New Brunswick: Fredericton, Kings Landing - Summer Camp with a Time Twist. Visiting Cousins and Family Kin at Kings Landing is time travel at its best. For a week at a time it is possible for to children between the ages of 9 and 15 to take a step back in time and pretend it is the mid 1800s. This remarkable summer camp experience allows participants to become immersed in the culture of 19th century Canada. It provides a front row seat and an unobstructed view of Canadian history and a unique perspective on the history and politics of the US during the same time.
The perfect game of pretend. The Visiting Cousins program is offered for seven weeks during the summer. During the camp children become visiting relatives to Kings Landings families, dress in period costume and participate in as many 19th century activities as possible, associated with one of the historic homes in the village. Participants have the opportunity to practice life skills including cooking, butter making, needlepoint, wool processing, and acting as an apprentice to the blacksmith, cooper, carpenter, sawyer or farmer. Bonus points: A portion of each day is also spent attending classes in the 1840 one-room schoolhouse. (Kings Landing Education Office 5804 Route 102 Kings Landing, NB Canada E6K0A5. (506) 363-4954, 363-4999 or Kings Landing Visiting Cousins.)
Dateline 1996 diary excerpt. There I was, sitting in history class thinking, "There's a more fun way of learning this!" Why can't school be more like my life at Kings Landing? The teacher's voice droned on as I looked out the window. I recalled my summer days and the last time we were in New Brunswick, Canada.
Here's the scoop. I was lucky enough to attend a living history camp at Kings Landing. They call it "Visiting Cousins" and that is what we all pretended to be for a week. I went with my two cousins, Scott and Jaime, and my big sister, Amanda. As it turned out it was really fun, even better than space camp.
On the way there Scott was a little worried about what he would be doing during the week, no soccer or baseball. Actually, we were all a little nervous because we did not really have any proof that it was going to be fun. What if it was boring and we were trapped? To make things even worse Amanda said we could be in trouble because we didn't know anything about the history of Canada and probably all of the other kids would know plenty. That idea had not occurred to me. As I wondered if this was really a good idea we arrived at the back door of Kings Landing.
Following a nice lady in a long dress and apron we registered and it was then that we received our new family names for the week. Part of the camp experience includes trading shorts, t-shirts and sandals for clothing worn by children in the 19th century. I received my sleeping shirt and cap, a pair of moccasins and a wonderful old time dress that was to be my costume for the week. I became Jule Huestis.
The costume that I received was what I wore each day for the next week. Lucky for me it came with an apron. The kind of clothing depends on the assigned household. It must be typical of the stature of the household. Long dresses or skirts for the girls and breeches for the boys each meant to represent any time between 1840-1890.
I have a hint for anyone planning to attend the camp. Pack light. Why? You really only need a little bit because if it was not invented before 1890 it is not allowed. That means no CD players or hair dryers. No make up or baseball caps. Once checked in we went upstairs and the parents stayed behind. The check-in house is also the dormitory were we slept every night. Right away I met my roommates for the week. They were all my age. I remember thinking, what a relief, these are neat kids who love history too. Maybe Canada isn't going to be scarry at all.
We spent the next five days learning how things really were more than a hundred years ago. Each morning we took turns milking the cows and feeding the pigs. Each day I got to do different activities like, cleaning, cooking, gardening and other random chores which all of us shared. I also learned how to curtsy and to churn butter. So cool!
There are usually two children assigned to a house. Each of us became the visiting cousin to our assigned family and the history interpreters in that house became our adopted family. Each day our lunches were at different houses for example most of the time I went to the Long's house to eat even though my temporary family was located at the Heustis house. During meals (and anytime we are in the public area) we had to speak as though it was 1850. So, basically the rule is while being a visiting cousin no one is allowed to talk about things like TV, cellphones, computers, Game Boys, or magazines because that sort of stuff wasn't invented yet.It was pretending to the max.
We all attended a one-room schoolhouse and our teacher was called a schoolmarm. How could that be fun you may be wondering? Don't worry we aren't talking language arts pages or math work sheets. We learned poems, read from old time schoolbooks and learned the British National Anthem (God Save the Queen) in English and French. Kings Landing represents a Loyalist Colony so we learned about politics in an off hand way. I also learned the view from Canada about some events is not exactly the same as we learn in the US. But when you are part of a living history session what matters is what happened to the families at the site and how they lived their lives.
