History ahoy! Pirates hook kids' interest at history program
Updated 11:00 am, Tuesday, August 23, 2011
It looked as though a clandestine costume ball was unfolding in a subterranean room. Men wearing eye patches mingled with ladies adorned by jeweled crowns. Yet, on closer look, everyone at this illustrious gathering were between the ages of 5 and 10.
The dress-up and finery were part of "Pirates, Kings & Queens," a program hosted recently by the Westport Historical Society. Held each weekday, the program was coordinated by Elizabeth DeVoll, the education director for the historical society.
"I inherited the program," said DeVoll, overseeing activities in the Newman Room in society's lower level. "This is designed to mix art, history, games and summer fun."
DeVoll was glad to have a refreshed space in which to work, mentioning that the Newman Room was renovated earlier in the summer, to incorporate benches and Westport Playhouse memorabilia. "It's dressed up a bit more, and speaks to the heritage of the area. Actor Paul Newman originally funded it, hence the name."
Assisting DeVoll were three teens -- Georgia Nicklin, 13, Lilly Valente, 13, and Lindsey Giannitti, 14, all Westporters who are members of the National Charity League. This was the second year running the girls had performed community service work, which is the mission of NCL. "Last year, we did 15 hours each. This year, 10. It's a way to help in the town," said Nicklin.
"We had a lot of options of programming to support. This looked fun -- artsy and craftsy -- and you get to work with kids. If you're going to work in the summer, this is not a bad way to spend your time," said Valente.
"And I couldn't do it without these girls," added DeVoll.
The activities kept the youngsters busy. "Today, we played with colored sand and salt shakers, and made queens' crowns and pirate patches," squealed 7-year-old Abbie Millman of Westport. "We also did yoga exercises with Sue" (the executive director of the historical society, Sue Gold).
Regarding the exercise, DeVoll said, "The yoga helps mellow them out, especially on a rainy day like today. It helps them focus."
The children's morning of crafts was followed by a midday "Walk the Plank" activity session during which the teen volunteers created individual stations: a ring toss where the rings served as "life preservers" tossed to save a person, hopping like a peg-leg pirate, and drawing pirate-themed self-portraits.
For the remainder of the week, a scavenger hunt was planned at Town Hall, as well as a tour of the Farmers Market on Imperial Avenue, an activity related to the Christo exhibit at Westport Arts Center, and drama instructor Jen Devine leading the youngsters in drama skits.
"These are boredom busters," said DeVoll, "a great way for kids to fill down time before school starts again."