By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — For students, some of the best days of the school year are the days when they take field trips.

But, with so many school districts dealing with budget cuts and rising fuel costs for transportation, those trips are becoming more difficult to take.

This week in Finding Minnesota, an alternative to expensive field trips, that seems to be just as exciting for the kids.

Minnesota history is a big part of what sixth graders study in social studies class.

But, the way these students at St. Francis Middle School are learning about the past is downright futuristic.

Although they can interact with her, the teacher leading this particular lesson is more than 40 miles away in St. Paul — in the basement of the Minnesota History Center.

Tami Moehring is a history center program assistant who dresses up like Harriet Bishop, the first public school teacher in St. Paul.

With the help of interactive video conference equipment, some costumes, historic photos and artifacts, Moehring is able to take kids back to 1852.

Dale Johnson is the principal at St. Francis Middle School.

“It is so clear, and so right there, it’s almost like the teacher is right in the room with you. And the students can interact with her …  It’s a great tool, and the kids are so in tune to what is happening, they were right on the money,” he said.

The history center launched its Interactive Video Conference lessons last year.

For the kids, it’s quite different from sitting and watching a DVD.

They can ask and answer questions, and get up out of their seats to participate in demonstrations.

This particular lesson is about a one-room schoolhouse in 1852, as well as life on the farm and travelling back then.

The students loved it.

Connor Ramlet was called on to be a part of a skit where he had to pretend to be a school teacher.

“I was the boy teacher and I got paid more because back then they didn’t have women’s rights,” he said. “I think it’s kind of rude that the boys got more, but I don’t know.”

Sixth grader Camille Zopfer pretended to be a steam boat, which was a popular mode of transportation back then.

“It was kind of fun ’cause you got to make noises and you actually got to go up. I thought it was gonna be like staring at TV and it was even cooler ’cause it was live,” she said.

Zopfer said she will remember this lesson longer since she was able to act out parts of it instead of reading about it in a book.

“Oh yeah, it will stick in my memory for a long time,” she said.

Over in St. Paul, the history center staff members who worked on the project show off the tiny studio they use to broadcast the lesson to students.

“Every school in the state of Minnesota has access to this form of equipment in some way. Many teachers don’t know about that,” Moehring said.

The lesson fee is $75, but that doesn’t include the camera equipment.

However, history center staff says most school districts in Minnesota already have the equipment and staff needed.

Teachers just need to call and ask about getting it set up in their classrooms.

For more information about Minnesota History Center’s interactive video conference lessons, just go to


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