Fort Ancient, Oregonia, Ohio

SAMSUNG CSCA recent, memorable drive was our visit to Fort Ancient on the Miami River valley.  The Fort Ancient State Memorial is on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its importance in telling the story of Native cultures in America.  The site contains original earthen mounds and a plateau enclosed by large “embankment walls” built by Hopewell Indians.  According to the museum website, “The Hopewell, known for their engineering expertise, built these walls and many other features both within the enclosure and on the steep valleys that surround the site: conical and crescent-shaped mounds, limestone pavements and circles, and many subsurface elements that are currently coming to light.. . ”

Recently, the site was nominated for consideration to the UNESCO World Heritage list for its importance.

Three sites in Ohio that have received nominations, among them Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks,  Serpent Mound and the Dayton Aviation Sites (, 2016), all worth visiting.  There is a trail of ancient sites available here with more detailed information, for those who would like to see all of these types of sites from Ancient Ohio.


An outdoor gallery showing different styles of Native American homes and gardens featuring plants used in daily life.

The Hopewell lived from 200 BC to AD 500, along fertile rivers in the Northeast and Midwest, as the map below shows (Wikipedia, 2016).  The mounds are part of the Woodland period and scientists believe they were used for ceremonials purposes (World Hertiage Ohio, Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, 2016).

Walking these hiking trials and seeing the mounds up close, our family felt a connection to the history of these lands.  These mounds provide a glimpse into the world of ancient civilizations that were so connected to the land, as a form of sustenance and reverence.

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The drive to Fort Ancient is beautiful in its own right, as it is located on the banks for the Miami River on winding roads and close to many zip-lining and kayaking areas.  The natural habitat provokes a sense of peace and respect for people who lived thousands of years ago.

Most hiking trails at Fort Ancient are kid friendly.  Be sure to grab a map before venturing out.  Maps are avaliable at the museum and show the difficulty of different trails.

The embankment walls are a cause of archaeological debate, as they are said have no defense relevance.  The mounds are said to be of ceremonial importance.

According to World Hertiage Ohio,

“The Fort Ancient Hilltop Enclosure is the largest and best-preserved structure of its kind in the world. Three miles of sinuous earthen embankments include 67 stone-lined gateways, and are accompanied by a continuous necklace of clay-lined ponds. Pairs of mounds create three distinctive monumental gateways; four other stone-covered mounds form a perfect square aligned to solar and lunar events”(World Hertiage Ohio, Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, 2016).

Others believe they may have served dual purposes.  According to AncientOhioTrail, “Professor Ken Tankersley of the University of Cincinnati has recently argued that the construction of these so-called “forts” had much to do with water management, and also that this design was more extensive than what was recorded on the best-known nineteenth-century map.”   Seeing the site up close, allows one to judge what they may have been used for.  Our family walked by several sites where mounds where still evident in the landscape and  others where man-made ponds once stood.

Another similar Hopewell site worth noting, The Earthworks at Newark Ohio,  “include the 1200-foot-diameter Great Circle with its steep inner ditch and monumental framed gateway, plus the Octagon Earthworks – a perfect circle and adjoining octagon over a half-mile across – whose perfectly formed, eye-level embankments align with all eight of the key rise- and set-points of the moon during its 18.6-year cycle, within a smaller margin of error than that at Stonehenge. . . “(World Heritage Ohio, 2016).

The museum offers a great overview of the daily life of Native Americans.  It is a great way to introduce a history of Native American cultures to children.

My kids really enjoyed the exhibits, which are excellent teaching resources.  The picture above shows my girls considering how daily life played out, using an artistic recreation of the village at Fort Ancient.

The museum has several galleries dedicated to understanding the archaeology and history of Native peoples.  The museum also teaches how archaeological evidence is obtained.  The historical galleries go in chronological order, up until the era of European contact.


There is one section that serves as a learning center, where kids can play with instruments, touch common tools, and try on traditional clothing.  I really appreciated a wall dedicated to a timeline (pictured below), which showed different aspects of everyday life according to time period.  The gallery does an excellent job distinguishing the differences in lifestyle, while making it kid-friendly for all ages.  This gave my children an understanding of the diversity of cultures over time.  This gallery was appropriate for all ages. Even my two year old found it engaging, as she found some instruments to play with.


Fort Ancient includes both a museum that gives a historical overview of Native cultures in America and the Earthworks, the prehistoric hill top enclosures.  In addition, Fort Ancient has two sister sites in Dayton, including SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park which brings to life Fort Ancient culture though a partial Village reconstruction and interpretive center (Fort Ancient website).  The other is the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.  The Dayton Society of Natural History membership allows access to all these sites.

On a final note, it is imperative that the public support the efforts to preserve these sites so they are not lost for future generations, by visiting or writing letters to congress in support for UNESCO consideration.  The visit is definetly worth the time, and gives families with children a deeper understanding of Native American history.


