Fun Times at Barnetimen

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Min Yu with daughter, Sofia, at a past Barnetimen event.

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By Alex Robinson • Photos courtesy Vesterheim Museum

Exploration, creativity, history – and a snack. It’s the perfect combination of things for the children and care-givers who head to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’s Barnetimen (Norwegian for “children’s hour”).

The collaborative effort of Jennifer Kovarik of Vesterheim and Jenni and Eric Petersen-Brant of Decorah’s ArtHaus, Barnetimen creates space for children to interact, play, create, and learn.

“The class is designed to be a ‘museum studies class for pre-schoolers’,” says Eric Petersen-Brant. “The goal is to teach them about Norwegian and pioneer history, plus modern art…as well as museum etiquette.”

Held on the third Tuesday of every month, each themed event utilizes the museum’s rotating and permanent exhibits. Activities are geared toward children ages 3-5, along with their parents or adult supervisor, and sessions are free of charge and open to the public with no sign-up needed.

Decorah resident Brenda Carlson helped conceive the idea of Barnetimen back in the early 2000s as a means of involving younger families with the museum. Carlson felt that Vesterheim, one of Decorah’s most iconic attractions, had a lot to offer young children in their development.

The partnership between ArtHaus and Vesterheim began in 2010, expanding upon Barnetimen’s original concept to include an interactive, artistic component. The program continues to grow today, with regular attendance of about 30-40 children per session along with their parents, grandparents, friends, and teachers.

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Barnetimen is free of charge thanks to sponsors David and Brenda Carlson, Keith and Amy Bruening, Norwegian Mutual Insurance Association, and Black Hills Energy. Pictured with children attending Barnetimen – Left to right, back row – Eric Petersen-Brant, Amy Bruening, Shawna Wagner, David Carlson, Chris Johnson. Middle row – Nicholas Klein, Brenda Carlson, and Jenni Petersen-Brant.

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Barnetimen’s coordinators love the energy and wonder children bring to the museum.

“Going to a museum should be fun, and you should have some ‘wow’ moments,” says Kovarik, Youth Educator at Vesterheim. “Children aren’t afraid to have ‘wow’ moments or fun out loud.”

Kovarik and the Petersen-Brants have created a wow-filled and fun 2016-2017 season of events: From learning about Norwegian crowns and holiday traditions to talking about the Northern Lights and world travel, children will be able to explore a diverse array of topics and activities that will give them the opportunity to ask good questions, meet new friends, and end the morning the way we wish we all could: with a thematically appropriate snack.

The 2016-2017 Barnetimen season kicked off Tuesday, September 20. Children were invited to check out Vesterheim’s ship gallery, where they learned about the many different vessels used to cross the Atlantic, like the “Tradewind,” a boat sailed by two Norwegian brothers across the Atlantic in 1933. The whole 25-foot sailboat sits inside a large room in Vesterheim!

October’s Barnetimen featured the fall folk art exhibit – children were invited to explore the woven textiles on display and learn to make a weaving of their own. In November, participants were royalty for the hour as they learned about Norwegian crowns and made crowns of their own. December’s festive lesson featured Norwegian Christmas traditions followed by a project to give away or keep, and a little krumkake to boot.

January will kick off 2017’s events with a lesson on Aurora Borealis, followed by the opportunity to paint the Northern Lights with special frozen paint. February’s event is all about love – participants will look for hearts hidden around the museum and use them as inspiration to make something special for their loved ones. In March, art will serve as the vehicle for a morning of “world travel,” and in April, children will explore houses from long ago and decorate their own tiny homes.

Kovarik says the goal of Barnetimen is to, “help kids become mini-explorers who know how to seek out interesting objects and use what they see or find to make something new and creative.” And Vesterheim is the perfect place to do just this: “There’s always something new at Vesterheim, and Jenni, Eric, and I try to incorporate that into each season.”

Be sure to bring your own explorers to the Vesterheim lobby at 10 am for some exciting “wow” museum moments!

