Education through Recreation
Learning isn’t reserved solely for the classroom – at least not when you live in central Mississippi. There are several area attractions that make it easy to continue learning long after the final bell of the school day rings. But the state’s educational attractions don’t just propose the opportunity for learning. They are fun, too! Just take a look at the attractions featured below. Each is equal parts fun and educational, and each is sure to engage visitors of all ages.
French Camp Historic Village
Travel back in time to the 1800s for a history lesson like no other with a visit to French Camp Historic Village in French Camp, MS. Touted as a “window to the past,” the village is comprised of several historic log cabins, offering a glimpse into the early days of the Natchez Trace, when it was a rugged, rutted roadway, teeming with settlers, Native Americans, merchants, and robbers. Visitors today can freely explore the village and its many attractions, which include a pottery studio, gift shop, restaurant, museum, and more. The village also includes comfy lodging, and as an added bonus, it’s located on the Natchez Trace Parkway near several other popular points of interest, including the Old Trace and Jeff Busby Park. For more information, visit the French Camp Historic Village website (https://www.frenchcamphistoricvillage.com).
Little Red Schoolhouse
Nothing will make kids appreciate modern-day conveniences quicker than a visit to the Little Red Schoolhouse. Officially known as the Eureka Masonic College, the historic schoolhouse dates back to 1847, when it opened as the Richland Literary Institute. By 1848, it was chartered as the Eureka Masonic College and had the power to confer literary and honorary degrees. The school remained in operation until the 1950s. Over the years, the Grand Chapter of Mississippi, O.E.S., who manages the property, has spent “vast amounts of money, time, and effort in a long-range program of restoration.” Today, it’s open daily for self-guided tours. There is no cost for admission; however, souvenirs are available for purchase. For more information, visit the Holmes County website (https://holmescountyms.org/little-red-schoolhouse).
Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
Soak up some local AND national history with a visit to the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument. Not just partners in life, the Evers were partners in the civil rights struggle. Sadly, the couple’s lives were forever changed on June 12, 1963, when Medgar was assassinated in the carport of their Jackson home. As the first murder of a nationally significant leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Medgar’s slaying became the catalyst for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2020, the Evers’ home was transformed into a national monument to “honor the life and work of these two important civil rights figures,” according to the National Park Service. Today, you can actually step inside the Evers home and tour the historic residence. For more information, visit the National Park Service website (https://www.nps.gov/memy/index.htm).
Mississippi Petrified Forest
Recreational and educational opportunities abound at the Mississippi Petrified Forest in Flora, MS. Millions of years in the making, the forest is filled with ancient trees, which have been transformed into stone through a process called permineralization. Today, the forest can be easily explored via a 6-block, self-guided trail. An enchanting walk, to say the least, the trail passes by a few of the forest’s largest treasures – some of which are close enough to touch. In addition to historic trees, the forest is home to a museum, which includes “the most outstanding collection of fossils, petrified wood, and minerals from nature.” There’s also a picnic area, so consider packing a lunch and making a day of your visit. For more information, visit the Mississippi Petrified Forest website (https://www.mspetrifiedforest.com).
Daniella DiRienzo is a self-proclaimed southerner who graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2011 and has been working as a freelance writer ever since.