The Chickasaw Cultural Center has been named a top destination for learning opportunities in Oklahoma by Metro Family Magazine readers.
A reader poll published Aug. 2013 ranks the Chickasaw Cultural Center among the “Top 10” places for children to learn outside the traditional classroom.
Since opening in 2010, thousands of students from hundreds of Oklahoma schools have visited the cultural center on class field trips.
More than 200,000 visitors from across the world have visited the site.
So popular is the 109-acre center, it appeals to an atypical group of students from throughout the state — home schooled children.
The center – largest in the nation celebrating the culture of a Native tribe – recently welcomed more than 120 home schooled children and their teachers to the facility.
Kayla Kelly of Pauls Valley is both mother and instructor to her 8-year-old son, Jace. They made the 45-minute trek to the cultural center to take in the attractions and historical relevance of the Chickasaw people.
“We heard about the home school day (at the center) from a friend who also belongs to the Pauls Valley Home School Association,” she said.
“I am using this as a field trip opportunity for my son. We are learning about other people from the local area. Jace will write a report about this trip, focusing on sentence structure and penmanship,” his mother added.
The Standfield family of Ada also attended.
Deborah Standfield home schools two grandsons and looks upon the culture center as a grand field trip as well, saying its breadth of educational exhibits and cultural diversity offers a wonderful teaching and learning experience.
When asked if the cultural center helped her to instruct her grandsons, she was enthusiastic with her response – “absolutely.”
“I think anything that is educational on a field trip is educational for anybody. I love school field trips that teach the kids something. So, this is definitely that kind of place,” Mrs. Standfield explained.
Oklahoma is the only state in the union that guarantees home schooling in its constitution.
Oklahoma law does not require parents to use certified teachers or state-approved curricula, initiate contact with, register with or seek approval from state or local officials. If a parent is teaching children the basic subjects for at least 180 days, the law requires nothing more.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center serves traditional students, too.
Elmore City – Pernell Middle School teacher Diane Parker has taken three separate class trip to visit.
She enjoys the variety of the cultural center.
“The cultural center is an ideal destination for field trips because of the diverse activities available for all ages. There is such a variety of things students can learn and experience.”
The cultural center provides something for everyone, whether it’s a craft, a movie, or stickball for active kids, she said.
Although she has been three times with kids of all ages, trips to the cultural center were never a “repeat performance” of the previous trip.
“We were able to introduce students to something new and different, while increasing their knowledge, or pride in our state and the heritage that comes with Oklahoma being an Indian Nation.”
On one trip, the group made a stickball craft and then participated in a stickball game.
Mrs. Parker said by playing in the game new concepts learned were reinforced in a positive way.
“The kids are still talking about the stickball game.”
For a school located in south central Oklahoma, visiting the Chickasaw Cultural Center is also convenient.
“We are in a rural area and it is not always feasible for us to go to Oklahoma City or Tulsa, it is more in our vicinity.”
As a teacher, she appreciates the cultural center provides lunch.
“When we go to the cultural center, we don’t have to worry about the children’s lunches or drinks, and it is a huge responsibility lifted off us, as teachers.”
Affordability is another reason she listed for liking the Cultural Center as an educational destination -- $5 includes lunch and a movie, $7 includes lunch, movie and an educational tour.
“That is not much for a whole day of activities,” she said.
While visiting the facility, students engage in Chickasaw and Native history, culture and heritage through interactive displays, demonstrations and activities, such as stomp dancing.
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area, located adjacent to the Chickasaw Culture Center, was also included on the list.
Other attractions selected include:
· Science Museum Oklahoma, 2100 N.E. 52nd Street, Oklahoma City.
· National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 N.E. 63rd, Oklahoma City.
· Martin Park Nature Center, 5000 W Memorial, Oklahoma City.
· Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City.
· Fort Reno, 7107 W Cheyenne St., El Reno, Okla.
· Oklahoma City Zoo & Botanical Garden, 2000 Remington Place, Oklahoma City.
· Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua,
· Museum of Osteology, 10301 S. Sunnylane, Oklahoma City.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center is located at 867 Charles Cooper Memorial Road in Sulphur, Okla. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday- Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, contact the Chickasaw Cultural Center at 580-622-7130 or visit www.chickasawculturalcenter.com.