Thursday, September 11, 2014

Churn Butter and Walk Like an Egyptian, But Not at the Same Time

The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law (DSIL) and I are docents for the county's historical center. We help bring history to life by dressing in costumes and becoming characters.

A week before school started locally, the historical center was conducting a four day "summer camp" series to be held in the area libraries. Each day we would be in a different library for a couple of hours.

The first and third days of camp were entitled "Little House on the River".  We docents (there were others besides The Colonel, DSIL and I) were telling and showing the kids (and some parents too) what life was like here for early Florida pioneers.

The Colonel and I have participated in this program before but this was DSIL's first time. She was going to show the "campers" how to make their own butter. She knew she would be playing the part of the dairy woman a few weeks prior to the camp. She needed a costume, so she asked her mother to make one for her. My-Favorite-Mother-In-Law whipped up a perfect, pioneer costume for DSIL.

(with the flag behind her, I thought DSIL looked like Betsy Ross churning butter)

DSIL poured some room temperature, heavy cream into the churner and began turning the handle. She wanted to make some butter before the campers showed up. She would need some to put on crackers for tasting.

Each camper would get to make their own butter too. DSIL poured some cream into small containers with lids for each camper to take and shake until they had butter. The kids loved making and then eating their own butter. We had one father who was so taken with the process, he was going to go home and make more butter.

DSIL also enjoyed making butter. She had made enough (remember that there were two days of pioneer camp) that she, The Colonel and I were using it for days. It was delicious! So light and creamy.
The Colonel was a farmer who told the campers about some of the crops that grew and still grow in Florida. He talked about citrus, sweet potatoes and sugar cane and gave out samples.

I was the chicken lady who talked about candling eggs. I had my chicken "Ruby", plastic eggs and a battery operated candle as my props. I also made a nesting box for Ruby and had a chart that showed the development of a chick inside an egg.

Docent Jackie was helping the kids make corn husk dolls and docent Jeannie read a chapter from "Little House on the Prairie" as the kids ate popcorn.

Days two and four of the camp were entitled, "Walk Like an Egyptian". We dressed like archaeologists as docent Jackie dressed as Cleopatra.

We had several Egyptian-themed activity areas for the kids to learn from and have fun with (parents and grandparents had fun too).

The Colonel talked to the campers about ancient Egyptians and handed each child a necklace of a green, bean-sized, scarab bead on a string. The kids loved them. The scarab beads really came from Egypt.

Docent Jeannie was teaching any child, brave enough to give it a try, how to make cordage. She took three strands of palm fronds, held them in her teeth and began to braid the strands. Most children found it too hard to do.

(love the pith helmet...want one too)

DSIL and I were helping the children to make their cartouches (on lunch bags). A cartouche is an oblong enclosure that contains hieroglyphics that spell out a name, usually that of a king or queen.

The night before, I had drawn an empty cartouche on 105 lunch bags and cut out hundreds of hieroglyphics.

I separated them into alphabetical order, then placed them in envelopes. I made my own cartouche for an example for the children (plus, I wanted to see what my name would look like in hieroglyphics).

The children enjoyed making their cartouche bags. We had a couple close calls when a name was too long for the bag...most opted to go with a shortened version (Christopher choose Chris...much to his grandmother's chagrin). After the kids made their cartouche bags we put some Gummy Mummy candy in their bags (the Gummy Mummy candy was delicious).

The children moved to the next activity center where docent Crystal was waiting for them. They made canopic jars out of modeling clay. A canopic jar is the vessel used during mummification that holds the viscera of the mummy. The lids to the jars were often made into the likeness of one of the Egyptian gods or goddesses. DSIL brought a real canopic jar and it had her spleen inside of it....well, a model of it can see it in first picture of this is to the right of the framed papyrus.

Cleopatra helped the kids to make an edible mummy snack at another table. They wrapped string cheese around a crispy bread stick. A yummy mummy.

Yes, we did walk like an Egyptian. Cleopatra lead a conga line of walkers. We walked, quietly, around the library like Egyptians.

The last activity of the camp was mummy wrapping. Kids were wrapped up toilet paper or they got to wrap their parents in toilet paper. Little Skylar (4 years-old) was an excellent mummy. She stood very still the entire time she was being encased in toilet tissue.

Everyone had a great time visiting ancient Egypt.

It is always a good time when we dress up and bring history to life.


  1. Great job! As a library director, I appreciate how folks like you bring things to life for kids and adults. Wonderful! (Sam)

  2. It's easier to learn when the teachers make it fun. Good job! Jenn