School Activities

Today the park and museums offer an even richer learning opportunity. Our goal is to provide a fun, memorable and productive experience for all students and teachers. Our field trip planning guide includes in-person and virtual offerings.

Download the Field Trip Planning Guide

Science and Nature at Cantigny Park

Exploring Ecosystems: Biodiversity and Adaptations in Multiple Ecosystems

90 mins (Grades 6-12)
Capacity: 25

How does energy move through ecosystems? Students will assess and compare life in two or more habitats. Abiotic and biotic properties of each will be explored as well as energy movement through food chains and/or food webs. Students will be able to describe why and how many plants and animals adapt for survival. The diverse populations and interdependent relationships of wildlife in different ecosystems at Cantigny Park will be examined. Programs vary per grade level to include topics of study. The program content varies per grade level.

The Circle of Life: Exploring Energy through Cycles

45 mins (Grades 1-12)
Capacity: 25

Students will explore biodiversity and make connections with life cycles of plants, trees, insects, and animals and will model and demonstrate the movement of energy through food chains in an ecosystem. Students will be able to explain ways animals adapt for survival. Matter, energy and the nitrogen cycle are explored. The program content varies per grade level.

Tree Talk: The Tremendous Life of a Tree

45 mins (Grades 1-12)
Capacity: 25

Students will explore the life cycle of trees from initiation to decomposition and explore ways trees benefit so many life forms. They will explore matter and energy in nature as well as interdependent relationships in standing and fallen trees. They will also examine life in, under and around trees and discuss adaptations, habitats and microhabitats in forest ecosystems. The program content varies per grade level.

What’s the Buzz? Pollinators and Plant Adaptations

45 mins (Grades 1-8)
Capacity: 25

Learn how bees, birds, bats, beetles, butterflies and other pollinators sustain plant communities through pollination. Students will examine biodiversity, plant adaptations and traits that attract different pollinators. Students will also learn about the importance of reducing the decline of pollinator populations. The program content varies per grade level.

Ponder This: Cantigny Ponds and Human Impact

45 mins (Grades 5-12)
Capacity: 20

During this study of life in Cantigny’s ponds, students will explore biodiversity as well as biotic and abiotic factors in an aquatic ecosystem. They will use problem-solving skills and teamwork to develop a system for providing clean water. Topics covered will include the water cycle, native plants and soil erosion, water quality, water sheds, water filtration, and human impact and roles in keeping earth’s bodies of water healthy and clean. The program content varies per grade level.


Virtual Programs – 45 mins each

What’s the Buzz: Pollinators and Plant Adaptations (Grades 1-5)
Educator will take students on a virtual ride examining pollinator biodiversity, plant adaptations and traits that attract pollinators. Programs will include an examination of bees, birds, bats, beetles, butterflies and other pollinators that sustain plant communities through pollination. Students will also learn about human impact and our role in reducing the decline of pollinator populations. The program content varies per grade level.

The Circle of Life: Exploring Energy through Ecosystems (Grades 1-12)
Educator will take students on a virtual ride examining interdependent relationships, the movement of energy through the circle of life, animal adaptations and biodiversity are explored. Students will see and learn about animal specimens from animals at Cantigny. Topics range from life cycles to biomimicry. The program content varies per grade level.

Tree Talk: The Tremendous Life of a Tree (Grades 1-8)
Educator will take students on a virtual ride examining tree life from initiation to decomposition. Students will explore interdependence in a tree ecosystem and the myriad of way trees play a role in the survival of living things. Topics covered include adaptations, life cycles and microhabitats. The program content varies per grade level.

Military History at the First Division Museum

First in War Field TripFirst in War Exhibit

45 mins (Grades 1-12)
Walk in the boot steps of America’s 1st Infantry Division as they fought in WWI, WWII and Vietnam. This docent-led tour will share stories about how teamwork and technology helped our soldiers accomplish their missions. The program content varies per grade level.

  • Illinois Social Science Standards related to history appropriate to each grade level. Disciplinary concepts: change, continuity and context; perspectives; and causation and argumentation

Teacher Takeover – 45 mins
Reserve a time slot for your class to take over the First in War exhibit. Your students can explore WWI, WWII and Vietnam at their own pace. We can provide self-guided materials and ideas or you can create something totally new.

Duty First Field TripSelf-Guided Duty First Exhibit

30 mins (Grades 1-12)
Use the exhibit as a source for inquiry research. In this self-guided experience, students will explore missions related to battle, counterinsurgency, peacekeeping, military assistance, and deterrence. Spark a conversation: What can the modern military do? What should it do?

Soldier story pods with male and female soldiers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds talk about the missions they went on and how they felt about their service.

The tank battle recreation allows students to see a mission from the soldier’s perspective.

The civic engagement interactive allows students to delve deeply into the decision-making process about when and where to deploy our military.

