Area fourth graders have been enjoying many different activities at Vesterheim during the Pioneer Immersion Program, a partnership between the museum and area schools. One of the favorite days is spent outside in Vesterhiem's Open Air Division, experiencing life as a nineteenth-century immigrant. (Submitted photos)
Area fourth graders have been enjoying many different activities at Vesterheim during the Pioneer Immersion Program, a partnership between the museum and area schools. One of the favorite days is spent outside in Vesterhiem's Open Air Division, experiencing life as a nineteenth-century immigrant. (Submitted photos)

Area fourth-grade students invite everyone to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum 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 13 to 19, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

An open house is Thursday, May 16, from 4:30 to 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 Thursday, May 16.

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 spend at least one hour each week at the museum, immersing themselves in the history and culture of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-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.

For complete schedules of events, exhibitions and classes, and more information about ways to donate, check out Vesterheim online at vesterheim.org.