DAR Museum Summer Camps: Traveling Back in Time

Written by: Marilyn Sklar, DAR Museum Curator of Education
August 7, 2015

When we think about the American Revolution, people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams most likely come to mind. But, have you heard about Polly Cooper, Penelope Barker, and Phyllis Wheatley? Agrippa Hull and James Armistead Lafayette? These individuals were patriots and served the pursuit for independence in different ways, but these women and men often get little, or no mention in textbooks.

Children explored these lesser-known patriots during the DAR Museum’s Time Travelers Summer Day Camp in mid-July.  Museum staff educators used a variety of hands-on history methods to bring the past alive for the campers, who ranged in age from nine to twelve.

The week began with a basic historical review of the American Revolution. Campers created skits about different parts of the American Revolution, including a telling of troops at Valley Forge.

Adam Canaday, a living history interpreter from Williamsburg, visited campers as Agrippa Hull, who aided Polish military officer Thadeus Kosciuszko and assisted physicians with the wounded. Canaday also told about roles African American soldiers played and their daily lives in camp. Some Time Travelers tried on his heavy wool uniform, and all tasted hard tack, a soldier’s staple. (There were some food critics among the ranks, and “blech” was more than one response.)

Polly Cooper was an Oneida woman who traveled to Valley Forge and prepared native corn to help feed starving troops. After learning about Cooper, the kids ground corn and made a corn mush. They took a field trip to the National Museum of American Indian to get a close look at Oneida and Iroquois artifacts. Later, campers created designs on cloth bags with porcupine quills, a decorative element used on Oneida objects.

Learning takes place in summer camp, but having fun while learning is important for all ages. And, cool snacks, like popsicles, boost the fun factor.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians were invited to join campers and Museum staff on the final day. Campers shared brief presentations about their favorite subjects and activities. This year, the Time Travelers chose their own media, and their creativity surprised everyone, like this skit titled “Revolutionary Women” about Abigail Adams, Molly Pitcher, and Phyllis Wheatley.

Summer camps are developed and run by DAR Museum staff. This year’s counselors are Curator of Education Marilyn Sklar, Assistant Curator of Education Katie Cannon, and Administrative Assistant Elissa Blattman.

More campers arrive this week for another hands-on history camp. From Fiber to Fabric is a textile-based camp inspired by the Museum’s current exhibition “Eye on Elegance: Early Quilts of Maryland and Virginia.” Children will spend five days learning spinning, weaving, dyeing, and hand sewing while exploring the Museum’s collections and exhibits and doing crafts and science. 

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