Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gale from the North at Colonial Williamsburg

A few weeks ago there was a special segment of Colonial Williamsburg's Revolutionary City. They took the cameras to the streets of the historic area so that everyone can now see "Gale From the North", my favorite scene (for multiple reasons) about the beginnings of the American Revolution. On March 23, 1775, the Second Virginia Convention met in Richmond, Virginia instead of at the capitol at Williamsburg, for fear that Governor Dunmore would dissolve the proceedings, a fate the burgesses had met with before. The visionary Patrick Henry encouraged "a state of defense."

"Gentlemen may cry peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me,”cried he, with both his arms extended aloft, his brows knit, every feature marked with the resolute purpose of his soul, and his voice swelled to its boldest note of exclamation—“give me liberty, or give me death!"-from icitizenforum

July 4 RC

Nearly a month later, on April 18, 1775, the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Virginian Mann Page furiously galloped 100 miles from Fredericksburg to Williamsburg to relay the news to the Speaker of the House, Peyton Randolph.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

There were differing opinions on how to react, considering Governor Dunmore had recently had the gunpowder taken from Williamsburg's magazine in the middle of the night.

Photobucket

Mann Page and others were prepared to gather men, arms and march whereas the speaker insisted on a posture of defense but no offense.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Mann Page dutifully obeyed orders and road off to relay Randolph's message.

Photobucket

After this scene, the camera captured an interview with Peyton Randolph, Mann Page and modern day historians, fielding questions about revolution from the audience on the street and from the internet. Although we had had plans to go down for the day for this unique experience, a last minute glitch prevented those plans. At least we got to see everything on-line. The kids sat with me at my laptop and my husband watched from his computer. Although I had wanted to ask a question regarding Patrick Henry and never got to, I was tickled that Mann Page spontaneously brought him into the conversation for the interview! My favorite comment from Peyton Randolph was that he is a lawyer and whenever he sees a legal document more than a page long, you know there is trickery afoot! (How does he know about today's politics?) We also loved watching the banter between historical 18th century personas with 21st century people. When one of the historians talked about the stories in Revolutionary City, Mann Page interrupted him and exclaimed that these are not stories but actual lives! Everyone was laughing, even the historian, but Mann Page is correct! Every story from Revolutionary City is indeed about real incidences with real people who actually lived in 18th century Williamsburg and had to ponder about their participation (or not) in the American Revolution. It is easy for us to make judgement calls, since we have the luxury to know the end of the story. Revolutionary City helps visitors to understand the past like the present in more ways than one. Not only did those people have to make decisions like we do, without knowing the outcome, but many of the things that happen politically today is the same as what happened in the past. History repeats itself because people are people the worldwide over, with the same goals and expectations for better or for worse.

Photobucket

Another favorite scene was with Mrs. Randolph. This was a rare moment to hear her take on politics because she will not discuss them on the streets since ladies back then pretty much left political matters to their husbands. However she had something quite profound to discuss. She posed a question about how patriotism or loyalists are truly the same or truly different. I like the way she put it much better. You can watch the entire program on Colonial Williamsburg's Connect!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Grand Opening of the Armoury at Colonial Williamsburg

Last March we visited Colonial Williamsburg for the opening of the Armoury Complex. This is where the old blacksmith shop used to stand. The blacksmiths were relocated, the dilapidated building was torn down, and rebuilding began based on extensive research. This time more than the blacksmith shop was rebuilt. The entire complex of six buildings is in the process of being built. This transition represents the historical accuracy of 18th century Williamsburg. In 1776 many transitions occurred in the nation's history, most notably the 13 colonies declaring themselves free and independent states and proclaiming a revolution against the most powerful nation and army in the world, that of Great Britain. James Anderson, who owned the blacksmith shop in Williamsburg, had been appointed public armourer by Virginia's government. In response, Anderson built an armory, tinsmith shop, kitchen and more. Becoming a beehive of activity in response to the war effort, Colonial Williamsburg has chosen to follow suit in their interpretation of the American Revolution in the historic area. March 31st marked the opening of two of the buildings, the kitchen and the blacksmith shop/armoury. To our delight and surprise this lady told us that we could enter the Armoury Complex before the ceremonies! We got to see everything first thing in the morning before all the crowds arrived!

Photobucket

The white building with the open "back door" is the new blacksmith shop. The red building to the left is the kitchen. To the right masons were laying bricks for the foundation for the tinsmith's shop which used to stand there. As I recall I think this will be the only operating 18th century tinshop in America.