My week was a little bit like being a cast member in a made-for-TV documentary. We did our tasks and activities while visitors to Kings Landing took their tours. We were demonstrating part of history for all to see. The whole time I was there I never realized I was learning because it was so much fun. In fact the experience was so very cool that I plan to go again.
Even if you can't go to the camp you should go to the settlement for one of their plays or activities. There is a long list at their website. Kings Landing Historical Settlement just won a special award for being the "Top Attraction" in Canada. They deserve it because they are really the best.
About Kings Landing. Nestled in a majestic setting along the St. John River Valley, Kings Landing Historical Settlement depicts the one hundred year transformation of a young colony into a vibrant nation. More than 70 historic buildings, complete with artifacts, furniture, tools and equipment set the historic scene. The history is real; the stories are true. Staff are thoroughly trained and immersed in the 19th century to provide you, the visitor, with an authentic visit to New Brunswick in the 1800s.
Location on the planet. Kings Landing Historical Settlement is easy to find, located on the Trans Canada Highway Route #2 just 20 minutes west of Fredericton, New Brunswick, at Exit #253. Exit #253 Trans Canada West of Fredericton 5804. Route 102 Prince William, New Brunswick
Make it happen. Tours of the village are self-guided, with a map and orientation information provided upon arrival. Plan at least half of a day for your visit in order to receive the benefits of the atmosphere in the village and discover its many possibilities. If your family members are part of visiting cousins then plan to spend the day and share some of their discoveries. More than likely it will make you want to be a kid again. To get the details call (506) 363-4999, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gov.nb.ca/kingslanding
Author's note: In 1996 I had the remarkable opportunity to be at Kings Landing Visiting Cousin. Updating this page has made me smile and relive the experience all over again. I am thrilled to learn that the program is still available and it looks as lovely as it was when I was there more than a decade ago. As a young child I loved the experience; as a teen living the the US I annoyed teachers by providing a Candian viewpoint; now as an adult I still correct misconceptions of North American history. It is certainly true that children learn what they live. And Kings Landing offers a marvelous way for children to absorb history while having fun. I believe Kings Landing is a better living history lesson than Williamsburg, VA and Williamsburg is exceptional.
Family Vacation Planning
While the cousins were at Kings landing for a week - actually only four and one half days my (parents and grandparents) had time to enjoy the Bay of Fundy area - dine on lobster, kayak at sunset, stay up late, and unwind. It was a perfect beginning to our summer vacation the second part of which was spent on PEI - think Anne of Green Gables.
Travel, History, and Learning. There are several books that relate to life in North America during the 19th Century. They help reinforce history without using textbook boredom. My parents used the following books to supplement our summer camp experience. We enjoyed the books together and had plenty of time in the car driving home to talk about the ideas and concepts presented in the books and discovered at Kings Landing summer camp.
Ultimate Field Trip 4: A Week in the 1800's. By Susan E. Goodman with photography by Michael J. Dolittle. This hardcover picture book of Kings Landing is terrific. It captures the spirit of living history. Suitable for ages 6-12.
A Pioneer Sampler: Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840. By Barbara Greenwood. This is an entertaining and useful non-fiction book worth having. Suitable for ages 6-12.
The Little House on the Prairie (Book Series). By Laura Ingalls Wilder. While not about Canada the time frame and the life situations correlate. This series is well written and entertaining to all ages. Suitable for ages 8-13.
Grasshopper Summer. By Anne Turner. This is a fun read to share with a child. Suitable for ages 8-13.
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie (Dear America Series). By Christina Gregory. This is written in a trail diary format. The time frame is 1847. This entire book series makes history relevant to young readers. This series represents a good idea that has been well executed. Suitable for ages 8-13.
Nory Ryan's Song. By Patrcia Reilly Giff. This book is set in Ireland during the 1840's and serves to explain the reasons for risking everything to go to "The New World". It is an excellent book to read together because it deals with the obligations to family and to each other. It is also available on audiocassettes. Suitable for ages 8-14.
Hue and Cry. By Elizabeth Yates. The setting is New England in the early 19th century. It deals with the turmoil of the time as experienced by a teenaged girl who is deaf. A good read to be shared with teens.
Beyond the Western Sea: Escape from Home. By Avi. This book begins a series absorbed in the transition from life in the Old Country to life in North America. Colorful and clever this book is best suited for anyone ages 12 years to adult.
Originally wrtten by J. Kirstan Nelson-Duac at the age of 10. Recently updated Jule Nelson-Duac on freelance staff at FTF. Copyright 2013.