Time travel might be the stuff of science fiction.
But each week the Wawota and District Museum becomes a ‘portal’ that allows kids the opportunity to experience something of the daily reality that their grandparents and great grandparents lived.
Shirley Corkish is a volunteer who heads up the children’s program at the museum. She says that the Kids Activity Program, which began prior to COVID, has changed somewhat since it resumed.
“I started this program about five years ago. It started out simply as a few activities and a bit of teaching – all based on the artifacts that we had in the museum” says Corkish.
“Since we started the program up again, it’s become a bit more structured. Now the kids actually have a short lesson; then the do an activity or craft that’s related to the lesson.”
Mryna Olson is another volunteer who assists with the program at the museum.
“I’m a retired schoolteacher,” explains Olson.
“So, I decided that I would incorporate the ‘school’ we have at the museum into the program, and actually teach the kids a lesson in the school. That way, the program isn’t just painting and colouring. They actually get something out of it.”
While the program is open to a broad age range of students, Corkish says that the volunteers strive to make sure that all the kids who attend find the activities both challenging and interesting.
“The museum is open for kids aged five to 12 to come and take part in activities every Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m. We try and gear the lessons and activities for the kids who are in the middle of that age range, so the younger kids will be able to understand, but the older kids won’t be bored.”
As well, both Olson and Corkish say that they endeavor to find ways to make history ‘real’ for the kids in the program and help them to better understand what life was like when people relied on what is now considered ‘old technology.’
“We try to get the kids doing a variety of things,” explains Olson.
“Last week for example, I collected a number of items from the museum and had them hidden in boxes. We gave the kids clues and had them guess what was in each box.
“Then Shirley gave them a list of things and they went on a visual Scavenger Hunt to see if they could find those things.
“The kids really seemed to enjoy that!”
“They also really like the ‘hands on’ stuff that we do,” adds Corkish. “We showed them how to use a butter churn and how to bake bread. Myrna’s father kept bees. So, we showed them how an old honey extractor and smoker worked.
“They also like to make or do something that they can take home to show their parents. So, we try to make sure that they are able to go home with something each week!”
“I really enjoyed seeing how much the kids liked learning how to use a wringer washer!” Olson interjects with a smile.
“When they were done washing the clothes, one little guy asked where the dryer was. When we told him that we would hang the clothes on the line for the sun to dry, he couldn’t quite believe that would work!”
Corkish admits that the kids sometimes find it difficult to relate to the realities of the past, although there are occasions when they will find surprising ways to understand.
“One week, the lesson was about ‘Time’ and we found out that the kids really don’t know how to tell time on an analogue clock.
“But another time, I had a 1901 catalogue. I explained to the kids that people used to look at the things in the catalogue and order them. Then they would have to wait for the things they’d ordered to arrive. One of the kids said, ‘That’s just like Amazon’!”
Out of all of the displays in the museum, Corkish says that there are certain displays that the kids seem drawn to more often.
“All of the kids have their ‘favorite things’ in the museum that they like to look at every time that they come. Many of the girls like the old jewelry, for example.
“If you ask the school kids what their favorite display is, a lot of them will tell you that it’s the school, maybe because that’s what they can relate to.
“But if you asked the group what their favorite display in the museum was, I think they would tell you that it’s the nature displays that we have upstairs. All of the kids really seem to like that!”
Tammie Bunz is another volunteer who just moved to the community recently. She says that she has benefitted from spending time at the museum in much the same way that the kids do.
“I was drawn to the museum because I really needed to learn Wawota’s story. It’s the same for the kids. It’s important for them to learn about their hometown –cwho helped to build it – and why. If you know more about your own community’s history, you learn to appreciate the people who built it.”
Although many of the same kids come to the program each week, Olson says that there are occasionally new faces coming in to greet them on Tuesday.
“You will often see the same kids sitting around the table each week. But things like family holidays and trips to the lake can create some variety. We had a very different group here this week. Out of 11 kids – we had 4 that had never been here before. And I didn’t see some of the kids who were here every Tuesday last month.”
“But it’s actually encouraging to see the same kids coming week after week.
“It means we must be doing something right – because they keep coming back!”