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  Hennepin Canal Interpretive Program  


Hennepin Canal Parkway State Trail
16006 875 E. Street
Sheffield, IL 61361



There is a basic information program dealing with the history of the Hennepin Canal and why it was built. This is a slide program that is traveling the rounds of the civic groups. It is in the process of being supplemented with a program called "Mary's Magic Lantern Show."

"Mary" is Mary O'Niel who was a cook along the Canal. Her husband, Edward, was a construction foreman in 1900. "Mary" talks about life in the workcamps, where the men came from (Geography), and tells stories about Canal construction. Her "Magic Lantern Show" will show how the Canal was constructed and the new machinery in use.

The Hennepin Canal Parkway offers many chances for you and your students to learn about history and the environment in a relaxed setting. Included are several suggestions for various programs. Over the past three years, the Interpretive Program at the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park has expanded. It now includes programs on Life in the Workcamps, Nature, American Indians, and specially designed programs.

There are Nature walks focusing on several different aspects. The Visitor Center complex has a restored prairie that most people enjoy learning about. There is also a wetland with an Observation Blind. Walks can go along the Canal towpath, toward the prairie, back to the wetlands, or take place at a site away from the Complex. The Canal stretches seventy-five miles East-to-West and twenty-nine miles North-to-South. Along its route, there are several Day-Use Areas and programs can be given there as easily as on-site.

Educators are encouraged to call and request programs on specific areas. Programs can be designed to fit the needs of individual educators.

The Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park is located on the outskirts of Sheffield, IL. The Visitor Center is open daily from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. The hours occasionally vary on Saturday or Sunday mornings, but the Center is open by 10:00 A.M. For further information or information packets, call (815)454-2328. If you call after hours, the answering machine will take your call.


The Hennepin Canal Parkway offers many chances for you and your group to learn about history and the environment in a relaxed setting. Included are several suggestions for various programs. If you have travel or time restrictions, all the programs can be held at day use areas in your county or at your facility.


Mary O'Niel, a turn of the century woman, explains her duties as a cook and mother along the Canal and talks about how her jobs would differ from the men's. Mary discusses the methods of construction used, and contrasts the old technology with the newly developing technologies. As Mary cooks or makes soap she talks about life in the work camp. Her topics include geography using the birthplaces and ethnic background of the workers, and how life is along the canal.


Marquette & Joliett were the first to propose a canal to link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. Owl Moon will discuss Marquette & Joliett and show how the lives of the American Indians changed with the coming of the Europeans.


Take the students for a walk on or near a prairie. Let them sit near it and look at the prairie. Tell them stories to let them imagine a time when prairie was all they could see - miles and miles of grasslands broken by an occasional tree. It might help for them to close their eyes and listen as the story of the prairie is woven into their heads. They will hear about a place and time when families tied themselves together to avoid getting separated. A tallgrass prairie has grasses that are six to eight feet and taller. Will help meet proposed 1996 state goal number 12.


Take the students for a walk. Show them how important it is for there to be no litter in the animals' homes. Point out, for example, how the trees recycle themselves from seed to dust. Explain that in Nature nothing is wasted. Describe what can happen if an animal or bird tangles their feet in discarded fishing line, or what can happen with 6-pack holders. Every participant is to collect at least one piece of litter along the trail. Will help meet proposed state goal number 12.


Group the students on the floor in front of the presenter. Hold up different animal skins and talk about where each animal lives, what it eats, and how it has adapted to its habitat.Have each student look at the skins, touch them and feel how each animal adapted to its habitat, and play games copying animal behaviors.


A canal is composed of many parts and components. If this is an off-site program, a slide show will be used. For an on site program the model of a lock and the photos in the exhibits will be used. In small groups use the model to point out the parts of a canal and how each part works. After looking at the canal model and photos, the students may be taken on a hike along the Canal summit. Using the same technique(s) explain what the components are and how they work.


Working with your goals and objectives, the Interpreter can design programs to fit your classroom needs. Project Wild Project Wet and Project Learning Tree activities may be used.

All school programs can be scheduled at the Hennepin Canal Visitor's Center, off-campus at nearby day use areas or in your school. Contact the Interpreter for more details. Programming can be adapted for most age groups.


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