Photobucket

Here is the new kitchen with the fire roaring away, waiting to cook dinner. Food was on the table in preparation for cooking.

Photobucket

Behind me these were these scenes. I could never have gotten these photos if the crowds were here so this was fun!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Here is the wonderful Jim Gay sharing about cooking for the Armoury workers. Cooking here is a bit different from the Palace Kitchen, since eating was more important to the workers than showcasing beautiful plates of food. Before Mr. Gay had arrived, I took a close-up peak at the meats and guessed that rabbit was laying next to the fish. I've never cooked rabbit before so I had never seen it in this state before. Mr. Gay arrived and indeed that was rabbit! Although the main staples of the Armoury workers was beef and bread, he decided to showcase a few other options. He explained the planned cooking process (which I will show later) and showed us the greens stewing in the big pot over the fire. He told us he had gathered the fresh greens that morning.

Photobucket

After a wonderfully long talk with Mr. Gay about cooking (and having him practically all to ourselves) we went to the pristine Armoury. The tradesmen seemed to be dressed in their finest for the occasion, with their fresh waistcoats.

Photobucket

Here is a new section that wasn't in the old blacksmith shop. This blacksmith shop has more venues and corners for working because now it is an armoury. Part of the job of the armoury was to supply ammunition and supplies during the war. Here these men are making bullets.

Photobucket

This man was assembling the finger mechanisms onto the muskets.

Photobucket

And yet another view of the blacksmiths.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Then we went out to Duke of Gloucester Street for the ceremonies. The Fife and Drum Corps led the crowds to the Anderson House. Here is a video from Colonial Williamsburg on the opening ceremonies and guess what? The kids and I are in it! I had no idea! My husband stayed near the Anderson house, on the other side of the street from us to get better photos. Can you find me and the kids in the beginning? If you wait five seconds you might miss it!

Photobucket

After the crowds dissippated we returned to the Armoury Complex in the afternoon. The basket weavers were there.

Photobucket

The coopers had also set up shop.

Photobucket

I returned to the kitchen to see how the dinner preparations were going. Here is the rabbit roasting over the fire. The rabbit is hanging from a simple rotisserie like device that operates on manual power. The cook has to twist the string to get the rabbit to rotate as it roasts. The fancy rotisserie device stays in the fancier Palace Kitchen.

Photobucket

To the right you can see a board with string wrapped around it propped against the iron. The fish was tied to that board to roast.

Photobucket

Here is Jim Gay demonstrating the new bread oven. No bread was baking yet because the oven was undergoing its first firing. It would take about a week to cure, afterwhich it would be ready for baking bread! Leaving at the time was a struggle because Mr. Gay is so interesting. He had me wanting to come back in a week when he debuted hot cross buns in the oven. Sadly that didn't happen and it has taken me a month to post about the opening. Memories of parting now are bittersweet. He will always be remembered for whetting our appetites for chocolate, cooking and history. His legacy of teaching history, though, will continue in Colonial Williamsburg in all the venues, including the newest developments at the armoury.

Photobucket

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fops, Rogues and Villains at Colonial Williamsburg

When we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg last month for the Armoury opening, we got to enjoy a bit of entertainment with the Colonial Williamsburg Playbooth Theater. This particular program was titled "Fops, Rogues and Villains." Each character type was explained to us, then the actors performed a scene to exemplify that character type from a play that would have been performed in 18th century Williamsburg...or even elsewhere in the colonies, since the actors are portraying a traveling troupe.

First a skit involving a rogue was portrayed. It was funny that to open this scene the narrator mentioned the ever oh so proper Puritans of New England. To properly have a play with a rogue, moral lessons must appear. I guess everyone has a loophole! I was caught up in the performance so I didn't get a picture of this scene.

Then a villain was portrayed, one from Othello named Iago! My kids knew all about him because we recently studied Othello. My kids were quite pleased that they got to see a Shakespearan performance at Colonial Williamsburg! Again, I forgot to take pictures.

Finally a fop was portrayed, a young gentry lad who traveled the continent of Europe in rather unstylish dress (but don't tell him that) bragged about all the things he learned in the various places he visited. Now I got my camera out because this was too hilarious! Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I am certain you can guess who the fop is!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

The Colonial Nursery at Colonial Williamsburg

Last March while we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg for the Armoury Opening, we stopped by the colonial nursery where the techniques of colonial gardening are displayed. There are all sorts of natural structures for staking the plants. My kids and others have even been put to work helping to plant these gardens. This year the growing season was longer since Virginia had a warm winter, that reminded me of a typical winter where I used to live in San Antonio, Texas.

