The Prairie Village Museum hosted a "Being German in Russia" camp last week, August 8-12 and 14.
The camp had two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each day. Around 22 kids attended the morning session and around 18 attended in the afternoon. The camp was open to children ages 7-12.
"We did some things that were probably typical for those German Russian settlers at that time that migrated over to America from Russia," Monica Houim, camp director, said.
Students who took part had a great time at camp, even making pictures fun.
Houim taught the campers about the history of how German Russian settlers moved from Germany to Russia, then to America. Campers learned about Catherine the Great and her influence in the migration from Germany to Russia. Catherine offered free land, freedom of religion and freedom from fighting in wars. However, when Alexander the II came to power, it became difficult for settlers to remain in Russia.
"I had to do my homework," Houim said. "There's a lot of heritage around the area that is German Russian, and I have always had an interest in my heritage anyway, so I decided this was something I wanted to do."
Through various activities, campers learned what it might have been like for immigrants during that time.
Kids made family trees and tried to trace their ancestors. They also played games and did crafts from that time. There was a scavenger hunt that the kids enjoyed, which Houim tied in with the lifestyle and traditions of German Russians during that time. Someone came in to teach campers about rope making, and someone also came in to make Kuchen, German cake.
"German Russians had some hardships, but they also had some good times. They loved to sing and dance," Houim said, which is why campers were taught a German song and two traditional dances. Campers also learned how to count to ten and how to say the days of the week in German.
Houim wanted kids to know the importance of the German culture and language, which is something that was lost after settling in America during World War II. "No one wanted to be thought of as a Nazi sympathizer, so a lot of the German heritage was starting to get lost, especially the language," Houim said.
The campers performed their song and dances, and recited the German numbers up to ten and the days of the week, at the Village Fair on the 14th.