Hands-on learning in a digital age

Dakota City Heritage Village hosts summer events

SmartBoards, iPads, and smartphones are everywhere.  SmartBoards, iPads, and smartphones are everywhere.  In this Digital Age, where infinite information reigns supreme at the ends of our fingertips, people sometimes get locked behind a screen.  In need of some experiential learning? Or perhaps some time-travel?  Just around the corner at Dakota City Heritage Village, Alisa Peterson, education director at Dakota City Heritage Village, routinely takes students and families on “time travel trips back in time.” She’ll be doing that a lot in the summer months as the village gears up for Summer Fun in the Village on July 14, Family & Friends Fun Day on July 21 and the Dakota County Fair in August.  Peterson has been education director for Dakota City for eight years and has been a volunteer since 2001. She loves dressing up in a costume and playing a villager, while giving onlookers a glimpse into what life was like in 1900.  She recruits and trains volunteers, leads a summer day camp, and gives tours throughout the school year. Penny Tollefsrud, a longtime volunteer, enjoys seeing children’s curiosity as “they see the blacksmith pounding iron, a mother baking dessert in a wood stove or doing laundry outside with tubs and wringer, and enjoy looking through stereoscopes, and gazing at what they can buy at the general store.”  A retired elementary and special education teacher, Tollefsrud has found that re-enacting life in the early 1900s is a great way to continue using her teaching skills.  Peterson said that retired folks make for great volunteers, but high school and college students have also been seen at the village.  They’re always looking for volunteers, especially during the Dakota County Fair, the October harvest, and the first weekend in December in which they celebrate a Victorian Christmas. Tollefsrud and Peterson both enjoy seeing the joy in children’s faces and sometimes the nostalgia that older generations experience. Attendees’ reactions are part of the reason Peterson still loves what she does. Tollefsrud enthuses that “Dakota City Heritage Village is a gem in Farmington,” but Kris Akin, a board member in charge of marketing, says that “there is much competition nearby in the metro area for families and individual’s free time.”  What separates Dakota City, Akin maintains, is that  “we are unique though, in that we are a local, educational, visual representation or re-enactment of our region’s earlier history. The village has been built, planned, supported and maintained by dedicated volunteers, financial donations, businesses and organizations that see the value in sharing this history.” As an independent nonprofit, all of the admission fees and donations go back to the restoration of the village. Its volunteers and board members are committed to preserving the history of the region, and sharing that with the community. More about Dakota City is at dakotacity.org.

Kevin Fillips reads to visitors
President of the Dakota City Board of Directors, Bob Helm, shows woodworking skills
Bobbie Schultz (L) and her daughter Jessica Schultz,
who travel from Pine City, Minnesota, cook
in the Harris House at Dakota City.
Don Holz demonstrates the mechanical cow he built.