Summer camps at Stratford

Are you one of 70 million grandparents in the U.S. today? The average age of first-time grandparents is only 47, old enough to appreciate the rich heritage of our country and young enough to take an active part in the education and cultural enrichment of their grandchildren. This emerging role for grandparents is increasingly significant as parents seem to be working more and have busy schedules. To that end, grandparents throughout the country have found a wonderful way to bond with the younger generation: the history-based summer residential camp programs at Stratford Hall, an 18th century plantation, home of the Lees of Virginia.

Campers get hands-on experiences with an archaeological dig, fossil hunting on the beach and many traditional colonial activities, including, for example, hammering hot iron with the blacksmith, an 18th school lesson, and hoeing Stratford’s tobacco crop. Trays of 18th Century delicacies are carried down the brick walk from the outside kitchen to the Great House dining room to seehich camper can get to the Great House fastest without spilling—all while the cook is harassing them with “You better get movin’, Col. Lee is gettin’ impatient for his dinner.”

The arts have not been forgotten. Practice on the recorder is enjoyed by all ages. One 18th century Virginian commented that “there seemed to be tooting coming from every house.” The harpsichord is the classic instrument of the period, fascinating to play on and to see how it differs from today’s piano. Children may study actual descriptions of early runaway servants and draw posters picturing their interpretation of such descriptions.

Participants in Stratford’s three-day grandparent/grandchild camp relive history. After being inducted into the Virginia Militia and learning to march (are you sure you know your right foot from your left?), campers reenact the Revolutionary War attack upon Stratford. In April, 1781, a British landing party rowed ashore, apparently intent on burning buildings there. A small group of local Militiamen, under the leadership of Richard Henry Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, defended the Stratford landing. The single British casualty was given a solemn burial on the beach. How can children better come to appreciate a small piece of America’s fight for independence!

At first, campers are startled and puzzled at the shout, “Fire in the henhouse!” It seems that Henny Penny has been playing with candles again and ignited a (simulated) fire. It’s time to man the bucket brigade, a cooling activity on a warm summer day as water seems to splash everywhere. Two lines of campers compete to see which can douse the “burning hen house” with the most water. There are, of course, usually some camper comments about fried chicken for dinner.

This 3-day camp experience is not complete without traditional fishing in the millpond, and enjoying the soft, warm sands of Stratford’s pristine beach while searching for Miocene fossils, such as shark’s teeth. There is free time to hike the nature trails which meander throughout the nearly 2000 acres, or to just relax in the solitude of a “lazy, hazy day of summer.”

Our campers come from all over the country and leave with last impressions:

“Better organized than any intergenerational that I have attended”
“I’ll be recommending this to many friends”
“Staff overlooked nothing…a delight to be part of this program.”
“Great program! Unique.”
“My granddaughter and I had a wonderful time,lots of bonding, fun and learning together.”
“Captivating, content-full, well paced, a gem of a setting.”

For more information about our Grandparent/Grandchild Summer Camps, please check out our website or call Bill Doerken at (804) 493-8038 (ext. 1026). You can also ask questions below!

– Bill Doerken, Coordinator of Special Programs