National Museum of the United States Air Force, Part I, Dayton, Ohio

World War II Gallery, National Museum of the US Airforce.  Photo by Miriam Clifford

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is an icon of National Aviation Heritage and a repository of national treasures.  According to its website, the museum is “the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world.”  It is located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.   Yes, that is the same location where the Wright brothers perfected their plane.  You can actually plan an entire aviation week, encompassing nearby attractions related to the history of flight.  I will write about some of these in later posts. The museum is free, and there is ample free parking.

Early Years Gallery, National Museum of the US Air Force.  Photo by Miriam Clifford


To say the museum is large is an understatement.  It has over a million square feet, not including the outdoor Air Park and Memorial Garden.  The galleries are formulated around historical events, so that the planes and artifacts themselves, tell a story of our nation’s history in each major war. There is also a strong emphasis on the history of flight, innovation and space exploration, as these are also directly correlated to the history of the US Air Force.  Each gallery is supported by historical information from the time period, such as newspaper articles, photos, films, related artifacts, and aviators’ personal stories.  Well-organized galleries in a series of connected hangers, tell the history of innovation relating to flight, such as those related to early flight, WWI, WWII, space exploration, and the Cold War.

North American XB-70 Valkyrie

It is difficult to fully appreciate this museum in one day, due to its sheer size.  Each gallery took us about 2-3 hours.   If you have time, I would recommend arriving early, or splitting up your visit. If your time is limited, I recommend formulating a plan for your visit, so you don’t miss anything you have in mind.

The atmosphere at this museum is so welcoming, that you find yourself wanting to visit again.  It is run by volunteers who are always eager to answer questions and say hello.  One volunteer selling the souvenir photographs told me that some people actually spend an entire week to go through all of the collections.

Guided tours are offered Free daily at 10 a.m. (Early Years and World War II Galleries), 11:30 a.m. (Korea, Southeast Asia, Cold War and Missile Galleries), 12 p.m. (Fourth Building), 1:30 p.m. (Early Years and WWII Galleries) and 3 p.m. (Fourth Building).

You can find a 360 Tour here  and the Museum Website here to plan your visit.  The 360 tour includes a map of the galleries. The museum includes the following galleries, each hyperlinked below on their site:

Early Years Gallery
World War II Gallery
Korean War Gallery
Southeast Asia War Gallery
Cold War Gallery
Missile Gallery
Space Gallery
Research & Development Gallery
Global Reach Gallery
Presidential Gallery
Air Park
Memorial Park
Other Exhibits


There are kids scavengers hunts and activities on the kids section of their website .  You can print these ahead of time.   There are many diverse events through the year.  An array of programs are available for schools and other educational organizations on the Education section, which includes a teacher guide for each gallery and lesson plans.

As a teacher, I was impressed by the quality, organization, and alignment to historical learning of these materials.  Parents may want to take advantage of these guides too, as they are excellent resources to read in the car or for Personal learning days or for STEM Homeschooling days.  Click here to access the Resource guides.

This weekend, there is a special family event

Destination Space Station • Nov. 19 Learn about the International Space Station and spaceflight from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., plus build your own space station from recycling materials.


This museum left quite an impression on me, which was a bit surprising, considering I am not a huge plane fanatic.  My husband served in the US Army, so I planned this trip for his birthday.  I found myself enjoying it immensely.  It is one of among the best museums I have ever been to around the world, for both its authenticity, quality, and historical integration using artifacts to explain key events in American and World history.  As my daughter said, “It really feels like you can understand what it was like to be there.”

Pictured my girls observing details of a Berlin Airlift exhibit, told through the eyes of a child.

You feel like you are stepping into history, and in some cases you really are, as you can board many historic planes.  The picture above shows our two older girls immersing themselves in an exhibit about the Berlin Airlift.  The museum prompted my kids to ask historical questions.  They were eager to go back after our first visit.  I left feeling an immense respect for the contributions of  our aviators to the history of our nation.

My husband answering questions my kids asked about World War II and referring to the map to explain.

It is evident that the curators of this museum have taken extensive care and attention to detail in compiling these collections.  They continue to expand their collections today.  It is important to note that many individuals contributed to the state of the museum today, working over several decades to conserve national treasures and artifacts important to the legacy of our nation. In their mission statement, the museum states their sense of responsibility to the history of the United States Air Force and American people stating, “We are the keepers of their stories.”   This mission comes across passionately.

I’ve included a link to the history of the museum from the Air Force Museum Foundation for those interested in exploring these aspects.  Our family decided to become members.  As of November 14, 2016, the minimum starting donation is $30, which is tax-deductible, and provides a magazine subscription, a calendar and 20% off the museum store and cafes.   If you plan to visit more than once or want to support their mission, it is worth asking about it on your way in.  My daughter decided to buy an Air Force jacket at the Museum gift shop (pictured below) and some astronaut ice cream on the way out, so inquiring about membership early, would have been worthwhile.  We ended up joining on our third visit.

New Expansion

A new fourth building recently opened this summer, featuring Space & Global Reach, Research and Development, and Presidential galleries with more than 70 additional planes. You don’t want to miss this gallery.  Below is a slide show of some of the highlights.

