WESTMINSTER -- It's just as well that 8-year-old Brett Patterson was born in the 20th century. When it comes to making candles as rural families did in the 1800s -- using wax boiled in a caldron in a large, log-filled fireplace -- Brett figures the heat would have definitely kept him out of the kitchen.
"I don't think I could live back in those days when they made the candles like that," Brett said. "I'd be sweating and hot in there."
But a little heat didn't keep away Brett and the other 39 third-graders who began a week of activities Monday at the Living History Camp, an annual event sponsored by the Carroll County Farm Museum. This is the first week for the camp, which will run July 20-24 for fourth-graders and July 27-31 for fifth- and sixth-graders.
Kathy Crumbaugh, camp director, said this years' "rural family" theme lets the children compare the past and present to make the right decisions for the future.
"Basically, the children are exploring the 19th-century farm family and seeing how resourceful and self-sufficient they were in those times," said Ms. Crumbaugh, who became director of the camp after calling the farm museum to find out how to make candles for her daughters' Girl Scout troop. "We focus on the differences between families then and families now with mostly hands-on projects. They will get a chance to see what the farm family had to do to survive."
Survival for the pre-Civil War families meant more than a few candles, the children discovered as they went about the day's activities. They learned that clothespin dolls and spinning tops brought endless enjoyment to children who didn't have Barbies and Ninja Turtles to occupy their time.
"This is my doll," said Laura Hughes, 7, as she pointed at the clothespin she had decorated with a smiling face, cloth and long yellow material for hair. "She's my Rapunzel."
The children will learn about more than just doing crafts, said Ms. Crumbaugh, whose daughters, Jennifer, 8, and Stephanie, 7, will be helping her with the three age groups that will visit the camp in the next three weeks. Each day includes four activities, lunch and a half-hour history lesson.
"They were asked to bring in calico fabric, which was used in the 1800s for clothing, to dress their clothespin dolls," Ms. Crumbaugh said. "So today, they will learn about the period clothing."
The focus of the camp is to enlighten the children through doing and learning, she said. The children will visit different artisans and will make many crafts including a dinner bell (triangle), paper and a quill pen, a milking stool, and wool. The fifth- and sixth-grade groups will participate in activities modified to their age levels.
"They'll learn the difference between the wheelwright and the wainwright [the people who make or repair wheels and wagons, respectively], and understand what a hooper does," said Ms. Crumbaugh. "They will also work on the loom and get to try out weaving."
Camper-turned-group assistant Jimmy Silfee said there are things other than the activities that drew him to the camp. Jimmy, 14, first came to the camp when he was entering the third grade and has been back every summer since -- another as a camper and four more as an assistant.
"The camp is great especially because of the kids. Some of them are pretty funny," said Jimmy, who will begin his freshman year at Westminster High School this fall. "It's a lot of fun.
"The camp was a lot of fun when I was a camper, too. I mean, I didn't know anything about the history then," Jimmy said. "It's probably interesting to the kids involved now, because it's their first look at everything."
Ms. Crumbaugh sees the camp as an opportunity for the children to expand their education.
"I fell in love with the camp, because they can use what they have done during the school year," said Ms. Crumbaugh. "The camp still stresses things they learned in school except this is no lecture; they are actually living history."
Even if you do have to get history lessons during the summer, Brett said, the camp is still a lot of fun.
"You have nothing to do all summer, so why not learn something?"