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Friday, December 2, 2011

Kids Get Patriotic at Historical Society while Parents Hit the Polls

Kids Get Patriotic at Historical Society 
while Parents Hit the Polls
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – For local youngsters, it was a great way to spend a day off from school while their parents dutifully reported to local polling places to cast their Election Day votes. The kids even managed to learn a thing or two outside the classroom.

On Tuesday morning, the Westport Historical Society, at 25 Avery Place, held an All-American Day program offering children ages 5-10 a variety of fun crafts and drama activities that incorporated a patriotic theme, aligning with the real-life voting process taking place all around town. Over two dozen children participated, assisted by six volunteer helpers that were mostly a mix of Bedford Middle School and Staples High School students.

“The whole thing is about America and liberty,” said Instructor Elizabeth DeVoll about the program, “with a focus on Connecticut’s part in the Revolutionary War and progressions of the American flag.”

The program was primarily conducted in the basement of the facility, where craft materials were placed upon red, white and blue plastic tablecloths on the four work surfaces in the activity space. To the accompaniment of patriotic music emanating from a portable radio, participants first used crayons to color in a printed-out line drawing of a Revolutionary War-era Minuteman.

As the children busily worked, DeVoll showed depictions in books of local scenes from that era, such as homes in the Compo Beach area that had been set ablaze by British soldiers. She also held up and spoke about a tri-corner hat and kit bag from the period, as well as passed around two small, but heavy, authentic period cannonballs.

Quizzing the group, DeVoll asked, “What’s today? Election Day. In America, we get to vote on who’s going to represent us. Do you think everyone always got to vote? That women got to vote? That African-Americans got to vote? That non-land owners got to vote?”  The children answered her questions with a resounding “no” before DeVoll stated, “Only wealthy land owners got to vote. Now, almost everyone gets to vote.”

Another activity involved decorating flags – essentially cloth placemats sewn to long dowels. These were of various colors and patterns, and a wide range of materials were made available as decorative accents.

DeVoll shared a few examples of previous participants’ work as well as illustrations of flags by noted artists, like Jasper Johns’ painting “Two Flags”. She also explained the reasoning behind the choice of colors in the American flag. “Red stands for honor, white for innocence and blue for justice, vigor and perseverance,” she shared.

As DeVoll distributed the flags and called kids in threes to the front of the room to snap up mini pom-poms, fabric swatches and ribbon, she said, “Every kid can be a Betsy or Bob Ross and make their own flag interpretation.”

Children laid their flags down on the tables before them and went to work with Elmer’s glue, pasting down materials. Jennie Blumenfeld, 14, a volunteer from Staples, assisted with selections and guidance. “I like to be part of the community,” she said. “And the kids have so much fun, which makes it fun for me. This is a great way for kids to learn about their country on an important day.”

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