Photobucket

Due to the warm winter, quick spring and warm March (reminiscent of early summer), all of the plants are growing a bit quicker than previous pictures I've taken in Aprils past!

Photobucket

Here is a cold frame which is open to the warm and sunny day. You can see the straw around it for insulation.

Photobucket

Here is the back of it, again with straw for insulation.

Photobucket

Here is another cold frame open to the warm, sunny day.

Photobucket

This one is closed to protect the seedlings inside.

Photobucket

Photobucket

The colonial nursery is also a great place to purchase plants for your own garden, which is where we have gotten some of our own plants.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Commedia dell'Arte

Today we started to discuss Moliere's Tartuffe, when I saw a brief reference to Commedia dell'Arte! I remember first learning about that when talking to one of the Colonial Williamsburg Playbooth Theater actors about theater history. I had done some research on it and bookmarked it until an opportune time. I postponed Tartuffe to go over this curriculum guide I found from a Commedia dell'Arte troupe based near us in Washington DC! Another good resource is here.

This form of theater likely developed in the Middle Ages and became famous in Renaissance Italy. Although I had never heard of the term before, it has classic aspects that have continued through theater and entertainment history, encompassing opera, vaudeville, movies and even modern sit-coms. Even Shakespeare and Moliere were influenced.

There are four basic stock character types from which a reperatoire can be based. Basically there is the funny guy, the old wise man, a loving couple and the dashing, debonair hero. Of course to be comedy, they aren't without their faults. The kids and I have been spending the day thinking of where we've seen these character types in modern entertainment. My kids were raised on Adventures in Odyssey, a radio show produced by Focus on the Family. The funny servant who long suffers abuse...couldn't he be the loveable curmudgeon Bernard Walton? The zany servant...my daughter said bumbling detective Sgt. Doyle. The doctor know it all who didn't really know it all..couoldn't he be Eugene Meltzner? He knew everything about everything but can't drive a car. My daughter says he's known to run into trash cans twice a week. Another doctor know it all who did nothing but talk and talk about his extensive knowledge base...dare I say it? Alton Brown? Remember his television show, Good Eats and how it opened? He kept talking about scientific facts and the camera guy would shut him off every time. (How I miss that show. It was my favorite.) The lovers...classic Romeo and Juliet appropriately set by Shakespeare in Italy.

Commedia dell'Arte though is mostly improv. There was no playwright and no director. If anything they might be given a theme. Each of the actors and actresses (yes Italy had actresses as early as 1566. Actresses did not arrive in England until Charles II, who was the first English monarch to allow women on stage in England. Charles II, the Restoration king, had been familiar with women on the stage when he lived in France.

Usually they wear comedic masks, which are detailed in the curriculum guide. One of the servant types commonly had floured faced, or white mask...which developed into mime!

The curriculum guide has great examples of familiar elements of commedia dell'Arte.
  • Someone getting whacked with a ladder-We saw that in the barn raising scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
  • The know it all next door neighbor-Wilson on Home Improvement
  • The wise cracking best friend-Doogie Howser's best friend, Vinnie?
  • Large medical equipment-The vaudeville act with the giant baseball bat Gene Kelley and Frank Sinatra used to do during the baseball game on Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
We'll be looking for these elements from now on. Also I might have the kids do some of the activities at the links. There are lots of treat art and creative dramatics ideas.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Power of Choices Instead of Rewards

Offering rewards for work well done has only backfired my efforts to teach responsibility, contentment, and good work habits. Although rewards seemed successful at first, before long it became stale and I had to seek more elaborate and expensive rewards to satisfy the "want" which in truth, became "greed." When my kids were early elementary age students, I returned to the goal of instilling intrinsic motivation in my kids through the power of choices.

We should give our kids opportunities to make their own choices at as early an age as possible. Children thrive for independence from a young age. Many battles can be alleviated by separating areas where they can safely make their own choices from those where they still need much guidance. Giving them choices though, does not mean giving them complete control. They still need guidance. Yet even a toddler can choose what to wear for the day, albeit with the guidance we give. "It will be hot today so you may wear this outfit our that outfit. Your choice!" While out in public the choices were often, "You have a choice. You can shape up so that we may stay. Or if you choose to continue having a tempter tantrum, that means we need to go home." If they chose the latter, we packed up and went home. At home if the child was having a temper tantrum in my presence I said, "You may choose to stop your poor behavior so that you can stay near me (which they thrived upon). However if you choose to continue your temper, then you must take it to your room. Your choice."