Artifacts tell a story about the tools used and the exhibit text provides context. Additional research and a debrief can be done in the classroom.

  • This field trip offers an opportunity to work on Illinois Social Science Standards related to inquiry skills
  • Illinois Social Science Standards related to history; specifically, change, continuity and context; perspectives; and causation and argumentation

Tank Tech Field TripTank Tech

45 mins
From WWI to present day, the technology of tanks is constantly evolving. This unique program allows students to have fun while learning about the tanks. This experience includes a short tour of the Tank Park paired with games and activities to facilitate student learning about these incredible titans of technology. We will run this outdoor program as long as there is no lightning. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear!

  • Illinois Social Science Standards related to history; specifically change, continuity and context; and causation and argumentation

Capacity
Capacity for all programs is 10 min and 50 max including chaperones; unless otherwise noted. We require 1 adult for every 10 students.


First Division Museum PavilionFirst Division Museum Pavilion

This three-season pavilion behind the First Division Museum can run programs from May 1–October 31. ONE program in the pavilion at a time.

WWII Home Front USA

45 mins (Grades 4-5)
Capacity: 10-35

Democracy relies on people’s responsible participation. Your students will step into the shoes of WWII-era school children to explore what kids their age were doing to contribute to the war effort; including recycling drives, rationing, and food gardening. Students will work with propaganda posters to delve into different ways that citizens contributed on the home front. Compare the efforts of individuals in the past with current opportunities for civic involvement.

  • Illinois Social Studies Standards related to history and civics
  • Common Core Standards related to reading informational text

Artifact Adventure

45 mins (Grades 6-12)
Capacity: 10-50

The artifact field trip encourages students to think critically. Students will rotate through artifact stations in small groups, working together to compare how uniforms and gear have changed over time and use uniforms and photographs as clues to answer historical questions.

  • Illinois Social Science Standards related to history; specifically, change, continuity and context
  • Common Core Standards related to literacy in history and social studies

Elementary Artifact Adventure

45 mins (Grades 4-5)
Capacity: 10-50

This version of the Artifact Adventure focuses on WWII and is designed just for upper elementary historians. Students will analyze photographs and letters to answer historical questions. They will learn about new inventions, uniforms, and make decoders to decipher codes.

  • Common Core Standards related to reading informational text

Soldier Stories – Outdoor Field Trip

45 mins (Grades 1-12)
Capacity: 10-35
Examine the soldier’s experience through the things they carried. With an emphasis on the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, our educators use combat uniforms and gear to tell the story of the Division and its soldiers, creating a more personal picture of war. Pick one conflict to dive into or two to compare. The program content varies per grade level.

Conflicts available: American Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Modern Gear


Virtual Programs – 30-45 mins each

Mission Ready: Technology and WWI – 30-45 mins
Gear up and explore some of the terrifying technology of the first “modern war.” Students will discover how modern technology in WWI changed the way the war was fought and the experience of the soldiers in the war.

Mission Ready: Teamwork and WWII – 30-45 mins
Explore some of the US Infantry’s toughest missions: Operation Husky, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. Your guide will share lesser-known tales of the teams and people who accomplished these missions.

First in War: Vietnam Veteran Interview – 30-45 mins
Explore Vietnam through the eyes of Sergeant Tom Brown, who served with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966. A recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge and the Purple Heart, Tom will take you with him as he recounts his experiences during the Vietnam War, from basic training, to the day he was wounded, to his homecoming. As he speaks, he will show you what he carried with him during his service. Be prepared – Tom loves to answer questions!

Groundbreaking Women of WWII – 30-45 mins
Celebrate the hard-working women of WWII. Join us in a variety of activities to learn how women stepped into new jobs and helped the war effort.

Soldiers of the American Revolution – 30-45 mins
Join us for 3 interactive activities using art, artifacts, and technology to learn more about the military and soldiers during the American Revolution. The room where it happens can be your virtual classroom!

Illinois and the Civil War – 30-45 mins
Explore the gear soldiers carried and the contributions of IL soldiers and civilians to the Union war effort.

  • Virtual field trips address C3 Standards related to history; specifically, change, continuity and context; and perspectives.
History and Civics at the Robert R. McCormick House

A Family of Service – 45 mins

Available Fridays at Cantigny Park, 10 am – 2pm
Grades 4-12

Capacity: 10 – 50 
Colonel Robert R. McCormick wasn’t the only member of his family who believed in service. Learn about his family’s connection to the American Civil War or the suffrage movement. Our Educator(s) will present focused lessons about other lesser known members of the family using primary source documents and reproduction. clothing and touchable items. We will utilize guided inquiry to help students make connections to the past.

