Volunteers and I sorted through boxes of old papers from Westport Township rural schools.
Teacher paycheck stubs reflecting their $35 per month salary. School supply receipts that included coal for the pot-belly stove. School board records that addressed the needs of nine country schools in the district.
The handwriting is beautiful. The paper is fragile. The stories are almost forgotten.
But the stories are still alive at Westport No. 5, because that schoolhouse is still open. Moved to Kenue Park in Okoboji in 1996, Westport Schoolhouse opens each summer to the public to tour. This year the schoolhouse opens Tuesday, June 13.
The building houses exhibits on butterflies, native bees, and pollinator plantings as well as a kids area and monarch butterfly enclosure where monarch caterpillars are raised throughout the summer. Dickinson County Conservation staff and visitors will bring in monarch eggs and caterpillars to safely raise until they hatch into butterflies, and then those butterflies are released into the wild.
Both the Westport Schoolhouse and Pollinator Paradise are open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, June 13-Sept. 1.
The Dickinson County Conservation Board and Conservation Foundation of Dickinson County are also fundraising to create a new $1.7 million Pollinator Paradise addition to the north side of the Dickinson County Nature Center. The project is expected to break ground this July, and then Phase 2 will be the addition of children’s museum-quality exhibits including a walk-through caterpillar tunnel, life-size honeycomb, indoor pollinator plant greenhouse and more.
For more information on Kenue Park’s offerings or on the new Pollinator Paradise addition to the nature center, visit the conservation board website or call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up with the latest news on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.