Area fourth-grade students enjoy hands-on activities during Vesterheim’s Pioneer Immersion Program. Their exhibition of pioneer projects and journals will be on view at the museum from May 12-18. (Submitted photo)
Area fourth-grade students enjoy hands-on activities during Vesterheim’s Pioneer Immersion Program. Their exhibition of pioneer projects and journals will be on view at the museum from May 12-18. (Submitted photo)
Area fourth-grade students invite everyone to Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, for an exhibition of pioneer projects and journals that they created while participating in Vesterheim’s Pioneer Immersion Program.

The exhibition is in the third-floor galleries of the museum’s Main Building and open for viewing daily, May 12-18, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
An open house is Thursday, May 15, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. with a reception in the lobby of the Main Building.

Opening greetings are at 5:30 p.m. There is free admission all day May 15.

The students participating in the exhibition are from the Decorah Community Schools, North Winneshiek School and St. Benedict School. The Pioneer Immersion Program is sponsored through 2014 by Dan and Bonnie Huebner of Decorah.

Each spring, Vesterheim becomes a classroom for fourth-grade students. In March and April, students and their teachers make five visits to the museum, immersing themselves in the history and culture of 19th century and early 20th century immigrants. 

This program uses the Norwegian-American experience as a jumping-off point for exploring the experiences of other immigrant groups during the time period. Students use artifacts, archival materials and hands-on activities to gain a better understanding of what it meant for immigrants to journey from their homelands and establish new lives in America.

Prior to their visits to the museum, the students create immigrant identities for themselves, using immigrant diaries, documents and other sources. The students record their impressions and thoughts in their own journals as they take part in activities like packing an immigrant trunk, constructing a “log” home, and completing a series of typical pioneer chores. 

Along with their journals, students make a project related to immigrant and history.