One of my favorite parts about any job I’ve had is working with children. I generally prefer children to adults because they are eager to learn and explore new ideas. They don’t hang on so hard to preconceived notions. They are open to people and experiences. Even two year olds can be reasonable compared to some adults I’ve known!
Tom and I are thankful that, as part of our job here at Kings Mountain, we spend plenty of time working with children. Kings Mountain has more school groups than any other park I’ve seen. In a typical week we have 500 school children visiting. They might be 4th graders from Kings Mountain or 8th graders from Greenville. They might be high school Seniors working on their service awards. They might be home-schooled children working on the Jr. Ranger badge. They might be Cub Scout packs eager to earn another patch.
During the month we have been here at Kings Mountain this fall, we have enjoyed working with children from each of these categories. Tom loves to do weapons demonstrations. The kids always love the “boom” that comes from firing the musket.
We had Education Days again this fall, hosting 1,000 children from different school districts in the area. I wrote about Education Days last spring. Tom fired the musket and showed “What’s In My Haversack?” I taught the “Soldier, Soldier” song and laughed along with the kids as they tried to don the appropriate pieces of colonial clothing.
Before the children came, Tom and I stayed busy making 1,000 cartridge candies. Each school child that visits during Education Days gets one. We make them the same way we make the black powder cartridges used in the muskets but with different ingredients. We roll a piece of paper, stick in a gumball (the musket ball), and fill the tube with kool-aid mix (the powder). Then we twist the top. We encourage the children not to eat them while at the park because we don’t need that sugar rush hitting them all at once!
During the Anniversary Weekend, we had special activities for children. We helped them make sachets, toss toys, sign a loyalty oath, and seal a Declaration of Independence. These were all things we could do in the rain under a tent on Saturday, but it was more fun to do it with the sunshine on Sunday. We are always amazed at how long a child raised on screens will play with a stick, some string, and a rope ring.
Last weekend there were finally enough staff that Tom and I were able to set up a living history demonstration. We dressed in our colonial clothes and started a fire. Tom demonstrated different fire starting methods. I cooked Apple Brown Betty in a dutch oven and demonstrated candle making. We melted some wax and let the children who stopped by dip their own candles. The pot we used was small, so most of the candles were stumpy, but the kids enjoyed having a candle they had made themselves.
Tom and I love working with children. When we do, we are helping the children connect with the park and creating a memory that will stay with them. My favorite moment is when their eyes light up as they dig in to participate in learning. We have done our job: helping future generations explore the national parks.