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Museum serves up more than history

Written by Aaron Williams on . Posted in Local

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Last week, the West Baton Rouge Museum began their ever-popular Blast from the Past summer camp and simultaneously celebrated their newest structure on campus.

With a “barnyard bash” theme, the summer camp, in its 19th year, touted the museum’s newly built barn, and brought more than simply a sense of history to the 40 children in attendance.

“The new approach we’re taking this year is based on STEM, which is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math,” said museum director Julie Rose. “So even though we’re a history camp, we’re using a lot of the ideas from STEM for our activities.”

Museum education curator Jeannie Luckett, the summer camp’s coordinator for 19 years, said that the interactivity and educational foundation of the Blast from the Past camp is what sets it apart from other camps in the area.

“They’re learning history, the arts, science, math; but it’s in a creative way. They may not realize it when they’re having watermelon seed spitting contests that they’re estimating and measuring and all that stuff – they just know they’re having summer fun,” Luckett explained. “And we link it all back to some sort of historical theme, like what’s on the farm.”

Luckett began the summer camp in 1995 with the help of then-co-worker Stacy Ryan, who now serves as the parish Registrar of Voters, and Ryan’s uncle, longtime West Baton Rouge resident and museum contributor Frank H. Carruth.

Luckett said that Carruth, who is now deceased, had always wanted to start a summer camp program in the parish and thought he could be the catalyst to help the museum get one started.

“He funded the first two years of camp and after that the museum started supporting it and we started charging tuition,” she said. “I’d never even been to camp a day in my life … But with the help of lots of awesome volunteers, we came up with a plan and it’s been a success ever since.”

Rose agreed, saying that the camp has seen plenty of success throughout the years.

(Luckett) “has been doing camp for just enough time now that she’s having children of her former campers come – so it’s a second generation,” said Rose. “That’s really very rewarding, and very exciting really.”

Rose said that just as in the beginning years of the camp, museum staff and volunteers continue to hold a grand role in the success of the summer sessions.

“We have a wonderful staff for the summer,” she said. “And we have councilors from Baton Rouge from Youth Volunteer Corps who are great – this particular organization has been helping us for many years.”

Rose said that this year’s camp theme is not just about showing off the museum’s newest structure, but also serves as an opportunity to teach campers, ages 6-12, about farming and agriculture from a historical perspective.

“They’re making a quilt, measuring, cutting and construction; they’re doing telephones and radios; and making simple woodworking machines; making nails in our blacksmith shop,” Rose listed. “They’ll get the opportunity to see, historically, how farming has changed in this area, looking at historical tools and contemporary tools.

“The way (Luckett) does it is so much fun,” she said. “She’s got them making things, trying things, planting things, and more.”

The museum hosts about 40 children, ages 6-12, for each week long summer camp session. The museum hosts two sessions per year.

“We’ve had a great bunch of kids. They are excited and engaged,” Luckett said. “It’s all about education and enrichment, but we like to do it in a fun way because it’s summer.”

Luckett said that the camp has become so popular over the last few years, she’s gotten requests to hold a third session.

For now, though, two sessions is enough, according to both Luckett and Rose who confirmed that there has been waiting lists to get into the camps the last few years.

Though the camp’s Barnyard Bash theme this year celebrates the museum’s newest facility, the barn has not become open to the public, according to Rose, who said that the museum is in the process of preparing the exhibits that will fill the facility.

“The public will be invited to come into the barn at SugarFest. That’s the plan,” Rose said. “For summer camp they’re using it. It’s a really comfortable space; it’s really cool … now we’re getting the artifacts ready to be put inside.”

Among summer camp sessions, Rose said that the museum is offering plenty of exhibits and activities for children, adults and entire families over the summer.

For more information on current exhibits, visit www.westbatonrougemuseum.com or call 336-2422.

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