The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

July 10, 2014

Campers get taste of frontier life

— DANVILLE — Eighteen kids are getting excited about history at an outdoor camp at Hess Recreation Area.

Monday was the first day for the weeklong Danville History Camp with a special appearance by Aidan McDonald portraying William Penn. McDonald will be a junior studying political science and law at Dickinson University.

“William Penn really changed the world. We wouldn’t have religious freedom in this country. Without him, our rights and privileges of the Constitution would be different,” said Betsy Finn, camp teacher.

Penn told the group, as a Quaker, he appreciated living a simple life. He said King Charles II of England gave him land which became Pennsylvania. “I was very happy with it,” he said.

Dan Franks, another camp teacher, commended Penn for purchasing land from Native Americans. Franks said Penn’s sons didn’t have the best intentions.  

Penn told the students he traveled to England and spent time in Ireland.

A kindergarten teacher at St. Cyril Preschool and Kindergarten, Finn pointed out the difficulties traveling in those days with people dying during sea voyages. “It was rough to go back and forth 300 years ago,” she said.

Penn, who was born in 1644 and died in 1718, came back through time travel to visit “just for you,” Finn told the children  

Student Bridget Finn, 13, said they learned a lot including “how Native Americans used to play with their toys that helped with fighting.”

They were taught about the shuttle cock which is the precursor to badminton. They practiced spear throwing, learned to dye material and made cornbread. With help from naturalist Hannah Davis, of Danville, they are building a fish trap in the nearby stream. She said they will check it daily.

“They will learn it wasn’t all fun and games,” said Franks who teaches history and special education in the Shikellamy district.

The teachers used a game, with a yoke carrying buckets, and taught the students how to use washboards. Besides Native Americans, students are learning about early settlers and frontier life.

“Dan and I have known each other since college. We have talked about holding a history camp in the summer for years,” Finn said.

On Tuesday, they expected to do stamping with potatoes and apples and learn about wampum and sea shell trade. They were going to sew with leather and write with a real quill pen and ink.

 “We try to make it fun so they appreciate and understand and have a glimpse into the past and appreciate today,” Franks said.

Davis taught about uses of plants and identified deer and bird tracks for the children. Wednesday was to include a field trip. On Friday, Franks plans to demonstrate of a dugout canoe, tanning a hide, a frontier campfire, cross-cut sawing and tools used to build log cabins.

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