If your kids are complaining about being bored, perhaps it would be helpful to remind them of a time when the average child’s only toys were a wooden hoop and a ragged cloth doll. Here to give children a historical perspective are some of America’s top historical sites, from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to New Mexico's El Rancho de las Golondrinas, with a full schedule of livestreaming educational programming.
Virtual Learning Schedule (all times Eastern)
11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (days vary—see online calendar): Fort Ticonderoga
Ever wonder what soldiers wore to keep warm during the Revolutionary War? Would you like to see a real “redcoat” musket being fired? New York’s 18th-century Fort Ticonderoga, a French-built fort situated on the south end of Lake Champlain, has regular live programming with costumed interpreters, perfect for a budding military historian. See oxcart demos with real oxen, watch a hearth cooking demo and check out “A Soldier’s Life” live videos. Videos are on Facebook Live; check the website for details and instructions on signing up.
Noon (Fridays) and 1 p.m. (Thursdays): The Henry Ford
Head to Twitter for a virtual visit and live Q&A with the curators of The Henry Ford, the Detroit-area museum complex dedicated to America's industrial history. Topics will be especially interesting to car- and transportation-obsessed kiddos. On Fridays, register for live online meets with real kid inventors from across the country.
Noon (Monday-Friday): Mount Vernon
More than 200 years ago, when George Washington created the U.S. Postal Service, news only traveled as fast as a horse could gallop. Today your kids can learn about our first president in real time, thanks to Mount Vernon’s weekday livestream. Each day has a different theme: on Mondays they’ll explore the mansion, on Tuesdays they’ll do historical learning alongside teachers and parents, on Wednesdays they’ll learn facts about Washington, on Thursdays they’ll wander the estate’s tranquil grounds, and on “casual Fridays” they’ll do something new and different each week. Catch the livestreams on YouTube or Facebook Live.
Days and times vary: Tenement Museum
Dedicated to the immigrant experience, New York's Tenement Museum now has a full schedule of live online learning experiences. Upcoming events include a virtual field trip of an early 20th century Jewish immigrant family's apartment, a lecture on the history of street peddlers and a family-friendly lesson on making time capsules. Some events require registration and fill up fast; check the calendar.
3 p.m. (Fridays): El Rancho de las Golondrinas
New Mexico’s living history museum was once a fueling-up stop on the Camino Real, the 1,200-mile trade route that extended from Mexico City to the state capital of Santa Fe. During normal times, costumed interpreters demonstrate the activities of daily living in the 18th and 19th century—raising goats, gardening, weaving and more. Since the lockdown, the Santa Fe museum has been offering occasional “ask the educator” videos on Facebook Live. Recent livestreams include a tour of the tannery and a Q&A with an archaeologist.
1 p.m. (Tuesdays) and 2 p.m. (Thursdays): Monticello
On Tuesdays, tune in as a costumed Thomas Jefferson interpreter shows you “his” house and gardens and chats about topics from architecture to agriculture. On Thursdays, special kids programming includes a look at what school was like for Jefferson’s grandchildren (spoiler: no iPads). You’ll also get activities like historical cooking lessons, using produce that would have grown in the gardens at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, during Jefferson's time. Watch it on Monticello’s website or on YouTube or Facebook Live. On Wednesdays at 1 p.m., a Monticello Live segment is aimed at adults, though it would be fine for interested teens too—a recent livestream focused on the plantation’s enslaved community.
3 p.m. (Wednesdays and Fridays): This is the Place Heritage Park
This is the spot where, in 1847, Mormon leader Brigham Young first saw the Salt Lake Valley that would become his wandering people's new home. Today it is a living history village, with costumed interpreters recreating the lives of 19th-century pioneers. Join in at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays on Facebook Live to tour different parts of the village and learn frontier skills like wool-dying.
2 p.m. (Monday-Friday): Colonial Williamsburg
What would the citizens of Colonial Williamsburg have made of Facebook Live, we wonder? Head there to see what your 21st century kids make of the 1700s, with live interactions and “electronic field trips” every weekday at 2 p.m. Past events include a visit from Cherokee leaders, Q&As with figures like Patrick Henry and Gowan Pamphlet (a former slave who became the nation’s first African American ordained Baptist preacher), and “ask an archaeologist” sessions. There’s also a live music lesson every Thursday at 4 p.m. Fife, anyone?
Days and times vary: Mystic Seaport Museum
Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Museum has been offering all sorts of nautical lectures and demos; track the times and dates on Facebook. Recent programs have included lessons in maritime navigation using tools like compasses and star charts, demos on how to draw sea birds, and lectures on famous boats (like the Gerda III, who smuggled Jews out of Nazi-occupied Denmark).