The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home has been hosting tours for grade school aged children since the Museum Home first opened to the public in 1922. In 2014, the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home finished construction of the Billie Lou Wood Visitor Center and this new space allows our historic site to offer complementary educational activities to supplement our Museum Home tour.

The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home student tour experience is designed to address specific Indiana state education standards. The staff at the Museum Home is happy to customize activities to meet your diverse classroom needs. Contact Chris Mize at 317.808.8565 to schedule your field tripStudent tours are available from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Educational activities

Reading Literature & Reading Vocabulary


Students will enjoy a live poetry reading with an actor portraying James Whitcomb Riley. The Hoosier Poet will share his Hoosier Dialect writing style, teach poetry vocabulary and discuss various poetic styles. Students will practice reading Mr. Riley’s Hoosier Dialect poems before beginning original compositions that will incorporate what they learned throughout the workshop.

This workshop can be adjusted for all grade levels.
(Meets state academic standards in Reading Literature, Reading Vocabulary, and English/Language Arts)

English Language Arts


As a true Victorian Preservation, the Museum Home remains largely as it was when Mr. Riley lived here. The student tour provides a glimpse of what it was like to live a privileged life in Indianapolis during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In this workshop, students will compare and contrast life today with Mr. Riley’s Victorian world. Students will write a persuasive composition defending the time period in which they would prefer to live.

This workshop can be adjusted for grades 3 through 8.
(Meets state academic standards: 3.W.3.1, 4.W.3.1, 5.W.3.1, 6.W.3.1, 7.W.3.1, and 8.W.3.1)



Students will imagine that they are reporters for a newspaper. They will tour the Museum Home and collect information for a feature article. After the tour, the young reporters will have the opportunity to question James Whitcomb Riley directly, before writing an article based on the information they gathered during the tour and press conference.

This workshop can be adjusted for grades 3 through 8.
(Meets state academic standards: 3.W.3.2, 4.W.3.2, 5.W.3.2, 6.W.3.2, 7.W.3.2, 8.W.3.2)



In this workshop, students will learn how Mr. Riley’s poems have inspired other artists and writers. For example, “Little Orphant Annie” inspired a Broadway musical and two Hollywood movies. Along with “The Raggedy Man” it also inspired the creation of the world famous Raggedy Ann and Andy characters. Those iconic children’s characters also paved the way for Disney’s “Toy Story.” Students will also be encouraged to find inspiration in Riley’s poems as they create their own piece of narrative fiction.

This workshop can be adjusted for all grade levels.

Social Studies


Students will discover how Indiana agriculture developed and changed in the last 150 years. They will uncover how Indiana farmers inspired James Whitcomb Riley in his collection of poetry titled “Farm Rhymes”. Students will read aloud poems such as “When the Frost is on the Punkin” and “Wortermelon Time” to understand the Hoosier Dialect that Riley captured from the days gone by. At the end of this workshop students will be encouraged to write their own farm rhyme.

This workshop is best for 4th grade Indiana history students.
(Meets state academic standards: 4.1.9, 4.1.12, 4.1.18 and 4.RV.3.1)



The Bobbs-Merrill Company, located in Indianapolis, grew into one of the most influential and important publishing houses in the country thanks to authors like James Whitcomb Riley. In this workshop students will uncover the history and legacy of the Bobbs-Merrill Company using the works of Mr. Riley, Johnny Gruelle and other primary sources.

This workshop is best for 4th grade Indiana history students.
(Meets state academic standards: 4.1.9, 4.1.12, 4.1.18)



James Whitcomb Riley was born on the Old National Road in 1849, the year of the Gold Rush. He would often recall the wagon trains headed west through Greenfield, Indiana right in front of his house. In this workshop, students will discover how transportation has changed since 1849 and how Indiana played a large role in automotive history. Mr. Riley’s own extensive use of the growing rail system to tour the country and later purchase of a Duesenberg automobile will be highlighted, as well as a passenger train named in his honor that operated from 1941-1968.

This workshop is best for 4th grade Indiana history students.
(Meets state academic standards: 4.1.9, 4.1.12, and 4.1.18)

Art: Visual Arts


Join the knowledgeable historians of the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home for a visual arts focused tour. Students will discover the original decorative ceilings and walls hand-painted by Italian immigrant artisans and will learn how Victorians used and displayed art in their homes. Original art by Robert Gruelle, Wayman Adams, T.C. Steele, Will Vawter, Ethel Franklin Betts and Howard Chandler Christy are proudly displayed at the museum, and students will have a close-up opportunity to view and critique these treasures.

This tour is best for high school students.
(Meets state academic standards: H.1.2, H.1.6, H.1.7, H.2.1, H.2.2, H.5.1, H.5.3)

Student tours available
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.,
Tuesday – Friday.

Cost: $1 for Students,
$5 for teachers and chaperones.

Bus parking directly in front of the
James Whitcomb Riley
Museum Home.

CONTACT: Chris Mize,
Manager, Museum Home or 317.808.8565