Tribune-Courier News Reporter
Young girls from all over the county gathered at the Marshall County Arts Center last week for the second annual American Girl Camp.
President Valera Brooks brought the idea for the camp to the board when she read about a similar camp in Nashville. She felt the Nashville program was too expensive so she tailored a program that would fit the needs of all girls from any economic background.
The American Girl dolls represent many different ethnicities, cultures and interests. Brooks chose a variety of dolls to represent a variety of new experiences for camp participants.
Each session began with a history lesson, followed by crafts and then free-time play at the end.
Brooks taught the history lessons in costume because she thought it would help keep the girls interested. When they studied Julie and Ivy, the 1970s dolls, Brooks dressed up as John Travolta from “Saturday Night Fever.”
She said the 1930s dolls (Kit and Ruthie) are her favorite to teach because she has the opportunity to include local history in that lesson.
“I love to do that one because there used to be a train that came through Benton and hobos got off and would come to our back door and ask me for food.”
Brooks taught the girls about the Great Depression and the hard times families faced. She tried to help the girls envision the struggles of people who are homeless.
The 1930s session also included a lesson about how people laundered their clothes before washing and drying machines. Brooks brought in a washboard like the one she remembers her mother using when she was a girl and demonstrated manual laundering methods.
Brooks utilizes her experience from over 30 years of teaching to design lesson plans that meet the core content curriculum used in the schools. She strives to incorporate social studies, math, science, art and music into each day’s lessons so the girls receive a well-rounded education.
Brooks and her team of volunteers found creative ways to include social skills as part of the program, as well.
Two interns from the University of Kentucky volunteered at camp this year. Devin Edwards of Paducah and Emily Northcutt of Calvert City planned an etiquette class in the form of a tea party.
Northcutt said they served water instead of tea and made a few other substitutions. There were crackers on the bread plate, applesauce for the soup, and watermelon instead of steak.
Vicki Wynn was one of the many volunteers present and she recognized other social benefits the girls receive from camp.
“It’s a good bonding experience,” Wynn said. “Kids in this county are spread out from Calvert City to Aurora; this is a good opportunity for them to come together. It really helps them to broaden their circle of friends.”
Wynn said once the girls turn 10, they still want to come to camp and be helpers. The helpers demonstrate that the camp instills a volunteerism spirit and these young volunteers understand it’s important to help others around them. Wynn loves to watch the older girls play with the younger girls and teach them about the history that goes with each doll.
“The interaction, to me, is just precious.”