The creative folks at the Fredericksburg Area Museum are offering two innovative summer camps, filled with fun children’s activities that provide a threshold to a new understanding and appreciation of the history of our area.
“We tried to come up with ideas for kids and their families at a time when camp opportunities are limited, and developed both an at-home experience of camp as well as a two-hour one-day camp at our site,” said Theresa Cramer, Education and Public Programs Coordinator.
History in a Bag
This is a portable camp that can be experienced anywhere, without the need for online access. Dubbed “History in a Bag,” it explores the experiences of campers’ counterparts throughout the last century, featuring decade-by-decade exploration with fun facts, activities, projects and crafts.
“Kids will be able to travel through the last 100 years at home,” said Cramer. “Every decade, from the 1920s through today will be represented.”
The 1920s will feature an activity about Southworth’s Pleasure Island, a music-filled carnival with lights, games and entertainment that once delighted crowds on Scott’s Island in the Rappahannock, below the Chatham Bridge. Participants will use a template to craft their own carnival cat, which was once featured in a popular Knock ’Em Down ball-toss game. Other activities highlight special events of the 1920s—which included the opening of U.S. 1 in 1926 and the business boon it brought to the ’Burg. Campers will create a postcard and learn how to dance the Charleston, as well as design and build a bridge (inspired by the RF&P Railroad bridge construction). Fun facts of the decade include the opening of Maury School, and the introduction of Rice Krispies and the yo-yo to popular culture.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, children may not have had a spectrum of toys, but their desire for playtime was satisfied by playground games that required virtually no equipment. One game featured in FAM’s creative camp is kick the can, which was especially liked because it combined capture the flag, hide and seek and tag all into a single game. This game—and others that involved a lot of energy and the thrill of a challenge—continued to engage generations of children through the decades .
Activities for the 1940s include a scavenger hunt for items that could be had in a scrap-metal drive, which elicits the spirit of the decade when people of all ages did what they could to contribute to the war effort. This decade saw the debut of a long-standing favorite site, Carl’s Ice Cream stand, whose service window first slid open in 1947. In the Rising Water activity, campers will create a rain gauge to commemorate Fredericksburg’s flood of 1942, when the river peaked at more than 42 feet after eight days of rain. To celebrate Fredericksburg’s Soap Box Derby, which became linked with the national All-American Soap Box Derby in 1952, participants will craft their own miniature car from a clothespin, buttons and straws.
Adding to the camp’s thought-provoking fun facts, a discussion of the decades features a list of children’s favorite candies and movies of the era—another invitation to family conversations and, perhaps, additional exploration.
Market Square MysteriesThis one-day archaeology camp will be held on-site from 9:30-11:30 a.m. July 16, July 23 and July 30.
“We wanted to design a camp where kids could easily practice social distancing, and the pattern of the brick-work in Market Square was the perfect site,” said Cramer. “Each child has their own designated square, which was once manned by a vendor selling crafts and vegetables in Colonial times.”
The camp presents the basic steps of archaeology and a demonstration and hands-on experience of the tasks involved. The children will learn about Market Square itself and a variety of artifacts that have been discovered. In addition, all will try their hand at the archaeological process, as they search through different layers and quadrants of their own excavation tray which holds artifacts from the museum’s “education collection,” such as pieces of bones and pottery and construction nails. After cleaning their finds with brushes and recording their discoveries a log that is provided, they can also peruse then-and-now photos of the site to see what has changed and what has remained the same.
The day will also include several games and movement activities.
“I hope kids will have fun as they learn about new facets of this site. Some families may have come here for our Sounds of Summer concerts or to picnic. The square has always served as a gathering place, but they will learn how it once functioned as an actual market,” said Cramer.
Collette Caprara is a Fredericksburg-area writer and artist.