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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Victorian Age Inspires Crafts and Teacakes

Victorian Age Inspires Crafts and Teacakes:
Fairfield Museum American Girl program entertains girls
(Posted to 2/24)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – If the Queen – Victoria that is -- could have seen them busily working away at their activities, she would have been proud.

The period in which the English monarch reigned, 1837- 1901, defined as the Victorian Era, was the inspiration on Wednesday for the “American Girl Afternoon” program at Fairfield Museum and History Center. Targeting girls in grades 3 to 6, the workshop was one of several February Vacation programs being offered by the center in the Feb. 21-25 window. The program introduced participants to the craft known as decoupage and showed them how to prepare Victorian-style teacakes.

To best connect with this age set, the class was associated with the American Girl line of dolls, which helps teach what girls did in the past, and participants were encouraged to bring their own American Girl dolls.

Led by Christine Jewell, Director of Educational Programming, the class was joined by thirteen girls. All were very chatty and giggly, but tuned in and eager to learn. They sat around a block of tables that had been pushed together in a light-filled classroom.

“Who’s Queen Victoria?” asked Jewell, kicking off the session.

“I think she was the queen of England and the Victorian Era was named after her,” said Gillian Rooney, 10, an Osborn Hill student, brightly.

This ignited a discussion about the clothing and mannerisms of that period and helped set up the decoupage activity. Jewell provided colored tissue paper, magazine pictures, doilies and patterned paper and instructed the girls to tear or cut pieces from the materials as elements to glue onto small wooden boxes.

“It was common during the Victorian Era to decoupage glass, boxes and furniture,” said Jewell. “They really decoupaged everything. This is a good and easy way for girls to experience this popular period craft.”

As she cut lace for her container, Emma Weller, 8, visiting from Cambridge, Massachusetts, said, “This is super fun to do. I’m going to use the box for my doll’s accessories, like shoes, bracelets, necklaces and things for her hair.”

At the opposite end of the table, Osborn Hill student Katie Hinkle, 10, glued pink and red scraps of paper to the lid of her container. “These are some of my favorite colors,” she said. “I’m going to put jewelry in my box.”

Sitting down the way, Sarah Herley, 9, a St. Thomas Aquinas student, said, “I picked the paper I’m using ‘cause it looked interesting. The box will be for my American Girl’s stuff.”

As the girls completed their decoupage projects, Jewell set them about preparing Queen Victoria Dream Bars -- small tasty teacakes. Rachel Loboncz, 9, one of a set of triplets, really looked forward to this part of the program.

“I like to help my mom bake and we cook a lot of things in our house… bread pudding, cookies,” Loboncz said. “All of us kids help out with the cooking. These Dream Bars are fun!”

As important as the afternoon program was as an educational opportunity, it also fostered friendship and camaraderie between the girls. As they worked on their activities, it allowed them to share tales about school, family and friends.

“There’s always something to talk about,” said Jewell as the group chattered away.

Alayna Barrios, 11, of Burr School, who has participated in similar programs in the past, enjoyed the friendly environment. “Everyone has a story to share. Usually this is more fun in a big group like this, as many of us know each other and we can share things we’ve done together.”

No sooner had Barrios said that when Dani Corrigan, 10, of Jennings School, chirped, “We’re going to take a survey about Justin Bieber.” Girls will be girls after all and the dynamic here proved that.

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