An extraordinary system of cultural and historic resources.

Museum Education

Idaho State Historical Museum Education Programs

Summer Camp Fun

Photo Credit: ISHS


School Groups

The museum is a great place to get students excited about history.  Please read our program descriptions listed below and find those suitable for your interests and age group.  These programs fill up quickly, early reservations are encouraged.  Groups requesting a program must have a minimum of 10 students to participate. 

If you wish to visit the museum as a self guided group, you must still make a formal reservation with our education staff. 

PLEASE NOTE: Changes for May 2014:  Due to museum changes, Education programs will only be offered May 1 -16.  Programs will be offered twice a day with either a morning (9:00 – 11:00) or afternoon (12:00 – 2:00) session.  There will be no education programs scheduled after May 16.  Self guided school groups will be limited to three per day during the month on May. 

When visiting the museum, the charge per student and chaperones is $1. Teachers and employees of the school get into the museum for free.  If you have fewer than 10 in your group, than regular museum rates apply. A letter of confirmation will be sent to you prior to your visit.  Groups arriving later 15 minutes later than their program start time will forfeit the planned education programming. 

Reservations at the Museum
Please call 208-334-2120, ext 11 to schedule a visit.  Reservations are required for all groups.  To make a reservation we’ll need your preferred trip time, date of trip, number in group (1 adult per 8-10 students), any special needs your groups has and the general contact information.  If you are doing the education programs, we will need the preferred programs you would like during your visit.

The Museum Visits You
Our outreach program allows schools, within a 60 mile radius of Boise, to schedule up to two visits from a museum educator free of charge.  These visits are a great way to bring the museum into your classroom.  For a listing of available programs  please read our descriptions listed below.
In school visits can be scheduled Monday through Wednesday during the months of September through April by calling 208-334-2120, ext. 21.  Please note – outreach is NOT available during the month of May.  To make a reservation we’ll need your preferred date and time schedule to visit, number in each class, any special needs your groups has and the general contact information. 

You can also download a short guide for your visit with a few suggested self-guided activities.

Education Programs

The museum programs are not lectures. They are participatory learning experiences for students. These programs use a combination of hands-on demonstrations, close-up examination of artifacts, and thought-provoking explanations by our docent staff to bring history alive for your students.

Pioneer Life - Spinning
What was life like for pioneers? Learn the process of wool spinning from sheep to sweater. Students get to try their skill at hand weaving.

20-30 minutes. Grades 2-5.

Pioneer Life - Dairy
Find out how important the cow was for an early pioneer farm and then try out some old fashioned butter-making.
20-30 minutes.  Grades 2-5 

Pioneer Life - Toys
How did children entertain themselves in late 1800's Idaho? Examine some early toys and then try out your favorites.
20-30 minutes.  Grades 2-4.

Native America Hunting and Gathering
Learn the history of hunting and gathering in Idaho through the examination of Native American tools.  Try your hand at corn grinding with authentic basalt mortars and pestles.
20-30 minutes.  Grades 1-6.

Fur Trappers
In the early 1800s, the only Europeans in the Idaho region were fur trappers. Learn about the lives of these brave mountain men through an examination of museum artifacts.
30-45 minutes.  Grades 4-5.

Lewis and Clark and the Indians
As the Corps of Discovery made their epic journey across the west, they crossed land occupied by 50 different Native American tribes. Learn how Lewis and Clark communicated with the people they encountered and play a short game that illustrates the difficulty of conversing without spoken language.
30-45 minutes. Grades 4-6.

The Oregon Trail
In the mid-1800s thousands of pioneers passed through Idaho on the Oregon Trail.  In this program we will discuss the hardships of the pioneer lifestyle and closely examine some of the artifacts they might have brought with them on the trail by playing a challenging game of "What is it?"
20-30 minutes. Grades 3-6.

Mining in Idaho
Learn how the discovery of gold was important to Idaho's statehood and examine artifacts used for mining in Idaho's past. Try your hand at panning for "gold."
20-30 minutes. Grades 3-6.

The Chinese in Idaho
In the late 1800s many Chinese settlers came to Idaho to try their luck during the gold rush. Yet little remains to tell the story of their lives. This program combines a slide show with an examination of Chinese clothing and cultural items from the museum collections.
30-45 minutes. Grades 4-12.

Cowboys and Ranching
Take a close look at the clothing and equipment of a classic cowboy and then learn the ins and outs of cattle roping in an outdoor lasso demonstration.
30-45 minutes.  Grades 3-6.

The History of Boise
Take a quick tour of Treasure Valley history. This program features a kid-friendly slide show and a few museum artifacts to illustrate what life was like in old Boise.
30-45 minutes.  Grades 3-5.

Using Artifacts to Teach History
Students are used to learning history from lectures, textbooks, and the internet.  Many don't realize that museum artifacts are also a useful resource for learning about the past.  Learn the importance of artifacts in history by looking at some unusual and rare objects from our collection.  Then break into groups and play an identification game to see what you can learn from artifacts.
45-60 minutes.  Grades 4-12.

The museum offers additional education programs on some First Thursdays, Hands-on History weekends during the summer, and other times.  Check our calendar for more information.