MURRAY — How do you get kids to show interest in their country's history? A group of parents hopes a summer camp will do the trick.
Patriot Camp, a weeklong program that wraps up Friday, provides children with "access to accurate historical information while having fun learning," according to organizer Gale Sears.
Camp director Dawn Bates said the camp is an initiative that began with three moms in Pennsylvania.
"(They) just felt like their children were not learing correct history for the United States and so they just put together this cool program," she said, noting that a group of parents in American Fork found out about the initiative and brought it to Utah.
Bates said the Murray Park gathering, which is in its seventh summer and runs from 9 a.m. to noon, is one of 12 camps now in Utah.
"Every camp does their own thing as far as curriculum and getting people to come out," she said.
Organizers and volunteers say they feel schools place too much focus on core subjects such as reading and math and fail to provide their children with enough history.
Camp volunteer Donna Davis, who taught third and fifth grade for 37 years in the Granite School District and has a master's degree in math, agrees with that sentiment.
There is a "lack of social studies instruction and history" because, she said, "all you do is the reading and math."
"That's one reason why I love this (camp) because the kids get to learn (history)" she said noting that her children have been attending the camp for six years now.
The camp, which boasts 150 enrolled children, 20 teen leaders and 50 volunteers, has six stations and each teaches children about a historical figure or historical facts. Teen leaders are responsible for guiding groups of 25 kids to and from each station.
Wednesday the camp celebrated historical figures whom organizers say were "black patriots" with stations dedicated to Booker T. Washington, Elizabeth Freeman (also known as MumBet), Phillis Wheatley and Abraham Lincoln, because of his relationship with abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
"My great-great-grandfather was born in Africa, he escaped from slavery, went to Texas and became very successful as an entrepreneur and business owner and a father," former Oakland Raiders NFL player and Fox News contributor Burgess Owens told a group of children sitting under a tree.
"That is what happens in America is you have these options when you grow up to do great things" he said.
Owens was heading an instructional station on Booker T. Washington, who was born into slavery, put himself through school and become a teacher after the Civil War was over.
At another station, Annette Campbell was in full character, dressed in traditional 18th century pauper's garb, with a bonnet and foot-length calico dress.
"I'm Phillis Wheatley and I lived in 1753," she said, noting "I was actually the first woman to actually publish my poems, you know, black, African American, and the first to publish poems, that's pretty cool."
Amber Peña was heading up an instructional booth on Elizabeth Freeman, the first slave to win a freedom suit in Massachusetts.
"She was an herbalist and a midwife, and so we have food that has various herbs in it," Peña said, indicating a table set with 25 plates of snacks.2 comments on this story
"It was extremely brave of her to take a look at how she was being treated, realize it wasn't right, and do something about it, not just accept it for what it was," she said, adding that it is important "for kids to see that, to learn what's right and wrong and to understand that if they see something that's not right, that they can stand up and make a difference."
Attendees could also take part in games and crafts.
Hunter Peña, Amber Peña's son and teen lead at the camp, said crafts were one of his favorite parts of the experience.
"It's always fun. Like over there they're doing candle-making." he said. "I just like not just sitting in like a schoolhouse all day."