School has been out barely a week and some kids couldn’t wait to get back to learning.
The fourth annual Madison County Historical Society’s Pioneer Camp kicked off Wednesday at the society’s museum at 260 E. High St. in London.
The three-day event gives area elementary school-aged children the chance to learn about pioneer life in Madison County.
With 44 participants, this year is the largest group of kids to attend the day camp since its inception.
The kids arrived at 9 a.m. each day excited to start their adventure, according to camp staff person and historic interpreter, Larry Dever.
Activities and skills almost entirely forgotten by modern society but necessary to the daily survival of those living in rural areas 200 years ago were learned about and explored first hand.
This year’s Pioneer Camp extended the learning beyond ordinary daily living skills such as cooking to more “exotic” endeavors such as panning for gold. And while nobody struck pay dirt, more than one of the soil-sifters were happy to just slosh around in a sluice — a sliding gate or other device for controlling the flow of water.
The kids met Madison County’s first white settler, Jonathan Alder (who was surprisingly spry for being some 200 years old). They also did a little old-time cooking, using one of the county’s favorite crops — corn — to fry up some fritters and bake a little bread. The campers were invited to also try other pioneer fare like “rabbit” stew.
“If it tasted suspiciously like chicken, there was a reason,” Dever said with a wink.
Former Madison County Sheriff Steve Saltsman gave a tour of the pioneer jail and locked up the kids for good measure, and Madison County Historical Society Board President, Vince Shuler instructed them on the art of blacksmithing.
Speaking of the dangers of a blacksmith’s shop, Shuler said, “Assume everything is hot. Anybody can get a tattoo, it takes a special person to get a brand.”
Another of the presentations to generate a bit of a buzz was on the process of making honey and the art of beekeeping, especially when 15-year-old London High School sophomore Luke Peart informed the youngsters that the sweet, amber liquid was effectively bee vomit.
“It was a lot of fun. We learned cool stuff and the food was delicious,” said fourth-grade attendee, Aodhan Kelly.
It takes planning and lot of energy to focus so many second, third, and fourth graders, but the end result is well worth it, according to Dever.
“We always enjoy putting on the Pioneer Camp,” he said. “They want to learn at this age.”
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.
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