Patriot Camp takes children into early American history

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

One might expect a typical summer camp counselor to wear casual summer clothing, sing silly songs and oversee craft projects.

A recent day camp, however, was anything but typical.

Those leading the weeklong events at Patriot Camp dressed in tricorn hats or gingham dresses, oversaw activities such as a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party and gave presentations to campers in character as historical figures.

“It's a fun event, and it's educational. We learn about our heritage and our founding fathers.” said Christine Lovett of Penn Township as she dropped off her kids, Ronnie, 12; Andrew, 10; and Allison, 7 on the last morning of the camp.

Held at Emmanuel Reformed United Church in Murrysville, Patriot Camp brought together about 60 campers and 40 volunteers for five days that immersed the area's young people in lessons about the beginning of the nation.

Set up with rotating stations, the camp offered children the chance to get up close and personal with history, as Thomas Jefferson talked about writing the Declaration of Independence; John and Abigail Adams read aloud letters they wrote to each other during the Revolutionary War; and Benjamin Franklin answered questions about his inventions.

Hands-on events also helped enlighten campers about how life was like at the time of the nation's founding.

Activities ran the gamut from day-to-day details, such as using a quill pen — in the camp's case, a pen with a feather attached — to write letters to their fathers for Father's Day to re-enacting the Boston Tea Party.

Patriot Camp drives history lessons home in active and engaging ways.

“It's something they can remember, much better than just reading about it,” said Donna Baker, who, along with Linda Dupill, helps organize the camp.

“They're a history lesson that goes with everything we do.”

The patriot campers seemed to respond enthusiastically to the lessons, whether sitting in rapt attention while George Washington shared stories of his life or taking part in a relay to test how quickly they could dress in a soldier's uniform.

“I liked learning about how the country was started,” Jacob Rzempoluch said.

The Hempfield 11-year-old also appreciated the snacks — many made in some way to demonstrate what foods were available in the founders' days — and also the games, which also showed campers how children played back then.

“They go home so happy, entertained and certainly a little more knowledgeable,” said Jean Pulsinelli, a volunteer from Murrysville.

The camp, which was started last year and is based on a program sold by the Constitutional Champions Foundation, helps participants to get a head start on history, as well as develop a sense of pride for their country.

“They are already interested because they've been to camp,” Pulsinelli said. “It sets a root for them to be patriots.”

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer.

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