Keeping History Alive at new summer camp

By Emily Marner
Posted 7/8/21

This year marks the first Kalona Historical Society Summer Camp, which took place at the Kalona Historical Village during the weeks of June 14, 21, and 28. The camp was offered to kids entering …

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Keeping History Alive at new summer camp


This year marks the first Kalona Historical Society Summer Camp, which took place at the Kalona Historical Village during the weeks of June 14, 21, and 28. The camp was offered to kids entering grades K-5 who were interested in learning and experiencing how things were done in the earlier days.

Although this is the first year of the camp, the idea and creation of it has been in the works for a few years now. Originally thought up by Janet Ferry, a member of the Kalona Historical Society 2021 Board of Directors. After finally putting the camp together, they prepared for a multitude of activities and lessons.

The camp was led by Suzanne Yoder, a previous Kalona Elementary first and fourth grade teacher.

“Every morning I asked the Kalona Pioneer kids about the best part of camp so far. Each day, it seemed to be what we had done the prior day,” Yoder said. “From the telegraph and music on Monday to textiles on Tuesday to cooking on Wednesday, it seemed as if their excitement and experiences grew throughout the week.”

During the days spent at the camp, Yoder used her amiable personality and knowledge to demonstrate tasks like washing clothes using a washboard or explaining the use of an “icebox”. The kids were very attentive, and Yoder knew how to keep the children focused even when things became hectic.

During their time at camp, students learned how to make homemade items using dated machinery. For example, on the kids’ second day they learned how to weave material using a loom. These days clothing and fabric are processed and created by automated machines, but the kids learned to appreciate the time and effort put into using a loom.

Grace Tully, the Historical Village’s resident weaver, displayed her unique skill. She walked around and helped the kids use their miniature versions of the loom to create their own masterpieces. Students learned how to change materials and colors when weaving, and surprisingly enough, caught the hang of it quickly. At the end of the week, I asked the kids what their favorite activity was, a common response was their looming adventures.

The camp also welcomed a few other guests to show the campers some more “items of the past”. Luetta Ropp and Alison Greiner taught the children how music was made without the use of present instruments. Ropp played the dulcimer, a wooden stringed instrument that produced sound through light beats of a hammer rather than strummed by a hand.

Greiner showed the kids how music was made with household items as simple as spoons. Everyone enjoyed noisily playing along to songs like “Oh, Susanna”. The campers also got to practice using a limberjack, a “loose-limbed dancing doll”. The figure was attached to a string that the kids would hold with one hand and a board underneath where an up-and-down movement would cause the doll to dance.

Campers also learned how to dip candles, bake Johnny Cakes, and even make their own ice cream. The camp showed its ability to teach students the significance of history while still maintaining a fun and exciting demeanor.

“Personally, my favorite part was seeing their interest in how things were done in the past. I enjoyed watching them realize that, although jobs and activities were hard work, there was a satisfaction in the work,” Yoder said. “There was excitement on the campers’ faces when they made their own butter, ice cream, or candles. They were thrilled to sew by hand and weave on looms. I loved watching the kids create music with spoons and harmonicas and learning how to make their limberjack dance. Even dressing up in pioneer clothing was fun. They spent the week immersed in and loving activities that did not involve technology.”

Kalona Historical Village director Nancy Roth said her goals for next-years camp are to extend the camp to be one week, with one age group in the morning and the other in the afternoon. She said she hopes for a higher attendance next year, and more inspiring activities.


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