Learning the history of Westport -- and having fun too
The many things that make Westport such a distinctive community fill the archives of the Westport Historical Society, and that same spirit infuses current-day programs offered to the next generation of town leaders.
"What we're doing this week, every day, I'm going to pick a new theme that Westport is based around," said Elizabeth DeVoll, education director.
About 10 students came to the historical society this school-vacation week, participating in crafts activities, games, history lessons and theatrical performances.
"We are making silhouette art," DeVoll said Tuesday, with a theme relating to the Famous Artists School, which at one time was a national center for correspondent art instruction based in Westport.
With the activities, "We're always going to do a little story about the heritage of Westport," she said. "All we're trying to do is teach the kids what a cool town they live in."
"I like all the games and it's just, like, fun," said 6-year-old Julia Dimiceli of Westport, one of the children attending the workshop.
"I do like the drawing," said Angus Lawrie, 7, of Westport. "I like to draw and create stuff."
Elsewhere, Jen Devine, owner and instructor for Mocking Bird Arts, and a new resident to Westport, led kids in several drama-related activities.
"It's a high-energy activity that's also intellectual," she said of the drama exercises. "They have to think story and find their own voice."
Children were asked to act as though they were various animals and objects, while others tried to identify them. They also took a turn re-creating the story of the "Three Little Pigs," but with offbeat twists to the standard fable.
"Each group is going to throw something crazy or silly or different into it," Devine said.
"We're going to be making pinwheels this afternoon and talking about that," DeVoll said. Few people know that Westport had a pinwheel and ping-pong ball factory down in Saugatuck in the late-1800s.
"A lot of the factory buildings that were here in the 1800s are still here," she said, and it's a valuable experience for children to begin to see older buildings in different ways, focusing on their history.
This summer, DeVoll said, the historical society's camp will feature week-long visits and programs featuring other local agencies, including Earthplace, Sherwood Island State Park and Wakeman's Farm.
"We're trying to connect to other Westport history and foundations, and kind of combine them with us," she said. "The camp we're doing is a new co-op program we're working on."
"The good news," said Susan Gold, the historical society's executive director, "is that we are always evolving -- canvassing our members and the community to find out what is exciting to them."