Colonial America Comes to Life

Colonial history is coming alive for a group of Houston students. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports - two dozen kids are learning what life would be like if they had been born in the eighteenth century.

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The kids are taking part in a summer workshop series at Bayou Bend, the former home of Houston Philanthropist Ima Hogg. Tee Hines is showing ten-year-old Sam Rabalais how to be a blacksmith.

"We've talked a little bit, gave them a little basic history of blacksmithing and how far back it goes - thousands of years before Christ, and the importance of it in colonial times especially. Without the blacksmith you wouldn't have had any other profession, no tooling would have been made. A blacksmith made every tool for the doctors, the carpenters, everyone. So back then he was a very important person."

Sam is one of a couple dozen students enrolled in the history camp at Bayou Bend. They've spent the week actually experiencing what it would be like to live in colonial America.

"We went for a tour around the house and we talked about the portraits. And another day we went and we carved some erasers and the patterns and we also did songs and dancing and we went for a tour around the gardens. I really like meeting all the new friends and having a fun time. There was also someone who came and he talked a lot about the weapons that they used in the war."

Joey Milillo is the program coordinator at Bayou Bend. He says they're immersing the kids in colonial life so history becomes more than just who ratified this document or who led that battle.

"If they're incoming fifth-graders, we have incoming and exiting fifth-graders, if you're going into fifth grade then hopefully you start your American history class with a much stronger background than you would have originally. And if you're leaving American history, if you're fifth going into sixth-grade, then you understand a little bit more about life in the 18th century beyond the concept of names and dates."

The camp is free thanks to funding from the Houston Junior Woman's Forum. It's usually targeted toward economically disadvantaged students, although this year it was expanded to open enrollment and next year they hope to add even more students. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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