For kids attending the Colonial Boot Camp at the Wilton Historical Society last week, going to camp was like taking a trip in a time machine, as campers were transported back to the town’s earliest days through engaging and historically accurate crafts and cookery.

Leading the program was Wilton Historical Society museum educator Lola Chen, who hoped to show campers that history is more than a subject to be studied in school and that lessons from the past can be applied to the present.

“Our mission is to bring history to everyone–to breathe real life into the subject, instead of just pictures or words on a page,” Chen said. “All our programs are designed to include the tradition and historic relevance up until its evolution today.”

One activity that drew a big reaction from campers was dyeing cloths with natural dyes they made themselves from turmeric, black beans, and cochineal. For those unschooled in colonial tailoring, cochineal is a type of cactus-dwelling insect which is crushed and turned into dye, notable for giving British soldiers their distinctive “red coats.”

Working alongside Chen was local fiber artist Ellen Goldman, who used her expertise to instruct campers in dye making and basket weaving. After completing their baskets on Wednesday, campers collected berries and rhubarb from the farmer’s market–conveniently located at the Historical Society–to bake into lattice pies.

“We just run run run, all day long, making all these wonderful things,” Goldman said. “We’ve just had a marvelous time. The youngsters are all enthusiastic and come in with big smiles on their faces.”

Wilton High School sophomore Dalton DiCamillo was also on hand to make sure everything went smoothly. Other activities of the week included punching designs into tin, making candles, and baking bread and biscuits, all of which were done with traditional techniques.

For Amanda Ward, who had two girls attending, the camp was a complete success. “They’re just so happy every time I come and collect them, so I can’t ask for anything better,” she said.

A calendar of future events and programs at the Wilton Historical Society can be found on their website.

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