By the book

In school this year my son had to write a report about the Manhattan Project, the secret World War II-era research conducted by the government in remote regions of New Mexico that resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. This summer we’re taking a westward journey by car, and one of our stops will have to be Los Alamos National Laboratory where Manhattan Project work was done.
But who would have guessed that my kids would ever willingly want to visit such a dry (apparently) historic site? The key here is familiarity. Our whole family became caught up in this particular bit of the past, and now we just have to see where it all took place.
This is exactly what the folks at Montpelier had in mind when they put together an activity book for children who come to see the home of James and Dolley Madison. They realize that the more kids know about a historic site and the people who populated it back in the day, the better they enjoy the visit.
More than a simple coloring book, Discovering James Madison’s Montpelier engages elementary-age kids with just the right kind of information, word games, compare and contrast, and search games that will make a young person’s experience entertaining and educational.
The 10-page booklet was developed by Montpelier’s education department based on activities that kids in school groups found especially enjoyable. It includes brief but endearing biographies of James and Dolley, along with quizzes that tease young visitors (and often their parents, too) into searching for clues both inside the mansion and outdoors around the property.
Kids are encouraged to compare their school and family lives with those of the distinguished former president, and they are introduced to 13 historic individuals who played an important role at Montpelier or in the lives of the Madisons. Montpelier staff are always available to help kids figure things out if they get stumped.
One of the most enjoyable activities, according to communications director Randy Huwa, is the Ten Things to Find in the Big Woods. “It’s like a scavenger hunt,” he says, where families can take the self-guided tour through the 200-year-old James Madison Landmark Forest to discover plants and animals they don’t usually see in their own back yards.
Discovering James Madison’s Montpelier not only helps kids understand the historic home of the fourth President and the first First Lady, but it’s a great way to get them excited about our nation’s past. And who knows? Maybe they’ll want to come back for more.

Discovering James Madison’s Montpelier: An Activity Book for Children is offered to all children at no additional cost when families arrive at the front door of the historic house. Montpelier is located at 11407 Constitution Highway (Rt. 20 in Orange County) and is open daily 9:30am-5pm. 540-672-0025.