by Kathleen Spring
Do you know which Indian Nations settled in Colorado? Do you know if Lyons sandstone is mainly used for commercial or decorative purposes? Do you know how early Lyons pioneers washed their clothes without electricity? If you do not know the answers, you can ask one of the children who attended this year’s History Summer Day Camp at the Lyons Redstone Museum.
The young campers learned about life in Lyons at the turn of the century through interactive lessons, creative scenarios, decorative crafts, fun songs, music, and a treasure hunt through the collected old treasures at the museum. Each day the children colored, pasted, and wrote their memories in a keepsake album that some day they may share with their own children.
“We were impressed with the album the girls took home from camp,” said Juli Waugh. “Shenny and Harper were both very eager to share them with us, and they have pulled them out a couple of times. It was a great help to us to understand what they did and what they learned.”
Day one familiarized the children with the museum by having them use a treasure map to explore the displays in the museum. As they learned about the progression of washing tools used in early Lyons, they could touch the worn scrub board in a bucket, spin the simple agitator in the metal wash tub, and pull a sheet through the rollers of the wringer washing machine. The many old machines all seemed massive compared to today’s equivalent, like the office adding machine (calculator), floor-model radio (iPod), crank party-line telephone (smart phone), manual typewriter (portable computer), and more.
One day seemed hardly enough to tell the story of the Plains Indians who settled in Colorado. Out of the five tribes that roamed the eastern grasslands, the Utes were the main tribe who settled the Lyons area and the Rocky Mountains. The Arapaho settled the Boulder Valley. Within a couple of decades after the Gold Rush started, all of the Indians were forced to leave the state or go onto Indian Reservations.
The children each learned a word or two in the sign language of the Plains Indians. They acted out a scenario where two groups of Indians met. Through sign language they had to introduce their family, and one group had to relay to the other that they had traveled through bad weather and were tired and hungry. Even six-year-old Harper Waugh was able to learn the signs because the motions made with the hands were logical. A zigzag motion with her finger represented lighting.
After learning about Indian arts and crafts, and hearing old tales about Indian and pioneer encounters in the Lyons area, the children painted a wooden mandala. In the center they wrote something that represented what they wanted to draw to them and have more of, like peace. Maddie Dusel, age 7, made her’s cheerful by using colorful markers, glittery sprinkles, and multi-colored strings and beads in the shape of spokes radiating from the center.
“Each afternoon, after leaving camp, Lia always had a mouthful to say about what she learned at camp,” said Kim Malito. “She was most interested in the study of the Native Americans that lived in this area and the sign language they used to communicate. The stories you told about these people really seemed to resonate with Lia, as she brought it up on several occasions after camp week was over.”
Local musician Vance French brought in a variety of old musical instruments to show the children the difference in how they were made and their sound. Lyons has had bands since its early quarry days. Old-time songs were sung for and by the children. While they all were lively tunes, some of them told real stories that were melancholy, like “Grandfather’s Clock.” The children all made instruments out of objects found around the house, like a beach pail and shovel as a drum. Sara Santesteban, age 7, and Zoe Chase, age 8, chose pink sandwich boxes filled with either shiny stones or sandstone nuggets. They accompanied some musical rounds, like “Row, row, row your boat.” A couple of children were heard singing in their cars as they drove away home.
A discovery tour of Lyons would not be complete without talking about the famous red sandstone. Samples of a dozen different kinds of sandstone were inspected by the children, including red and buff colors, moss rock, diamond polished, dendrites, and more. They each got a flat stone, courtesy of Western Stone, to paint a scene on that represented Lyons. Noah Way, age 6, painted a beach scene on his, remembering the tales about Lyons being a sandy prehistoric beach.
The children enjoyed additional activities outdoors. They went outside to inspect the old thick sandstone walls of the Old Stone Church of the 1890s, and the thin fine flagstone on Rogers Hall of the 1950s. They marched to “The Battle of New Orleans,” banging their instruments, and circled the grand old trees around the museum grounds. And, they enjoyed picnics outdoors, including a “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” day, and a celebration cake on the final day.
The camp was made possible by the Lyons Historical Society and a Lyons Community Fund grant, which contributed funds and in-kind services to educate Lyons youth in their local history. The program was coordinated and conducted by Kathleen Spring. Helpful volunteers included Janet Freeman, Maggie McClain, Diane Stout, and Vance French.
The week concluded with each child acting as a personal tour guide for his or her parents, grandparents, and siblings. Simon Stone, age 9, was the head guide, since it was his second year attending the camp. He was able to answer even the most difficult questions about the displays and Indian culture.