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Barnetimen sessions are held on the third Tuesday of the month, and begin at 10 a.m. and last an hour. The 2017 dates and themes are:

 

January 24, 2017 (rescheduled from Jan 17) – Northern Lights: Learn about the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights and paint your own version with special frozen paint.

February 21, 2017 – Hearts: Look for hearts around the museum and use them for inspiration to make something special for your sweetheart.

March 21, 2017 – Travel: Make some cool binoculars and take them on a trip around the world through art.

April 18, 2017 – Houses: What makes a house a home? Visit houses from long ago and decorate your own tiny house.

Smithsonian Water/Ways in Lanesboro, MN

Photo courtesy Smithsonian . Pakhnyushchy/Shutterstock.com

Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street exhibit, “Water/Ways” lands in Lanesboro, Minnesota, January 7 through February 19, 2017. The exhibit showcases how water forges bonds more complex than ‘H’ to ‘O’.

By Kristine Jepsen

Water. It hauls 108M tons of freight annually within the banks of the Upper Mississippi River alone, makes up 84 percent of any Honeycrisp apple and carries every single molecule of metabolized carbs and protein to each cell in – you guessed it – your body.

But stats alone cannot tell the story of water’s universal importance to life, nor inspire anyone to take action to conserve it. Driving home the awareness that water is a resource we must respect, honor, and absolutely protect is at the heart of Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street exhibit, “Water/Ways.” Lanesboro, Minnesota was one of six locations in Minnesota that was chosen for this national exhibit. It is installed in Lanesboro January 7 through February 19, 2017, and there’s with a huge variety of corresponding events scheduled throughout town – from Lanesboro Arts Center openings to Commonweal Theatre plays to film sets to moonlight snowshoe hikes. (See below for full event details.)

Historical photos of Lanesboro – ranging from 1876-1950 – courtesy Lanesboro Historical Museum

 

Designed in collaboration with state humanities councils, the project weaves the science of water conservation together with individual experiences of the power and poetry of water. Lanesboro’s narrative will, naturally, feature the Root River and its impact in the development of the region, from its meaning to Native American tribes on through to the more recent life threatening flooding of 2007-08 and 2016.

“Rivers move. They’re alive. They have this flow to them that just is fascinating,” says John Weiss, outdoor reporter for the Rochester Post-Bulletin for nearly 40 years. Project technology coordinator and award-winning ethnographer Erin Dorbin recorded the interview with Weiss as they hiked along the Root River, one of several audio pieces produced for the exhibit.

Top: Fishing on the north branch of Root River, 1950. Bottom: A more recent view of the Root River Valley.

“You gotta love water. You gotta protect water. You got to cherish water. But never, ever, ever trust water,” Weiss continued. “You got these two sides of it – the beauty and the beast. Moving water, as everybody knows, is dangerous. You have to respect it.”

Water/Ways was brought to the area by state sponsors like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and a variety of local organizations – see sidebar for a full list. Credit for Lanesboro’s selection as a host location goes to Nancy North, who initiated the town’s application. She is principal at the Lanesboro-based communications and design firm, NewGround, specializing in environmental education and outreach. Partnering organizations have been planning the exhibit and related events since its announcement in June 2015.

Alongside Smithsonian’s Water/Ways is a companion exhibit specific to Minnesota, We Are Water. This interactive story-collecting showcase includes recordings from Minnesotans – including Lanesboro locals – who reflect on the meaning and experience of water. There are also opportunities for exhibit visitors to share their own stories and images. We Are Water MN connects visitors with ways to take action in water conservation, including in-depth resources for youth educators, regardless of whether they visit the exhibit in person. Visit mnhum.org/waterways for details.