Kitty Medill: A Woman on the Home Front During the American Civil War
Holding down the home front during the Civil War was no easy task. Find out how Katherine “Kitty” Medill managed her family and her volunteer work with the Sanitary Commission. We will examine family letters, a reproduction outfit, and see what she would have used in her volunteer work. Then we’ll compare her service to other women helping the war effort. Our educator(s) will lead the class in examining objects and learning how they were used.

William Medill: Abolitionist and Union Soldier
William Medill joined the 8th Illinois Cavalry to help defend the Union and end slavery. Students will examine reproductions of family letters to learn about William’s anti-slavery views and his hardships. We will also examine a reproduction uniform and saddle. Then we’ll peek in his saddle bags to find out what other things a soldier might carry and why they might be helpful.

Ruth Hanna McCormick: An Illinois Lady Fighting for Suffrage
Women didn’t always have the right to vote. We’ll take a look at the 1913 suffrage parade and see how that influenced Illinois women to pick-up the cause. Then, we’ll compare the efforts of Ruth Hanna McCormick to pass suffrage laws in Illinois along with other influential women like Ida B. Wells. Ruth didn’t just want women to vote, she wanted to be able to run for office and make a difference in her community – that is why she fought for the 19th Amendment.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade, Abolition, and Joseph Medill
Did you know that Joseph Medill moved to Illinois and bought into the struggling Chicago Tribune in order to help further the abolitionist cause? He even joined forces with Abraham Lincoln to start the Republican Party; convincing more people to take a stand. Using hands-on objects and primary sources, investigate the transatlantic slave trade and discover why Medill and others felt they needed to help put an end to slavery. We will compare and contrast Medill to some other well-known abolitionists to bring in diverse perspectives.

The Founding Fathers, the First Amendment, and a Revolution
This all-outdoor field trip will help you and your students take a walk back in time. We’ll check out the architecture of the McCormick House and talk about why Colonel McCormick admired the Founding Fathers – George Mason and Patrick Henry- whose names are inscribed on his home. Hint, it’s their connection to the First Amendment! Then we’ll visit one of Cantigny’s camp sites to examine a miniature Revolutionary war camp to see how George Rogers Clark and Daniel Morgan would have lived as they took a stand to free the colonies from British rule.

This program will run in the rain, but will not run during a lightning or storm warning. Please ask students and teachers to dress accordingly.

McCormick House Virtual Tour: 45 Minutes
The McCormick House is closed for renovations, but we’re giving a virtual tour in the Visitors Center Theater that we think you’ll enjoy! Narrated live by an expert guide, the tour offers a “classic” look at the first floor of the McCormick House and has a fun peek at some primary and secondary sources along the way. If you have always wanted to see the upstairs and the kitchen, we can add those on! This is your last chance to see the McCormick House as it was. The renovated and refreshed museum opens in late 2022.

This program is available on Fridays at the Visitors Center or as a virtual program.


Virtual Programs – Monday – Thursday, 9 am – 1 pm

Had On, Took With Her: Kitty Medill (30 minutes)
This short program shows the clothes, carpet bag and a few objects that a lady in the Civil War Sanitary Commission would have used. It is based on reproduction clothing and objects.

Had On, Took With Her: Ruth Hanna McCormick (30 minutes)
This short program shows the clothes and sash a lady in the American Suffrage Movement might have worn. It is based on reproduction clothing and objects, but will include a few primary source photos of suffrage parades.

Had On, Took With Him: William Medill (30 minutes)
This short program shows the clothes and gear a Union Cavalry Soldier would have carried. It is based on reproduction clothing and objects, including a saddle.


Custom Programs McCormick HouseCustom Programs

Problem Based Learning
The Robert R. McCormick House staff has helped several local schools with Problem Based Learning (PBL) units. Students investigate a local problem, work in small groups to propose solutions, then meet with experts to see which solutions should be formally proposed. PBL units can touch on school issues, community issues, or even problems that an organization in the community is having.

Outreach
The staff at the historic house museum is happy to help with outreach programs related to history fairs and career fairs, and we’ve even done a few small scale STEM programs because of Robert McCormick’s interest in inventing and engineering.

Early Childhood Education

The Wonders of Nature – 45 min

Audience: 3-6 years-old (Preschool/Kindergarten)
Capacity: 20 max
Engage your students natural capacity for wonder at Cantigny Park with a customized nature-based field trip program.

  • Developmentally appropriate and engaging hands-on activities and crafts are oered in addition to creative play and movement in the park’s natural spaces. Nature programs can be customized to fit your group’s needs and interests.
  • Early Childhood nature based programs at Cantigny Park align with the use of Creative Curriculum and support many literacy, mathematics, communication/language and scientific standards.

Virtual Field Trips – 30 mins

The Wonders of Nature is also available as a Virtual Field Trip!

Engage your students natural capacity for wonder with a customized nature-based field trip program.

Download the Field Trip Planning Guide