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The quilt block Alycia Murphy sewed not only highlighted a time-honored craft; it also helped teach the 9-year-old how details on patches were used by slaves to navigate the Underground Railroad - and reach freedom.
Alycia, who will be in fifth grade this fall at All Saints Catholic School in Rossford, was one of 18 children who attended at least one day of History Day Camp last week.
This year was the third for the Oregon Jerusalem Historical Society's camp for children entering third, fourth, and fifth grades, and making quilt blocks in a wagon-wheel pattern was a key part of exploring life during the Civil War.
"We learned about how they used different pieces and different designs on pieces of fabric to make symbols," Alycia said after finishing a colorful quilt block that will be made for her into a keepsake pillow.
Each of the camp's four days at Brandville School in Oregon, the historical society's home, followed a specific historical theme with hands-on daily living activities. Besides the Civil War day, themes included music prior to 1900 with square dancing and an Indian rain dance, a day in a traditional one-room school, and a general store visit with many items from the former Metzgers' Corners in Oregon.
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Faith Schweizer, 9, said she was surprised to learn how strict school rules used to be.
"When the boys and girls went to school, girls had to play with girls and boys had to play with boys," said Faith, who will be entering fourth grade at Starr Elementary in Oregon.
During the visit to the general store, which is re-
created in a historical society building, the campers did a scavenger hunt for items such as a round cheese box and learned skills such as shelling corn. Each day started with a flag ceremony, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a patriotic song and ended with signing attendance certificates with sharpened twigs dipped in ink.
"We incorporate activities each day, trying to get something as authentic as possible," said Dianne Powers, co-director with Pat Davis of the four-day camp.
The annual camp cost $80 for four days, but nine people donated half scholarships so more children could attend. The camp was run by about 30 volunteers, including the co-directors and teachers.
Each day included a period food item; on Civil War Day, campers scrubbed, peeled, and sliced potatoes and fried them in lard. Campers also made music on period drums, learned Morse code, and played marbles and other games that day.
Jay Auger, 8, who will be entering third grade at Jerusalem Elementary in Jerusalem Township, said he enjoyed learning how to weave yarn on a cardboard loom into a small square.
"It was the first time I did it, and it was fun," Jay said.