The scientific side of the exhibit is spearheaded by Friends of the Root River, a non-profit advocacy coalition, and Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, which brought on a Minnesota GreenCorps staff member to train local docents for the Water/Ways exhibit. Friends of the Root River organized several Science Sunday public lectures in downtown Lanesboro, such as “Contaminants: What the Data Show” given by Terry Lee from the Olmsted County Water Quality Lab. The Eagle Bluff Center itself, located on the bluff northwest of town, will host candlelight snowshoe hikes, several themed dinners, and a family sled dog day.

Stephanie Davidson

“Talking about water strictly in the language of scientific research and conservation can get dense,” says Eagle Bluff fellowship coordinator Stephanie Davidson. What’s inspiring is that a lot of water quality sampling, especially in the Driftless Region, is done by citizen scientists, she says. An introduction to water sampling is offered year-round through Eagle Bluff’s “Stream Lab” unit for students grades 4-8. Adults and/or parents of children interested in office training can sign up with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: www.pca.state.mn.us/water/citizen-water-monitoring.

“Literally, grade-school students can be eyes and ears for streams in their backyards,” says Davidson. “You can collect valuable information on the pond you pass on your way to work. It’s one reason our watershed has some of the broadest and longest-standing water data in the state.”

Adam Wiltgen

Lanesboro’s installation of Water/Ways differs from other Smithsonian stops across the country – locations ranging from Rock Springs, Wyoming to Okeechobee, Florida – in that the exhibit’s home-base isn’t a science center or historical society, though both are integrally involved, says Adam Wiltgen, program director at Lanesboro Arts, a key collaborator.

Instead, viewers will find Water/Ways rooted in the historic St. Mane Theatre and Commonweal Theatre, both on Parkway Avenue, Lanesboro’s main drag. There, viewers will gather for educational events, film screenings, and musical productions. The resident Commonweal Theatre Company will present dramatic readings of locals’ most striking memories of water, as well as creative short plays, written and produced by Commonweal staff and alumni.

One script pushes the envelope on water scarcity, says Commonweal executive director Hal Cropp. In the future it imagines, a bottle of water appears in a museum exhibit – because it no longer exists as we know it.

St. Mane Theatre will also debut the work of student videographers Olivia Obritsch (grade 12), Jared Peterson (grade 7), Nora Sampson and Mai Gjere (grade 8), whose short documentaries on Lanesboro history and culture were funded by a nationally competitive Youth Access Technology Project grant. Just six communities received the award.

Dorbin, who directs graduate-level ethnographic programs for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, conducted four months of field training with the students. “We covered everything from interviewing skills to research and editing,” she explains. “At one point, their assignment was to approach people on Main Street and ask, ‘When was the last time water made you laugh?’”

The result, Dorbin says, is some of the best work she’s seen. “I have loved seeing their exploration of their environment and community and their growth as citizens, uncovering history and realizing that they are also creators of history and can influence local decision-making.”

Mai Gjere, who studied Lanesboro’s economic history and plans to attract young people in the future, put it this way: “Our community won’t get better with chance. It will get better with change,” she concluded in her documentary, citing the town’s need to supplement thriving eco- and arts tourism with professional employment in more sectors. “Hopefully, my generation will be the one to change it.”

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Kristine Jepsen writes for magazines and the Web and enjoys grant writing for small businesses. She’s grateful for awesome educational resources, like Water/Ways, available in the Driftless – particularly as she embarks on homeschooling with her young daughter. Read more of her work at www.kristinejepsen.com.

The Lanesboro Water/Ways + We Are Water schedule is subject to change, so if you’re thinking of heading to one of the events listed here, please check mnhum.org/waterways/lanesboro for any updates.

