Focus on 1890s, police work

Camps: At the Carroll County Farm Museum, younger children learn about life in the past while older ones are taught what it takes to become a police officer.

July 25, 2004|By Brian Patterson | Brian Patterson,SUN STAFF

While 10 third-graders were playing with antique toys that held their attention like video games, 86 older children in a nearby pavilion were practicing moves they had learned at a martial arts demonstration.

While the third-graders were making fishing poles out of bamboo, the older children were standing in formation ready to address their officers as "sir."

The scenes took place recently at the Carroll County Farm Museum, where two contrasting day camps were being held. One was the Living History Camp, sponsored by the museum, where campers learned about life in the 1890s.

The other was Carroll County Camp COPS, sponsored by the Maryland State Police and Westminster police. COPS (Courage to be Outstanding with Pride and Self-confidence) taught youths ages 10 to 14 what it takes to be a police officer.

The Living History program lasts for three weeks every summer and is for children entering the third, fourth and fifth grades. During the first week, 44 soon-to-be third graders alternate among weaving, wood carving, candle dipping and blacksmithing.

"The camp provides an educational experience and also an opportunity for the children to be outside all day to work with their hands," said camp coordinator Marian Witiak. "It is for children who like history, but also for children who like to work with their hands. This is what makes it different from other camps."

The Living History Camp has become so popular that openings are filled through a lottery. Campers registered for the program by sending a postcard to the museum with their name, address, grade level and phone number in February or March. Participants were selected shortly thereafter.

Witiak grew up on a farm and attended a farm school like the one the campers learned about.

"I am just delighted to pass my knowledge on to the kids," she said.

The crisis for the day was that the ice cream was coming out in liquid form. To make ice cream, the campers had to mix ice, half-and-half, vanilla extract and salt.

It turned out that the only missing ingredient was the elbow grease needed to power the old-fashioned ice cream maker.

A little later, the 1890s atmosphere was interrupted when a Maryland State Police helicopter landed nearby. The helicopter was part of the day's lesson, which included an up-close look at a fire engine and a new computerized police car.

"Camp COPS has the same qualities as boot camp, but it's really a lot of fun," said Tfc. Mark Rauser.

Earlier in the week, the police counselors demonstrated a drunken-driving traffic stop and an arrest. The same day, the campers became the jurors in a mock trial of the case.

"They get a taste of everything, from crime-scene investigation to martial arts and self-defense demonstrations," Rauser said.

This is the sixth year for Camp COPS and the second year Rauser has coordinated it. The camp, which grew from 68 participants last year to 86 this year, is free and relies on local businesses and volunteers for support.

"I had no problem asking for or receiving donations," said Lisa Madairy of Westminster who raised funds for the camp. "Last year, Mark did a great job, and he only added to it this year. It's a wonderful experience, and my son looks forward to it every year."

The goal is to teach discipline and leadership skills. Discipline is taught through marching formations and requiring the campers to address the volunteer officers as "sir."

"They all react fine to the discipline, and they are not surprised because they are warned beforehand at a meeting with their parents," Rauser said.

A room at the museum had been set up as a schoolhouse, and the Living History campers were learning what is was like to go to school in the 19th century.

They reacted with a little confusion to the classroom: The chairs had no backs, the books had no pictures, and water fountains were nonexistent.

"They get to learn about and live history. For me, it is cool to be able to live history," Witiak said.

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