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According to a recent press release from the museum site,

“During the official Grand Opening Ceremony on June 7, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the stories that will be told in these four galleries feature fascinating and important aspects of the Air Force mission.  This new building is full of compelling stories of men and women who for many decades have served and defended this nation,” said James. “These people, their stories and the weapon systems they designed, developed, flew, maintained and supported are worthy of recognition and will be highlighted in this magnificent new building to millions of visitors for generations to come.. . .Among the stories found in the fourth building will be the VC-137C Air Force One (SAM 26000), which was used by eight presidents – Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton; the only remaining XB-70 Valkyrie; the C-141C Hanoi Taxi, which airlifted the first American prisoners of war out of North Vietnam in February 1973; the Space Shuttle Exhibit featuring NASA’s first Crew Compartment Trainer; and a massive Titan IVB space launch vehicle that weighs 96 tons. . . . “- Rob Barbua, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force website, June 7, 2016

SAM 26000, Presidential Gallery, National Museum of the US Air Force.  Photo by Miriam Clifford.

The new 40.8 million gallery includes several one- of-a kind, historical planes, such as the retired Air Force One, SAM 26000, VC-137C (Boeing 707) pictured above.  According to a 2013 article on CNN, a few years ago, this plane had been closed to the public, due to lack of funding for buses to the outdoor yard, so its recent reopening in the new, indoor gallery is very exciting.  This plane saw many key events in American history; it is the same plane that transported JFK to the ill-fated trip to Dallas on November 22, 1963 and you can stand before the very spot on-board where Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of the presidency following Kennedy’s assassination.  Boarding this plane, I felt a deep sense of history overcome my every sensation-the musty smell, the overwhelming feeling of sadness knowing it had transported JFK’s remains and the sense of connection to history knowing it had been the workplace of all the presidents after Kennedy until 1998.  In the same gallery, you will find two prior planes use to transport Presidents Eisenhower and Truman, which display Air Force insignia instead and have a very different look.  The planes transporting Presidents changed during Kennedy’s presidency, as Jaqueline Kennedy commissioned designer Raymond Loewy for an update.  The plane became a symbolic extension of the White House in the air, proudly displaying the American flag and Presidential seal.  This same aircraft took Nixon took to open relations with China and was later used by eight Presidents until 1998, the last being President Clinton( John King, National Museum of the United States Airforce, Aircraft Catalogue, 2015 edition, purchased at the museum gift shop).

Space shuttle landing simulator, Space and Global Reach Gallery, this simulator is free of charge.

The new wing also includes a focus on STEM learning for kids, and a few virtual reality transporters. I will write about this wing a bit more in-depth in another posting, to do it justice. If you forget to bring a stroller, you will find a multitude of neat, little metal strollers on the wall near the bathroom, as well as wheelchairs and motorized scooters.  I thought this was especially useful since the galleries are quite large.  We brought our own stroller, but Emma wanted to take these metal ones for a spin.

Taken together these galleries create a sense of emotional connection to the aviators and key events in their time period.  Each exhibit adds to a historical sense of time and place, creating a reenactment of history.  The authenticity of the items and their meticulous restorations and upkeep, add to the allure of the museum.  In addition, the layout allows you to see how key events in history influenced one another, in relation to military history and world events.

If you have school-aged kids, the museum has added technology portals in each wing where they can learn about events through photos and quiz-questions to test their learning as they go.

Exhibit about Ham, the first monkey in Space. Pictured is the flight jacket he wore to greet JFK.

I loved that they included historical content, such as newspapers announcing the start of WWI next to the planes, telling a chronological story.  It is also enjoyable because the museum is laid out so that you can go as in-depth as you would like into each gallery. It has side galleries dedicated to more specific aspects, such as Disney’s role in creating art for Aviator jackets.

My kids standing by a bicycle produced by the Wright Brothers company, Early Years exhibit.

Artifacts like a bicycle sold by the wright brothers and jackets worn by  Aces during WWI add personal stories, and tell the history of flight in their own right.


I encourage you visit to this museum with your whole family;  you will leave with a renewed sense of respect, awe, and admiration for the history of flight.  Everyone will find something to enjoy.  When we were at dinner, and I was asking everyone if they had fun on our day, and my two-year old raised her hand and said, “Me, Me, planes.”  She enjoyed the ample room to walk around, the family flight simulator, and getting on the different planes.


My older daughters left with a deeper appreciation of our nation’s history.  I have a science background, so exploring the spirit of innovation that drove so many later advancements, most impressed me.  I especially enjoyed seeing the Apollo 15 Command Module on loan from Smithsonian, in the Research and Development Gallery.


I enjoyed watching my husband explain to my daughters some of his own combat history, as they boarded a cargo plane used to transport soldiers.    My daughters could actually board a C1-30, and he could explain some of his experiences.


I will continue writing about our visits to this museum, as we explore specific galleries, so check back for Part II later this month.