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Conner Prairie Living History Experience – Follow the North Star. The prairie night experience gives new meaning to the words “get real”. Follow the North Star is an innovative simulation of the Underground Railroad and it provides an interactive way for parents or grandparents to share a bit of living history with their teens.Conner Prairie Follow the North Star in Indiana

Here's the scoop.
I believe teens are more likely to learn while participating rather than simply watching and listening which is why the prairie night adventure is ideal for parents wanting to share extreme living history with their teens. The experience is offered on select dates in April and November each year. Participation in the Follow the North Star event is certain to create lively discussions about America’s history and the very roots of our shared culture.

For participants the interactive immersion is complete. As a runaway slave on the move on the night in 1830s Indiana participants must decide, where to you go, and who do you trust? Follow the North Star is one of the best ways to learn first-hand about how the Underground Railroad functioned in 19th-century America and what it meant to those willing to risk everything for freedom. Living History Experience at Conner Prairie in Inidanapolis
Follow the North Star developed by Conner Prairieis is one of the most dramatic, interactive public programs available at any museum in the US. Each participant is required to leave the comforts of the 21st-century and take on the role of a fugitive slave journeying through the Indiana countryside.

Reality sets in just after sunset, outside on the prairie with the sound of a gun being fired and someone's yelling, "Get on your knees! Keep your eyes down!"

The living history program offers a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of our shared past and understand much better how precious freedom is and what price many had to pay along the way. For many the symbol of freedom was the North Star.
This outdoor, historical experience uses Conner Prairie’s landscape and setting to dramatize the perilous journey of escaped slaves. The museum’s historic houses and barns become an unfamiliar environment where Indiana’s free citizens – black and white – help, hinder or prey upon the runaways. Conner Prairie has immersed you into their history lesson. Conner Prairie Living History Experience - Follow the North Star

During the program, Conner Prairie’s interpretive staff portrays roles that help re-create the 19th-century social and racial mood. Participants, playing the parts of runaways, encounter a wide range of people and events, including a slave sale, a belligerent transplanted Southerner, a reluctantly helpful farm wife, a slave hunter motivated by financial rewards, a Quaker family and a free black family.

Follow the North Star is not for everyone. The program takes place outside in all kinds of weather and participants walk approximately one mile on rough terrain. Keep in mind also that the emotional impact is strong. Participants are treated as slaves and are told to keep their eyes down and not to speak unless spoken to.

Because Follow the North Star requires participants to adopt a completely unfamiliar viewpoint and to become part of a living history group of runaways that must depend upon each other, it is a very effective way for parents to share American history with their children. As participants find out, although a free state in 1836, Indiana could be as harsh to blacks as any plantation in the Deep South. Free blacks were required to post a $500 bond to ensure they would not become “burdens” on the state. Indiana law further prohibited helping runaway slaves and required the return of escaped slaves to their masters. Captured runaways would often face harsh dehumanizing treatment in Indiana and severe punishment upon their return to the South.

The prairie night adventure, which is conducted mumerous times during the months of April and November, is ideal for parents wanting to share extreme living history with their teens or 20-something companions. The public programs are geared to participants who are ages 12 or older. Small groups of 12-15 participants leave every 15 minutes throughout the evening. The 90-minute program includes a brief orientation and film in the Museum Center, a one-hour role-playing experience with closing question and answer period.

Make it happen.
 Reservations are essential. Call (317) 776 -6000 or toll-free 1-800-966-1836. Details at

Content and images provided by Conner Prairie with comments by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Copyright updated 2015. 

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