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Junior Ranger Camp wraps up at park

Published 1:26 am Sunday, July 13, 2014

After a week packed with arts, crafts, games and outdoor activities, Vicksburg National Military Park’s newest crop of young patrons seemed to barely realize they were learning history.
The first session of the park’s annual Junior Ranger Camp wrapped up Friday with about 20 students ages 8-12. The second session of camp begins July 21 and is already at capacity.
Seasonal ranger Lindsay Smith, who is a doctoral student in history at the University of Alabama, runs the camp, which focuses on the lives of soldiers, sailors and civilians during the Civil War though a series of arts and crafts projects, and outdoor activities that seemed to keep the children engaged in thinking about an era long before cellphones and computers.
“I think there’s a level of need to make them really proud of what it means to be from Vicksburg and from Mississippi,” said Smith, a Vicksburg native. ‘We all the time interpret the Civil War for people who are well into adulthood, but there’s a tendency sometimes to overlook kids.”
By the end of the week, the campers certainly seemed proud.

Damien Reeves, 7, left, and Mason Dixon, 8, react after seeing a mannequin in a storage closet of the Shirley House Wednesday morning during the Vicksburg National Military Park's Junior Ranger Camp. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)
Damien Reeves, 7, left, and Mason Dixon, 8, react after seeing a mannequin in a storage closet of the Shirley House Wednesday morning during the Vicksburg National Military Park’s Junior Ranger Camp. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

“Most kids stay at home and play video games all day. But there were a lot of kids doing this camp,” said 10-year-old Shelby Goss, an Agape Montessori student who attended camp.
On Thursday, Shelby was making an eagle out of clay as part of an activity on the importance of monuments at the battlefield where Union and Confederate forces clashed in 1863.
As Shelby crafted her miniature eagle, 10-year-old Ellie Koestler was fashioning a rifle from clay.
“I liked when we learned how to mark with a rifle and when we were marching and doing the relay race. It was the funnest part,” Ellie said.
Both girls said they were interested in returning to the park, completely unaware of how Civil War battlefields have been working for decades to attract more women and young people.
Jon Daniel Busby, 8, said he also enjoyed the crafting activities, as he showed of a model of the USS Cairo that he had made. He was most interested in the history of the brown water navy’s attack on Vicksburg.
He also came away from camp with some basic knowledge of the siege and the war in general.
“The Civil war lasted 47 days in Vicksburg but in all the war lasted four years,” he said when asked to describe something he learned during camp.
Eight-year-old Damien Reeves quickly summed up his camp visit, as he was busy working on a classroom activity.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said.