Colonial Days at El Morro Elementary School is much more than a lesson taught to children about the time of their forebears, it’s an institution, a tradition as much beloved by the parents and teachers as by the kids who look forward to it from the minute school starts each fall. “I don’t know what I’d do if they didn’t have it,” said third grade teacher Tamara Wong, expressing a sentiment obviously shared by most. This is her 21st year participating in the colonial re-enactment and she admits that she anticipates it just as eagerly each year.
The activities at this colonial extravaganza this past Monday and Tuesday were based on the theme “Living Off the Land,” said volunteer mom Marlene Hahn. Dressed in character as Pocahontas for a storytelling gig with the children, she said the theme was the inspired vision of Juliana Gambrel, a four-year veteran volunteer who is chairing the event for the second year in a row. Hahn, whose daughter Hayley is in the second grade, also volunteers every year. “I just think it’s such a wonderful event,” she said. “It encompasses every facet of colonial life.”
And a quick look around – at kids making candles, playing with a game of sticks and bones, sampling maple-flavored kettle corn, carding wool and exploring an Indian camp, among numerous other activities – was all it took to see how true that was.
But perhaps the way in which Colonial Days best represents the early American experience is in its very conception. Just as in the time of the pilgrims when the strength of the community was so important for the survival of its members, Colonial Days at El Morro is a community effort. “It really does take a village to create a village,” said Gambrel, extolling the virtues of the “amazing” parent volunteers.
Hahn agreed that it’s “truly remarkable how everyone volunteers and the parents all come together to make it happen.”
In fact, for most parent volunteers it seems to be an annual ritual. Stacy Holder, for example, has two children in school – Hayley in kindergarten and Jack in the second grade, and this is her third year volunteering. “The kids look forward to it all year,” she said, adding, “I really love seeing how excited they get.”
Gambrel said that one of the things she loves about the Colonial Days experience is the hands-on nature of the activities. “It’s very tactile,” she said, adding that in addition to all of the booths with special crafts, the living-off-the-land experience would continue with lunchtime activities that included “milking” an ersatz cow, sheering a “sheep” and hunting a turkey (albeit a wooden one) with a bow and sponge arrow.
Volunteer mom Kay Metis, whose son Mael is in the first grade, and who was monitoring the sticks and bones game, said that she appreciates the way Colonial Days teaches the children history and culture in a positive way.
Third grader Devon Kang demonstrated the truth of this when he said that he not only enjoyed playing all of the games, but also liked “learning about the history of the pilgrims and Indians.”
Conley Good, another third-grader, who had donned a traditional Indian headdress for the occasion, agreed that he liked the activities centered on pilgrims and Indians. Asked about his choice of costume, he explained that somewhere in his ancestry he is “a little bit Indian.”
For her part, kindergartener Hanna Williams, dressed in a lovely Indian costume that her mom made, said she liked the candle-making best.
“I like that it’s fun,” said eight-year-old “pilgrim” Nicole Slavik, summing it up beautifully.