January 7, 4-6 pm — “Currents of Change” – Visual Art and Historic Photograph Exhibit Opening Reception + Water Bar! Lanesboro Arts and the Lanesboro Museum at the at Lanesboro Arts Exhibition Gallery (Exhibit will run throughout the Water/Ways exhibition)

January 7 & 8 — “Ripples of Reflection” theatrical performance, Commonweal Theatre

January 8, 2 pm — Science Sunday, River Sojourn Film Screening with Sara and Ken Lubinksi, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

January 13, 7:30 pm — “Our Mighty Mississippi” with Steven Marking, baritone, St. Mane Theatre

January 14, 5 pm — Dinner on the Bluff, Protecting our Waters with Dr. Joshua Lallaman, Phd., Assistant Professor at SMUMN, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

January 15, 2 pm — Science Sunday, Wild Caving with Bill Brueck, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

January 21 – Giant bass snow sculpture will be created today! Downtown Lanesboro

January 21, 5 pm — Fish Fry, Lanesboro American Legion

January 21, 5-9 pm — Candlelight Snowshoe, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

January 22 — Science Sunday, Contaminants: What the Data Shows with Terry Lee from the Olmsted County Water Quality Lab, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

January 27, 6:30 pm — Grand Premiere Film Screenings: Youth Access Technology Project, Lanesboro Arts

January 28, 1 pm — Grand Premiere Film Screenings: Youth Access Technology Project, Lanesboro Arts

January 27-28 — Lanesboro Ice Bar, High Court Pub

January 29, 2 pm — Science Sunday, Swimmable, Fishable, Fixable? with Cathy Rofshus from the MN Pollution Control Agency, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

February 4, — Family Dog Sled Day, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

February 4, 5 pm — Dinner on the Bluff, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

February 5 — Science Sunday, Improving Water Quality with Land Conservation with Kevin Kuehner, Field to Stream Partnership, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

February 11, 4 pm — Chasing Niagara, Lanesboro Arts and the Frozen River Film Festival at the St. Mane Theatre

February 11, 7:30 pm — Aqua Adventure Film Set, Lanesboro Arts and the Frozen River Film Festival at the St. Mane Theatre

February 12, 2 pm — Science Sunday, Ironwood Landfill with Gary Peterson, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

February 16-18, 7:30 pm — “H20 Ten” eight 10-minute short plays about water, Commonweal Theatre Company

February 18, 5-9 pm — Candlelight Snowshoe, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

February 19, 2 pm — Science Sunday, Mysteries of the Driftless Film with Co-Producer George Howe, Friends of the Root River at the St. Mane Theatre

Contribute your story to Water/Ways or listen to oral histories collected in your area through Smithsonian’s app for smartphones.

Water/Ways and We Are Water are made possible by:
Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)
US Environmental Protection Agency
National Endowment for the Humanities
Minnesota Humanities Center
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota section of the American Water Works Association
Minnesota Public Radio
Lanesboro Arts
Commonweal Theatre Company
Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
Lanesboro Museum
Friends of the Root River

January 2017 Calendar!

January 2017! What!? Make this the beginning of a great year in your life. Start by getting more involved with your community! Get going with this handy-dandy January 2017 calendar (and you can download the pdf here). Enjoy! XO, Inspire(d)

LOOKING FOR MORE DETAILS ABOUT EVENTS ON THE CALENDARS?
Check out these great January 2017 activities!  In chronological order, each event’s number coincides with its number on the calendar!

9. January 6: Chosen Bean Concert Series presents Beth Wood at the Chatfield Center for the Arts. Tickets $20, available in advance. Show at 7:30 pm. Details and tickets at www.chafieldcfa.com

10. January 7-February 19: Water/Ways, a traveling exhibition and community engagement initiative of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program, opening reception January 7 at Lanesboro Arts. Special events and programming in a variety of Lanesboro-area locations. Read more on p. 14 or visit www.mnhum.org/waterways

11. January 7: The KVR Winter Festival includes skating, sledding, skiing, archery, snow sculpture, ice cave hikes, face painting, horse-drawn bobsled rides, snowshoe exhibit, Tri-state Malamute Club sled dog race, weight pull, and mutt race. Chili feed and fundraiser auction for the KVR. 8:30 am – 4 pm kickapoovalley.wi.gov/winterfest (Free)

12. January 19-22 & January 27-28: New Minowa Players presents The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley. Tickets and details at newminowaplayers.org, or call Sheryl at 563-379-5738