The voices of 40 campers singing and clapping along to Louisiana classic “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)” echoed through the West Baton Rouge Museum for the past two weeks. Campers learned about the cultural, economic and environmental importance of Louisiana’s waterways at this year’s 22nd annual Blast from the Past Summer Camp.
The theme, Tales on the Bayou, was inspired by two exhibits on show at the museum for the summer, “The River Rises: Historical Floods” and “Water Trails of the Atchafalaya.”
“We are celebrating the beautiful landscape we’re lucky enough to live in,” education curator Jeannie Luckett said.
The importance of environmentalism and cultural preservation comes to life for campers through a variety of activities offered at both sessions of the the week long history camp, Luckett said.
Campers learned how the Acadians built houses without nails when they moved to Louisiana’s swamplands from Canada. Then they learned how to make nails with a blacksmith.
Crushed Oreos and shaving cream were put in a miniature version of the Mississippi River to show campers how erosion and pollution impact the flow of the mighty waterway.
Campers gathered around whiteboards and stools for lessons from Cajun net makers, a hurricane hunter and a nuisance alligator hunter, to name a few.
All of guests are members of the community that volunteer to prepare lessons for the camp.
“What a beautiful treasure we have in our community to help us preserve the culture we have here,” Luckett said.
The camp represented a large variety of the international influences on Southern Louisiana culture while also teaching valuable life skills.
Lady campers learned sewing by making their own garde soleil, or sun hat, while the boys sewed Cajun vests.
On Friday all campers paired their vests and garde soleils with the Cajun dance skills they learned for a final performance of Cajun French songs for their parents.
The week-long camp has two sessions with 40 campers participating. Campers are split into groups of 10 that rotate through more than 50 activities, like cooking gumbo, reading Cajun stories and learning how coastal erosion affects the state.
Activities throughout the week explain Louisiana traditions, culture and teach students the value of ecological conservation.
The highlight of the week was a live crawfish race. Students cheered on one of four live crawfish while the action is projected on a big screen.
“It’s like watching the Kentucky Derby, but better,” Luckett said. “There’s never a dull moment at history camp. The activities help everything to come alive.”