The old rewards now became opportunities. "Let's take a break from school books to go on a impromptu field trip." "Because you finished your seatwork so efficiently and well, we have time to watch a movie tonight!"

Preparing them from an early age how to make choices through opportunity, we are training them for the future when they go out on their own. If they have had nearly 18 years of training, becoming an adult should be a smoother transition due to having had intrinsic motivation instead of extrinsic. Besides, how many adults receive extrinsic motivation to do daily tasks?

For more in-depth guidance on giving choices, I highly recommend Dr. Kenneth Leman's books. One of my favorites was Bringing Kids Up Without Tearing Them Down. It's all about not losing our tempers, but remaining calm while giving guided choices to our kids.

Ideal Gas Equation in Chemistry I

Determining the amount of acid in vinegar using the ideal gas equation.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Space Shuttle Flew over our House Today

Today the kids and I witnessed the end of an era...one that I saw ushered in when I was younger than them...the era of the space shuttle. In the seventies the space shuttle was developed as an economical reusable space ship, one that would propel into space with powerful booster rockets, yet return to earth by gliding onto a flight line. In amazement I watched the televised test runs at Edwards AFB, California, while the prototype space shuttle was piggy backed on an airplane, then lifted off to glide onto the dry lake bed in the desert range. These were some of the beginning tests of the newest facet of the space program.

During these testing years, the space shuttle was piggy-backed from Edwards AFB to Cape Canaveral, making its first layover at Kelly AFB in San Antonio, Texas, only a few miles from my parents' house! We all drove to the base that night to see the space shuttle up close and personal. I dug out my faded picture today (picture technology wasn't great then) and saw that it was the Space Shuttle Columbia. I stood there in awe, wondering if such a space ship would ever enter orbit and successfully land. In 1981, the Space Shuttle Columbia made its first voyage into space.

In 2003, while I was living in San Antonio, Texas, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas on it's reentry to earth, while gliding towards a landing at Cape Canaveral. A great book to read about one of the astronauts, Rick Husband, who died in that accident, is High Calling: The Courageious Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband. This brought back painful memories of the Challenger Explosion in 1986, the first and only misison that took a private citizen aboard, a teacher, who represented the future as did the space program. Inspired by this I portrayed her in one of our history presentations. A previous accident in 1967 killed three astronauts who were training for the Apollo 1 mission. While rehearsing flight procedures in a capsule on the ground, it burst into flames and they were not able to escape.

Flight is never safe. Risks are always involved. The bar is continually being raised to explore new opportunities. We experience the spirit of hope and adventure through the astronauts who make the impossible look simple on their successful flights into space.

It had always been my dream to go to Cape Cananerval to see a lift-off for myself. Now that will never be. The Space Shuttle missions came to a close last summer. When that last flight landed, I thought that was the end of the chapter of Space Shuttle history.

This morning to our surprise, we heard that the Space Shuttle Discovery would be piggy-backing on a NASA 747 to Washington DC's Dulles Airport! There was hope we might see it, since we live in the flight path. However when I looked at the fly-over map at the Dulles website, only Dulles and Washington DC were targeted. Hopeful nonetheless, we took our books to the deck at 10am, the ETA for Space Shuttle Discovery. We jumped at every plane sound, because normal flights were still on target (mostly) for the day. By 10:18, I went inside to check the Dulles website which said that the shuttle had safely landed at their airport. Saddened I broke the news to the kids. We returned indoors to our various studies...when my son yelled, "SOMETHING IS ROARING LOUDLY OUT THERE!" We opened the back door, ran onto the deck and looked up to see the space shuttle! WOW!

Photobucket

After the intial belly view, we hurriedly scrambled for our cameras. My son took all of these with both of our cameras.

Photobucket

We got to watch it soar through the sky for the longest time as it circled around.
Photobucket

Then it returned for another fly-over! The little plane is the chaser, T-38 jet.

Photobucket

It looked like it flew out to Warrenton! I said, Lafayette and Teddy Roosevelt visited Warrenton. The Discovery didn't want to be left out!

Photobucket

Now for upbeat Discovery trivia:
After the flyover, we watched NASA tv on-line to watch the landing and press announcement. How bittersweet, to have witnessed both the beginning and the end of an era. Never again will the Discovery fly through the air. What a significant time to put aside book-school to watch history in the making. My kids will one day tell their kids about this.