and enjoyed the beauty around us.
Not surprising, the thing that the boys remembered the most was the Mountain Men exhibit. When we got home, they immediately went to make their own costumes and set out on a trip. They brought their pack, pup tent, (toy) guns, and other necessary accoutrements for being successful trappers! Hubby and I taught them the Davy Crockett song to sing while they hiked...
I have to admit, I'm glad they decided to play Mountain Men rather than Oilmen...it was very difficult to keep my opinions to myself while we toured and learned about this aspect of Oklahoma history. I don't want to color their education, but anyone who knows what we have put up with in the last three years (as well as all of our neighbors) will appreciate the self-restraint. Here are some resources for a Mountain Men unit study...
Oklahoma Hills history unit :
- Mountain Men digital story (free film)
- Mixed-up Mountain Men study (MM in Utah) (free)
- Cowboys unit (free)
- Westward Movement curriculum (free)
- O is for Oklahoma
- Sally of Woolaroc
- Mountain Men: Season 1