Students learn about the past at the Grassy Run Rendezvous

April 29th, 2010    Author: Brett A. Roller    Filed Under: News

Grassy Run Historical Arts Committee members worked hard to carry out their mission of education at the 2010 Grassy Run Rendezvous despite periodic showers throughout the weekend in Williamsburg.

The rendezvous kicked off Friday with about 450 public, private, and home schooled children from the Greater Cincinnati area converging on the park to learn about life in the United States before 1840.

“Friday is why we do this,” organizer Ron Shouse said. “We’re happy if 1,000 or one child came as long as we have the opportunity to disseminate the history of southern Ohio.”

Students attending the Grassy Run Rendezvous, from left, Erin Preston, Alecea Grosjean, and Isabella Sklena of Miami Valley Christian Academy, punch designs into tin much like the early settlers would.
Grassy Run Rendezvous celebrated its 18th year this year, and Shouse said that schools have been invited to visit for the past 14.

Shouse said the number of students in attendance was down this year due to a conflict with state-wide standardized testing dates, but at least one school canceled because of the weather.

Living historians like Milissa Marlar, who demonstrates the process of turning raw sheep's wool into clothing, believe the students retain their history lessons when they can see it come alive through programs like Grassy Run and take a piece of it home with them.

"They might listen to your talk for about two minutes but after that their eyes start to glaze over, but once one of them picks up the carders (paddles with nails used to clean the wool) and every one wants to touch them and see how they work and realize just how long it really took to make a shirt or dress."

Marlar said watching the students volunteering and lining up to perform manual labor is amazing.

George West performed demonstrations of rough wood working tools used by pioneers of the Northwest Territory. He gave students the opportunity to saw a log with period saws, then take home a piece of wood.

"The way they were carrying those wood chips you would have thought they were gold," Marlar said. "It's important for them to have something to take home so when they see that item later they will remember what they learned."

Students also learned how to punch designs into tin using a nail and wooden mallet, how to play games with early settler children, and participate in making a Native American home fashioned from cane.

Living historian Debbie Jenkins said the historical figures are the most important and interesting part of history, and they will be what students will remember.

"When you're teaching history it's important to get away from the textbooks and get into the people," Jenkins said. "We have to make history fun, make learning fun and get kids away from the TV and make them move more than their thumbs (while playing video games). When they come out there they get a little muddy and have fun."

Rany Conover presented students with the opportunity to sign the Declaration of Independence. He stressed the importance of the document and explained to the students the gravity of putting their signature on the historic document. He explained that the nation's founding fathers were committing an act of treason against England.

"I am challenging people by asking them if they would have the courage today to sign their life away," Conover said. "The signers of this document were signing away their lives, their honor, their sacred fortune for the beliefs they held."

Conover said that while the weekend is a great opportunity for people who enjoy becoming living historians to come together, it is a far greater opportunity to educate the public.

"We try to make people aware of the hardships and the way people use to live so they can understand their heritage," Conover said.

The students spent Friday running from tent to tent to see the many activities. The firing of period muskets and a small cannon were two of the most popular events for the boys, but there was something for everyone.

"We met a guy who sings and talks about how to tell stories," Alex Peters, a student at Hill Intermediate School in Bethel said.

Hailey Tanksoey, also a student at Hill Intermediate, said she enjoyed the hands on activities.

"I liked seeing the guy make fire with flint," Tanksoey said.

The demonstrations continued Saturday afternoon with Native American dancing by the White Oak singers, a hatchet and knife throwing contest, and members of the Clandestine Irish settlers group even held an impromptu shotgun wedding.

While there were extended dry periods, the weekend was generally wet. The rain did little to dampen the spirits of the visitors and historians.

"Despite the weather everything went OK," Shouse said. "My hat goes off to my fellow members for persevering through the foul weather and continuing the history program we have done for so many years."
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