The Old State House Museum School Bus Fund helps students connect with history

Old State House Museum - Friday, January 31, 2020

A trip made possible by the Old State House Museum School Bus Fund helped the fifth-grade students at Quitman Elementary School build background knowledge related to their classroom studies.

Students reading “The Sign of the Beaver” connected with the book’s time period as they made effigy vessels. Seeing a gown that Eula Terral wore as Arkansas’s first lady from 1925 to 1927 enhanced studies about the 1920s and 1930s. Learning about family history took on a new visual representation when students explored “A Piece of My Soul: Quilts by Black Arkansans” and learned how the creators wove their families’ stories into their quilts.

“The kids made several connections to what we have been reading and learning about,” said Tammy Vaughn, who teaches fifth and sixth grade literature and social studies at Quitman.“Everything that we can expose them to helps them build the background knowledge they need to understand what we are teaching them.”

The Old State House Museum reimbursed Quitman for travel expenses related to the trip using money from the school bus fund. The fund provides up to $750 per field trip to help cover expenses, like mileage, bus driver fees, substitute teachers, etc. The Arkansas State House Society and the Old State House Museum Associates raise money for the school bus fund through events, like the Southern Spring Social (formerly known as the Seersucker Social), private donations and membership dues.

Originally launched in 2016, the school bus fund covered costs for 19 trips during the 2018-2019 school year.

“It’s one thing to study history in the classroom, but’s it another thing entirely to do it at a historic site,” said Georganne Sisco, the museum’s education director. “The goal has always been to not only educate, but to help students get the sense that history can be entertaining, exciting and fun.”

The process for applying for the school bus fund was easy, according to Vaughn. She went online to download the application (available at, worked with the school superintendent’s office to get the expected costs and arranged everything with the museum in about a week.

In order to qualify for the school bus fund, students must visit the Old State House Museum as the first stop on the field trip, and that visit has to last at least 1.5 hours. After that, the group is welcome totravel to as many other locations on the field trip as desired, which means they can stop for meals, explore Arkansas state parks, tour other museums and more. That can be a huge advantage for schools traveling long distances, like Foreman and Mammoth Springs.

Kristie Smith, librarian at Foreman High School, recently used the school bus fund to bring 19 eighth-grade students and six adults (including herself) to the Old State House Museum and the Historic Arkansas Museum.

“The two locations went together perfectly,” Smith said. “We got so much pioneer history at Historic Arkansas Museum and the government part of it at the Old State House Museum. It really tied together well.”

The students loved going through the collections of inaugural gowns in the First Ladies of Arkansas: Women of Their Times gallery at the Old State House Museum. Smith said the tour guides and programs were excellent at both museums.

The school bus fund opened up opportunities for students at the rural school to learn more about Arkansas state history than they would have normally have access to from their location.

“For a small, rural school, [the school bus fund] really supplements what we can do,” Smith said. “It was a wonderful enrichment opportunity.”

The Old State House Museum is located at 300 W. Markham in Little Rock. Normal hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, but the museum occasionally opens late for special events, like 2nd Friday Art Night. Admission is free; the museum can validate parking at the DoubleTree hotel. Metered parking near the museum is free on weekends and after 6 p.m. on weekdays. For more information, call (501) 324-9685 or visit

The Old State House Museum, a museum of Arkansas Heritage, is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the heritage of the state of Arkansas. Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas State Archives, Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Historic Arkansas Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center are also parts of Arkansas Heritage, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.