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Howard County Historical Society invites kids to peer into the past

After shaking the cream in a small jar vigorously for several minutes, Eli Woodruff deemed it ready.

He unscrewed the top, stuck a knife in and spread it on a cracker.

“It tastes life restaurant-quality butter,” the 11-year-old said, satisfied.

On the first Saturday of October, Eli and three other participants gathered in the Museum of Howard County History for the lesson “Bringing in the Bounty.” Through stories, crafts and activities, the young participants learned about crops and the responsibilities of children their own age in the past.

“She loves it,” said Denise Desmond, of her daughter, Jocelyn, 10. “She learns a little and the crafts are so much fun.”

While the Howard County Historical Society has offered various monthly programs for adults such as the popular Lunch Date with History series and various walking tours, this is the first time the Society had offered a regular program for children, according to Patricia Greenwald, first vice president of the Howard County Historical Society and co-chair of the education committee.

Geared for ages 5 to 12, “A Year of Old-Fashioned Fun” is held on the first Saturday of every month. Each session is centered around a theme and costs $5. Children have learned about Benjamin Banneker, school days in the 1800s and enjoyed a tea time in the parlor.

“What amazed me was the kids thought they had to put on British accents,” Greenwald said of the tea time.

Most of the adult committee members are retired teachers, Greenwald said, and take time to prepare their lessons. For the Bounty lesson, youth decorated pumpkins, created a miniature Thanksgiving table that included a small turkey made from an avocado pit and made sunflowers.

“I heard about it and it sounded like a lot of fun,” said Beth Woodruff, Eli’s mother. “I was so impressed this was all up here.”

After the first few months, the program has attracted a few regulars, Greenwald said, but there are often more mentors than youth attending.

“We are very disappointed with the turnout,” Greenwald said. “With anything, it takes a little bit of time to become part of the community.”

Future plans are to open a children’s education center in the former Quaker School on the property. The Old-Fashioned Fun programs would be part of the center’s curriculum.

“One purpose of these Saturday programs is to give test runs,” Greenwald said. “What works, what doesn’t. Basically, we’ve been pretty pleased with everything.”

When the Society first formed its children’s education committee, members traveled to surrounding counties to see the different programs offered to youth. All, they discovered, had dedicated space for a children’s center

“We don’t have a dedicated space,” Greenwald said. “The building has a huge attic. I can’t wait to get shelves in there. There is room for a long table.”

Plans are to create four different period-specific rooms in the building, said Shawn Gladden, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society. There would also be space to store all the supplies and crafts necessary for the various programs.

“Right now it is serving as storage,” said Shawn Gladden, executive director. “We want to renovate it and restore it.”

The building needs extensive renovations, including a new heating and air-conditioning system and relocating a bathroom on the front porch to inside.

“We are getting donations,” Greenwald said. “We need $300,000 or more. A lot of work needs to be done.”

For 2019, “ A Year of Old-Fashioned Fun” will be trimmed down to four sessions, Greenwald said. As more funds are raised for restoring the school house, the committee hopes to build a thriving children’s program that can offer regular activities as well as special programs on days off from school.

“I would love to see more people come,” Desmond said, as she watched her daughter gather up her crafts. “It’s a great opportunity for kids.”

There are two remaining sessions of A Year of Old-Fashioned Fun for 2018:

On Nov. 3: The Original Marylanders, Before the arrival of the Europeans, people lived in Howard County. Who were they? $5

On Dec. 1: Deck The Halls, Create old-fashioned holiday decorations.

Both sessions are $5 each and run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Museum of Howard County History, 8328 Court Ave., Ellicott City. For more information or to register, go to

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