Ever since 2007, E has wanted to be a docent at La Purisima Mission near Lompoc. Docents there dress in period attire and perform a variety of tasks for a variet of special events throughout the year. While visitors wander the grounds, these volunteers make soap, mold candles, grind corn, make tortillas, bake in the horno, spin wool, weave, build in the smithy shop and tan hides. They care for the mission animals and answer visitors' questions about the grounds, the history and the activities.
But children weren't allowed in the docent program back in those days, so we just returned when we could to enjoy the days of hands-on activities among friendly folk. I provided our contact info to the docent organizer in case the rule should ever change, but the e-mail box remained devoid of docent news.
So I was quite surprised one winter day to receive an invitation for the girls (and me) to take part in the docent training program. The girls have grown and their interests are ever changing, but when I shared the invitation, they were both thrilled and more than willing to dedicate the following six or eight consecutive Saturdays to learning history.
We've had fantastic days at the mission. Docent training for the adults involves a lot of lecture (there's a LOT to learn and they try to consolidate all that information into as little time as possible), but the kids' training sessions have been entirely hands-on and led by fantastically kid-centric adults. While we all enjoyed making our own leather purses (which we'll wear during full-costume interpretive days), the girls have also enjoyed running the trails on the expansive mission grounds, making adobe bricks (complete with mixing the mud with their feet), playing traditional Chumash games, making instruments and game pieces, working with the loom and, most recently, making their own mugs on the manual spinning wheel (or slab design) for use on those same interpretive days.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a conflict with the class; I was already committed to attend a kids' fair in Santa Barbara. We knew there would be more than 100 vendors there, each with free activities for the kids. But when I asked the girls which they'd prefer (kids' fair or docent training), neither had to think about it. "We want to go to docent training because it's fun," V said.
Yep, they chose history education over a day of fun in Santa Barbara. THAT is how great the LPM docent program is for kids. We look forward to sharing the enthusiasm with visitors as we enter the fold.