Market Place Construction

Market Place Construction

Colonial Williamsburg has long been one of our favorite places, so today (7/15/15) we decided to head back to see what has changed.  One of the first things we noticed that was different was the new construction!  Archaeologists have discovered the foundation of a market square where Colonists would buy and sell goods.  And currently, Colonial Williamsburg is reconstructing the Market Place and the Standards House for the weights and measures.  These are located right by the Magazine.  It will be a little while before it’s completed, but something to look forward to and see the progress of–I remember when they were doing the archaeological dig and then building the coffee house!  What fun to watch Williamsburg grow again!

Kids and parents at

Kids and parents at “The Dig”

And speaking of digs, this is one of the new exciting things we discovered at Williamsburg.  Now, there is a new program called “Dig! Kids, Dirt, and Discovery.” It’s a hands on excavation opportunity where kids actually get to do real archaeology!  I think this is the most fascinating idea ever!  It allows kids to be a real part of archaeology while helping the museum because the public actually is doing the real thing–not some “seeded sandbox.”  According to one of the receptionists as we were leaving, this has been one of the most successful additions to Colonial Williamsburg.  It’s also an investment in the future.  Imagine these kids somewhere down the road being able to take their kids to see a new building for which they excavated the foundation, or an item in the museum they found.  It definitely puts “Skin in the game” for guests and gives a real sense of ownership to those who come.  A great decision indeed!

RevQuest bandanna and info

RevQuest Info packet

But, it’s not the only way they are reaching out to kids.  RevQuest, which was added a few years ago,has a different “spy mission” every year.  This year’s involves a great deal of real spy work:  ciphering.  RevQuest participants receive a blue bandanna and a packet of instructions, including a pencil, a map, and a ciphering key.  But, along the way, as they text information to “headquarters,” they will receive tokens from a variety of people they will have to meet with.  I absolutely love this idea!  It engages kids in history in such an interactive and suspenseful way–they will never forget.

“Bayonet” face off

Another unforgettable addition is the military camp.  I’d previously seen kids being recruited to join the militia, but at the military camp, they get to train with stick guns, learn commands, and run a small obstacle type course to practice their skills against the British.  It was amazing to watch young children running around, ducking behind bushes, popping out and yelling, “Boom!” or running to a British soldier cut out, throwing something, and running back to hide.  You could hear the laughter (and Booms!) from down the road.  What an awesome experience!

Street ball Colonial style

Street ball Colonial style

Then, as we were heading to check out one of the stores, I noticed a pick up game in the middle of a street.  A costumed reenactor had a gaggle of boys and girls in the street around him.  He had a small flat bat, and on the street, there was a base that the batter would strike to launch the ball in the air so the batter could hit it with the bat.  When a child got a good hit, the others would try to catch the ball wherever it flew.  In addition to street ball, there were sticks and hoops children could play with.  Another reenactor was sitting with a “Close the box” game playing with children.  I love that children are being involved in so many aspects of colonial life.

Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson

Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson

We then went to hear Thomas Jefferson speak.  Having come here for years, we have heard Jefferson speak many times, and it is never the same.  As a teacher, I know the hours of preparation that go into giving a lecture, and Bill Barker is an incredible speaker.  Having played Thomas for over thirty years, he truly knows so much about this incredible man that he is able to quote extensively from Jefferson’s letters and the texts he read from.  In this presentation, he reminded us that the purpose of the revolution was to secure the individual rights of man.  He addressed self-governance and the need of each person to control him or herself.  And yet, he discussed that Americans had never been more free to disagree.  But, a difference of opinion ought never to be a difference of principle.  He then turned to the subject of public education and discussed that he was willing to pay for his neighbor’s schooling because an educated society is a well-protected society since those who read for themselves and can compare differing opinions to discover the best, can also think for themselves.  Listening to his words while living in a world that is increasingly government governed instead of self-governed, where relationships between different opinions are often volatile, and where education budgets are being cut left and right (my own public school lost 1/4 of our staff this year due to budget cuts) his words ring true.

Firing the Cannon

Firing the Cannon

We finished our day watching the fifes and drums lead the group of “New recruits” in a military march from the capital down to the courthouse where they were presented to General Washington.  There was a military demonstration which involved musket firing and cannon firing.  One thing that interested me is the fact that they let a child from the audience actually fire the cannon.  I’ve seen the “fake set up” at Yorktown, but this child actually lit the fuse!  It was truly a remarkable experience.

As we were walking to the car, we got into a conversation with a family visiting from Switzerland.  Since we had been to Switzerland, we discussed how much we loved their country, and they shared how they were finding ours (via a camper!)  I was reminded again how people from all over the world come to Colonial Williamsburg.  I’m so glad they are continuing to grow to embrace a new generation of visitors!

Advertisements