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Time-traveler camps immerse young people in history at Old World Wisconsin

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Anna Marie Lux
July 14, 2014

EAGLE--Thirteen-year-old Adalynn “Addie” Gahart rolled out a pie crust and carefully folded it into a tin.

Then she pressed the dough around the edges and poured a fragrant mixture of eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg into the shell.

“I can't really cook,” Addie said. “Just with cake mixes.”

She proved herself wrong last week when she stirred up a custard pie the pioneer way.

The eighth-grader at Elkhorn Area Middle School spent four days at Old World Wisconsin near Eagle. By mid-week, she was greeting guests at a Norwegian homestead and telling people about life in the 1860s.

Addie enrolled in the Old World Apprentice program at the museum dedicated to the history of rural life.

The popular activity for students grades 8-12 turns teens into junior interpreters. They learn how to demonstrate 19th-century skills, including splitting wood and churning butter.

“They are discovering what a turnip is now,” said Laura Guetzkow, an Old World interpreter who teaches students the skills of Wisconsin's early immigrants.

“I like history,” Addie explained. “There's always something new to do here. You can't sit and watch TV. You have to bake or card wool.”

Addie wore a long flannel dress and apron and a bonnet wrapped around her shoulders as he moved through the 1848 cabin, outside into the garden and to the barn.

“It's a unique experience,” said Ann Selkie, day camp coordinator. “You can't find many places that offer experiences like this. We're accurate historically with what we do.”

Additional sessions of the apprentice camp will be next week and in early August. Scholarships are available to encourage young people to take part.

The apprentice program is one of eight different time-traveler adventure camps for young people at Old World Wisconsin. All are for both boys and girls and take place at historic farms and village buildings.

One camp highlights an experience in a one-room schoolhouse.

Children who will be first- through eighth-graders learn in a 1906 school built in Bayfield County. Among other things, they use a slate to write and take part in an old-time spelling bee.

The popular Laura Ingalls Wilder books come to life in Little House Adventure.

Children who will be third- through fourth-graders explore a 19th-century cabin like Laura and her family lived in. They also make and taste cornbread and learn how to chink a cabin with straw and mud.

One of the most unusual camps re-creates the Civil War with the guidance of a Civil War re-enactor. Fifth- through seventh-graders learn what life was like for Union soldiers by marching and making camp. Dressed in Civil War hats and coats, they also search for Confederate soldiers hiding at a local farm.

“The camps are a chance for history-loving young people to immerse themselves in life in the late 19th century or early 20th century,” Selkie said. “Kids get outdoors, and they learn history. The allure of our camps is that they provide something no one does anymore. “

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Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com

 



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