Monday, January 15, 2007

400 years ago

We just returned from a very exciting and tourist-free day at Jamestown. For the past week I read aloud a few pages a day about the first permanent English settlement in the New World to prep the kids. I do have to say it was almost all stuff I already knew. Being from Virginia I started every school year for 10 years with the history of Jamestown, as if that was the beginning of the world itself.

With our picnic lunch and the children packed in the car we drove through the countryside and rode across the river on a ferryboat. Knowing the children would not stand for a 90 minute guided tour we wandered around on our own. In the Indian village we watched the costumed interpreters (one even wearing her hair shaved on the sides in the style of an Indian brave) explain how the Powhatan Indians lived. The kids pounded corn into flour and sharpened a deer bone for a spear.

All the children clambored in and out of the bunkbeds reserved for members of the crew on the three cramped ships. They were encouraged to try out the huge tiller and ring the bells to signal the half hour. Tim and I tried to listen but most of our energy was spent trying to keep the kids from going over the sides.

The fort itself was filled with timber and mud buildings, including a impressive church and a blacksmith's forge where a large, friendly man was making hinges for a door. Charlie was terrified of the fire so he ran off and spied a chicken. He enthusiastically spent the rest of his time chasing, looking at and chatting about the small flock of "oosters and ickens". The other kids really enjoyed a presentation of muskets and the fort's cannons and later trying on armor.
The drive home was spent listening to me read aloud (though I got a little car-sick in the process). Half of our crew fell asleep before we even got back onto the ferryboat. There were many improvements in the exhibits and facilities in preparation for the 400th anniversary this year. I highly recommend visiting Jamestown for anyone wanting to experience America's historical beginning with lots of hands-on kid friendly activities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are coming out in May to celebrate America's 400th birthday (and visit with family) and we can not wait!
Thanks for your hints of what to expect!