When hands are learning, so is the mind, coordinators said at the Avery Research Center summer day camp.
The African-American cultural and heritage center at 125 Bull St. in Charleston this summer hosted 23 young day-campers in two five-day sessions. Now in its fourth year, the summer camp helps youths gain a better understanding of African-American history and culture through expert instruction and hands-on experiences.
Camp activities include storytelling, dancing and drumming, and making indigo dye, quilt art and sweetgrass baskets. The camp expands on knowledge children often have gained at school and focuses on the Lowcountry's African-American heritage, said Avery Research Center Interim Director Georgette Mayo.
"It really develops them as human beings," Mayo said of the camp. "It really makes them culturally aware, and if you know where you are from as far as culture and history, then you are more likely to appreciate others' culture and history."
This year's summer camps drew children from all over the Lowcountry and included Gullah storytelling by Lannie Hiers, introductory instruction on making quilt art by Marlene O'Bryant-Seabrook, introductory lessons by Arianne King-Comer on the art of batik-making using indigo dye, working with sweetgrass under the direction of Henrietta Snype and African drumming and dancing with Nia Productions.
"We love having the kids here and love having them learning something and doing something new. We do have a lot of repeaters," Mayo said.
One of last week's campers, Darnell Monroe, 11, said while preparing to batik with indigo that he had heard about it at school and was looking forward to trying it.
"I am going to make something. I'm not sure what it's going to be," he added.
Reagan Watson, 12, of Summerville said, "It's a really great experience, and I'm learning a lot and making new friends."
The camp was founded by former Avery Research Center Director Marvin Dulaney and hosts boys and girls ages 10-15. This year's fee was $20. The camp is considering ways to involve youths older than 15, Mayo said, perhaps with an advanced camp.
Many children do multiple summers at the camp, Mayo said. She said she's heard more than once from campers who said they'd like to come back but will be too old by the next summer.
Avery also sponsors Saturdays for Youth during the school year. Once a month, youths ages 10-15 get instruction and participate in activities such as arts, music and filmmaking, "again focusing on African-American history and culture," Mayo said.
She said summer campers attend sessions at Avery from 9 a.m. to noon. In previous summers, three sessions were held, but this year there were only two because of budgeting issues. In the past, camp activities included an outing to the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel, and Mayo said she'd like to have that back on the camp itinerary next year if the budget permits.
At Caw Caw, the kids toured a rice plantation "and very quickly learned what the year 1739 meant," Mayo said.
That was the year of the Stono Rebellion, the largest and bloodiest slave revolt in British Colonial America. On Sept. 9 of that year in what is now the town of Ravenel, African slaves burned plantation homes, killed 20-25 whites and began a march they hoped would end in freedom in Spanish Florida. About 100 slaves eventually joined the revolt, which was intercepted by a South Carolina militia near the Edisto River.
In the battle, 20 whites and 44 slaves were killed, and the rebellion was suppressed.
The Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture, a division of the College of Charleston, was established to collect, preserve and make public the historical and cultural heritage of African-Americans in Charleston and the Lowcountry.
Call 953-7609 or e-mail avery firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Edward C. Fennell at email@example.com or 937-5560.