Camp brings history alive
By Sarah Nagem
Some people like to call the Summer History Camp “the dirtiest camp in town.”
Kaye Hirst likes that name, anyway. Hirst, who is executive director of Rowan Museum, is helping run the 10th annual summer camp.
In four week-long sessions this summer, kids are getting grimy working in gardens, playing in candle wax, writing with old-school ink and running around a graveyard.
All these things are in the name of learning.
“Some people tend to think of history as boring and lots and lots of dates,” Hirst said.
“We bring it alive.”
The camp’s goal is to introduce youngsters to the “feel” of history of Rowan County.
On Thursday, about 30 rising third-, fourth- and fifth-graders spent the day at the property of Clyde Overcash, a local artist and history enthusiast.
Overcash stepped back in time to bring the 19th century to life for the kids, Hirst said.
Students dug potatoes, used an old push plow in the garden and laid bricks to form a sidewalk.
They also got to use an old-school rotary mower.
“They loved that,” Hirst said.
The children saw what kind of tools were used long before they or their parents and grandparents were even thought of.
Overcash topped off the day by taking on a character of “Walt” and dressing in 1800s garb.
“It’s this whole time-warp thing,” Hirst said.
Later in the day, she said, Overcash turned back into himself and informed the suspicious youngsters he had a grandfather named Walt.
As an extra twist to the day’s events, the day campers participated in a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
“They got so dirty over there today,” Hirst said.
As part of the camp’s activities, the kids keep a journal each day. Although camp staffers push time forward quite a few years to provide pencils for writing, the kids learn to use old-fashioned quill pens.
They also learn how to make paper.
To finish off this week’s camp today, the kids will head to the Old English Cemetery near Rowan Museum. There, they will do gravestone rubbings and set off on a scavenger hunt.
Today marks the end of the second week-long session. The first session, which was late last month, and this one were for elementary school students. A session in July is tailored for rising sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders. A final camp in August is for elementary students.
The camp lasts five hours during the day. The session for middle school students will include an overnight stay at Rowan Museum.
This year’s remaining camps are already booked.
“We were booked by late spring this year,” Hirst said. “We’ve never been booked so early.”
She said some local teachers notice a difference in the students who attend the camp over the summer.
The history lessons campers take with them into the classroom often prove valuable, she said.