Young patriots have a banner day in Westport
Updated 6:41 am, Thursday, November 10, 2011
For Westport youngsters, it was a great way to spend a day off from school while their parents carried out their civic responsibilities by heading to polling stations Tuesday to cast their Election Day votes.
Nonetheless, the kids even managed to learn a thing or two outside their classrooms.
The event was an All-American Day program at the Westport Historical Society offering children a variety of crafts and drama activities that incorporated a patriotic theme, in step with the real-life voting process taking place all around town. More than two dozen children participated, assisted by six volunteer helpers who were mostly a mix of Bedford Middle School and Staples High School students.
"The whole thing is about America and liberty," said Elizabeth DeVoll, the program leader, "with a focus on Connecticut's part in the Revolutionary War and progressions of the American flag."
Craft materials were set out on upon red, white and blue plastic tablecloths on four work surfaces for the youngsters. To the accompaniment of patriotic music, participants first used crayons to color in a printed-out line drawing of a Revolutionary War-era Minuteman.
As the children tackled that task, DeVoll showed depictions in books of local scenes from that era, such as homes in the Compo Beach area that had been set ablaze by British soldiers. She also held up a tri-corner hat and kit bag from the period, as well as passed around two small, but heavy, authentic period cannonballs.
Quizzing the group, DeVoll asked, "What's today? Election Day. In America, we get to vote on who's going to represent us. Do you think everyone always got to vote? That women got to vote? That African-Americans got to vote? That non-land owners got to vote?"
The children answered her questions with a resounding "no" before DeVoll stated, "Only wealthy land owners got to vote. Now, almost everyone gets to vote."
Another activity involved decorating "flags," fashioned mainly from cloth placemats sewn to long dowels. These were of various colors and patterns, and a range of materials was used for decorative accents.
DeVoll shared a few examples of previous participants' work as well as illustrations of flags by noted artists, like Jasper Johns' painting "Two Flags." She also explained the reasoning behind the choice of colors in the American flag -- "Red stands for honor, white for innocence and blue for justice, vigor and perseverance," she said.
As DeVoll distributed the flags and called youngsters in groups of three to the front of the room to select mini pom-poms, fabric swatches and ribbon for their banners, she said, "Every kid can be a Betsy or Bob Ross and make their own flag interpretation."
Children laid their flags down on the tables and went to work using glue to paste down materials.
Jennie Blumenfeld, 14, a volunteer from Staples, assisted with selections and guidance. "I like to be part of the community," she said. "And the kids have so much fun, which makes it fun for me. This is a great way for kids to learn about their country on an important day."