Haas Lilienthal Heritage Hikes
June marks the last of the school groups taking place at the Haas Lilienthal house museum. This year, I joined the pool of docents for the school tours after having led regular tours since 2002. In 2007-2008, no less than 840 students from 17 schools attended these tours. The Heritage Hikes program is destined to all students interested in Victorian San Francisco, from K through 12, but schools come all over the Bay Area and all grades. The full program includes:
- a teachers’ workshop taught at the Haas Lilienthal to introduce the house,
- an “Architrunk” going to the classroom to prepare the visit,
- a Treasure Hunt tour of a Victorian neighborhood, and
- a tour of the Haas Lilienthal house.
The best thing about the Heritage Hikes is that they are free for schools because they are funded by a city tax. Unfortunately that is not enough to get schools to learn local history through hands-on experience. They also neeed adult supervision and when both parents in a family work, this can be hard to find. In 2007-2008, three schools cancelled because the teachers couldn’t find adults to accompany the group.
I put together a Victorian outfit for the school tours (from Victorian wig to scalloped vintage 1880s dress and 1900s watch) and the children seem to get a kick out of it. Only the little ones are fooled by the wig, but most girls are impressed by the ample skirt and the leather boots.
Boys love the train room and the functioning little green train. Even if the tour is roughly an hour of talking about 1880s fashion, 19th century games, children’s manners, 1890s lifestyles and books, most children really get into it and ask questions.
From “Is there a ghost?” to “What is this?” (looking horrified at a bidet) or “Can we hear the player piano?”, children show more than interest. They observe the surroundings and learn from them asking clever questions.
The best part for them probably comes in the kitchen where they are treated to a Victorian snack time with Sarsaparilla (the grand daddy of root beer) and ginger snaps. If only there was a good chapter book covering the 1880s in San Francisco, they’d be ready to go back over their experience at bedtime.