The Old Bank Summer Youth Volunteer Team is composed of six creative and energetic youth ranging in age from 13-17. During the summer of 2004, each team member worked 5 hours per week at Decatur’s 1833 Old State Bank, a historic site museum offering tours and educational programming related to local and Alabama history.
This past summer, the group’s primary project was to assist in the planning, preparation, and implementation of our Past Times Summer History Camp for children ages 7-11. Each session of camp focused on a specific era in Decatur’s history and allowed the participants to discover the past through entertaining and educational crafts, games, stories, music, dance and special guests. Camp sessions developed by the youth volunteers included “Bright Beginnings: Life on the Frontier,” “Shadows of War,” “the Twin Cities: Progress and Growth” and “The Roaring 20’s.”
In addition to helping design the program for each session, student volunteers served as group leaders during the actual operation of the camp. Youth volunteers helped present each session’s historical story, led games and craft activities, taught the children music of the time period, played the guitar on folk songs and sing-a-longs, and even taught them how to dance the Charleston.
One of the positive benefits of the volunteer team’s work in planning and preparing for the camp was their development of materials that will be included as part of the Old Bank’s supplemental curriculum activities given to local schools who tour the building or are visited in the classroom by Old Bank staff. The Old Bank Summer Youth Volunteer Team forged a special bond that will likely instill a continued interest and love for history in the hearts and minds of the camp participants.
The Old Bank’s 2004 Past Times Summer History Camp was a revival of a program held years ago but implemented with several new twists. Though Old Bank staff put the idea for the program forth, the Summer Youth Volunteer Team helped to decide the specific focus of each session and the activities that would comprise the schedule for each day. Students researched each specific time period to gather information and ideas, and then tested proposed activities to see if they were “do-able” in the format of the planned event. Students created supplemental materials that could be used at time-fillers as children finished one activity and waited to rotate to another.
Volunteers organized supplies and created “kits” for craft activities, which made camp operations run more smoothly. Volunteers had the opportunity to work both as individuals and as team members. On individual projects, they showed creativity and initiative, following a project through to its completion. As team members, they worked well together and respected each other’s interests and abilities. This atmosphere of mutual respect allowed each student to contribute his or her talents to the overall project, which contributed greatly to the success of the camp.
Each camp session was designed to accommodate 20-25 students, and the project generated a tremendous positive response by camp participants and in the community. The camp received positive media coverage in the local newspaper, and helped to promote the development and use of the Old Bank as an educational facility for area residents. The Past Times Summer History Camp challenged the notion of history as being “boring,” and the younger children looked up to their teenage volunteers, as they made history seem cool and fun!
As only one person staffs the Old Bank, this event would not be possible without the support and creative energy of the Summer Youth Volunteer Team. Over the course of the summer, six individuals with diverse skills merged into a true team, and their collective efforts created a dynamic new program where history is experienced firsthand. It is hoped that the continuation of our Past Times Summer History Camp will help a new generation of students better understand who they are, and strengthen their connection to this community. Through the efforts of the Old Bank’s Summer Youth Volunteer Team, the Old Bank became a place where young children could discover and explore the special bonds that define our past, and the common hopes that link our future.