Students try living their history lesson

Staff photos by Gage Cureton Zander Larson, 9, right, and Jacob Portner, 10, left, use washboards and lye soap to wash clothes during Brown County Historical Society’s pioneer-themed history day camp Tuesday at the Kiesling House and BCHS annex. “It’s not everyday you get to do it old school,” Larson said.

NEW ULM — It’s not everyday you get to do it old-school.

That’s what Zander Larson, 9, said as he scrubbed lye soap-soaked cloth against a tin washboard.

As part of an ongoing community engagement program, the Brown County Historical Society hosted a pioneer-themed history day camp Tuesday where kids experienced some of the daily tasks a person may have experienced on the early frontier.

With tasks like handwashing laundry with a washboard and learning how to make butter from cream, participants also learned about the importance of buffalo to Native Americans and had the chance to create vintage crafts.

“We try to include in the process of the crafts that were typical of the day the chores and the recreation so they have a piece of everything,” BCHS Executive Director Kathleen Backer said. “It’s not just focusing on hard work, but also there’s play time and crafts, but they were simple crafts.”

Staff photos by Gage Cureton Zoey Larson, 6, uses a paddle to squeeze out buttermilk from homemade butter during Brown County Historical Society’s pioneer-themed history day camp Tuesday at the Kiesling House and BCHS annex. Participants experienced some aspects of the life of a child living in the mid to late 1800’s.

Backer said she wanted to “creatively challenge” the kids to think about how “hands-on” tasks like making butter or washing clothes would have been handled nearly 200 years ago on the frontier.

With the luxuries of today such as electronics or even a refrigerator, Backer said she hopes kids walk away with a different perspective about life on the early frontier.

“I think that’s the kind of memory that lives on longer because you’re experiencing it,” she said.

At the BCHS annex, participants played string tic tac toe, created handkerchief dolls and assembled native american mural designs using colored wooden blocks. They then traveled to the Kiesling House where they received hands-on instruction of how frontier-people washed their clothes and churned buttermilk butter.

Backer said she’d like to expand BCHS programs such as Tuesday’s into local schools to help educate students using what they’ve experienced during the programs.

“We’d like to be able to work into the school systems somehow and have these hands on experiences,” she said.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.

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