This fall, Village Academy classes are back! In my head, I’ve been calling it Village Academy 2.0, because we’re doing it just a wee bit differently. How so?
We launched Village Academy classes back in 2005. The idea was to create a series of hands-on classes on historical topics that may or may not occur in our classroom space. When you only have one real classroom space (the second floor of the school), you have to get creative! For the very first series, we had classes for adults, teens and younger kids. However, only the kid classes seemed to work, so in later years, we focused just on the kids. A variety of staff members taught these classes—from Mrs. Kennedy at the farmstead to Mr. Clementine with the donkeys, but the education department did the bulk of the planning.
When the economy took a nose-dive, this was a program that we realized had to be put on hiatus. Planning these classes can be extremely time-consuming, and sometimes we just didn’t have enough students to make it worth our while. Personally, I hated doing this because some of these classes were such fun to plan! I mean, where else can you do a class all about donkeys?
Since 2009, we’ve been rethinking how we use the buildings on Main Street. You can already see some of these thoughts in the redesigned General Store. Right now, both the former Print Shop and Law Office are empty of artifacts and exhibits—which means they’re perfect for programming space. Suddenly, we have additional classroom space—space that can be shared! Meanwhile, I was noticing how popular handcrafts had become. Visitors were asking staff more and more questions about spinning, knitting, and other traditional arts. There seemed to be a need that we’re in a great position to fulfill.
Our staff is still small, so we decided to experiment. You’ve probably noticed that we have some very talented people that work with us. What if we had them come up with classes, we provide the space and spread the word, and then we split the proceeds? This model is going out for its trial run this fall. At this point, I don’t know what kind of classes we’ll offer in the future—it’s up to the creativity of our friends! The hope is that we end up offering a wide variety of topics, at many different skill levels. Some of these are classes that families can certainly take together.
Sharon DeVolt, aka Mrs. Kennedy, will be teaching the very first Village Academy class in just a few weeks. She’ll be teaching crochet, and there’s talk about starting a “chain gang” for interested folks to come to the Village to work on crochet projects.
My reasons for wanting to teach at the Village Academy are twofold, my fascination with 19th Century life and the so-called “fiber arts”. When I am working at the farmstead as Mrs. Kennedy, sitting on the porch spinning wool, crocheting, lap quilting in the parlor, or perhaps sewing on the 1850’s machine, I often imagine the actual inhabitants of the home doing those very same things 150 years ago. It is very difficult to find patterns or “how to” instructions from that time period because one generation taught the next. Then, it was as important for women to know how to sew, knit and crochet as it was for them to cook, but now these skills are hobbies. My maternal grandmother, a first generation Scottish-American farmer, taught me how to crochet and hand sew while sitting on her front porch in rural North Carolina when I was 9. That same summer, my paternal grandmother, a genteel Virginian, taught me how to knit and embroider in her formal Antebellum parlor. About that time my mother showed me how to use a sewing machine and do cross-stitch in our suburban home. Since that time, I have discovered spinning and weaving and have passed many of these skills on to my daughter. When I first began spinning and my kids saw the time involved from cleaning, combing and spinning just to make yarn, one of them said, “Mom, you do know you can just buy yarn at Walmart”. True, but the feeling of accomplishment in creating a handcrafted gift as a new family heirloom is priceless.
Right now, we have two classes on the schedule, but more will come. Check them out on our website(here), and sign up! And if you’d like to become a Village Academy teacher, contact me directly.