As October comes to a close, our friends at Conner Prairie are gearing up for another year of their moving program, Follow the North Star. Since the program began in 1997, more than 60,000 people have been able to partake in it and certainly all of them have been moved in some way. A few of my co-workers and I were able to partake in the program a few months ago, and I know many of us took away a new understanding of this unfortunate time in America's history.
During the experience, I was a part of a small group that was taken on a journey in which we were put into the role of a fugitive slave. We were treated as if we were enslaved and went through situations that slaves travelling along the Underground Railroad would have had to endure. "Entering into the role of a slave was humbling and brought up issues that are still relevant today, including bullying and modern day slavery. I could hear co-workers who were now fellow slaves being harassed and I wanted to intervene, but was helpless to do anything," explained my co-worker, Jo Ann. The program takes place outside in all weather conditions on the grounds of Conner Prairie, which added to the full experience.
While taking part in the program, we encountered several people who wanted to help our group escape, but others who wanted to send our group back into slavery. All of the interactions with either type of person were so touching and real that it was truly an emotional learning experience. I definitely think the effects of Follow the North Star will stay with me for a long time; it was so immersive that it felt real. My co-worker Jo Ann was also deeply affected, "We were all suddenly made less than whole, less than human and that's enough put a temporary dent in your self-esteem. Those were probably the most challenging parts."
Because the program is so interactive and emotionally intense, it is recommended for older children and adults. Follow the North Star is a special program at Conner Prairie and will only be available for a limited number of days beginning on November 1. I highly recommend that you participate if you are able, you'll come away with a new perspective on some of the difficulties that those on the Underground Railroad had to endure.