Easton Kid Gets A Big Top History Lesson At Westport Historical Society

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Noelle DeFelice displays the miniature circus she made at the workshop at the Westport Historical Society.
Noelle DeFelice displays the miniature circus she made at the workshop at the Westport Historical Society. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Violet Diaz, 8, displays a paper chain she made at the Westport Historical Society.
Violet Diaz, 8, displays a paper chain she made at the Westport Historical Society. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
The kids at the Westport Historical Society make art projects on the last day of the circus workshop.
The kids at the Westport Historical Society make art projects on the last day of the circus workshop. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Though it wasn't circus-related, the kids wanted to make pet rocks on their last day.
Though it wasn't circus-related, the kids wanted to make pet rocks on their last day. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
The kids made dolls at the Westport Historical Society using old buttons.
The kids made dolls at the Westport Historical Society using old buttons. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
A new interactive exhibit at the Westport Historical Society invites the public to see if they can identify the people in these old photographs.
A new interactive exhibit at the Westport Historical Society invites the public to see if they can identify the people in these old photographs. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

WESTPORT, Conn. -- Kids got a chance to learn about local history and three-dimensional art while having big-top fun at a circus workshop offered by the Westport Historical Society.

Throughout the weeklong program, which finished Thursday, kids learned about Alexander Calder. The sculptor had a home and studio in Connecticut and created the Calder Circus, small wire models of circus figures that move. They also learned about circus creator P.T. Barnum of Bridgeport. The kids also created their own Calder Circuses, as well as other art projects, and played circus games.

"It was really fun," said Parker Teed, 11. Parker has participated in a number of the Historical Society's summer programs, including a Junior Detectives program last week where kids learned more about Westport's history from some of the town's senior citizens. "This week we got to make our own circuses. We made fire breathers, and ringmasters and tight rope walkers."

Elizabeth DeVoll, the Historical Society's education director, said the organization tries to make local history fun for kids. Through programs such as the circus workshop and the Junior Detectives, kids can be intellectually stimulated in the summer through educational activities.

"It's a little more intellectual kind of fun than they would get at a typical camp," DeVoll said. "We try to make it a little different and fun. They almost don't realize they're learning."

Schools have been cutting back on teaching local history, DeVoll said. For many years, Westport third-graders would learn about the town's history, then tour the Historical Society with their families. But that program was canceled after the switch to the Common Core, which does not focus on local history.

"We're trying to get that reinstated. People love it," DeVoll said. "Westport has such amazing history, and the kids are really into it."

Mitchell Manusky, 8, came all the way from Easton to take part in the program. He said history is one of his favorite subjects in school.

"You get to learn about the past, and how things were and how they've changed," he said.

In addition to learning about history, the kids also learned about each other and made friends.

"You get to meet kids you wouldn't normally meet and all play together. It's unique in that way, because of all the different ages, and backgrounds and schools," said Noelle DeFelice, one of the students.

"It was really fun. It's good to make new friends," said Jared Gordon.

The Historical Society is also bringing in more adults through an exhibit of group photographs taken from the last century of Westport's history. Many of the photos were found in the vault, and DeVoll said the Historical Society has been inviting the public to come in and see whether they can identify any of the people in the photographs.

The interactive exhibit has brought many people in who have never visited the Historical Society, and that many have enjoyed seeing old photos of familiar faces, she said.

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