History is fun! History is cool! History is H.I.P.!
OK, well, maybe that last one is a stretch. But for this summer's group of nine local youth, a week spent at History in Progress (H.I.P.) camp, camp leaders did their best to make it so.
As is the case every summer, myriad opportunity exists for Lake Placid kids. Vacations, camps, hiking, swimming, visiting family, lounging aroundthese are all noble summer pursuits. With all these leisure activities at their disposal, trying to have kids wrap their heads around anything they perceive as school related takes true talent.
Talent is why Tom Dodd, Lake Placid Elementary School teacher, coordinates our program. The H.I.P. camp is a collaboration started with the Lake Placid Elementary School in 2012 in a combined effort to expose more local kids to their town and village history is a fun way, a way that makes history personal. The model is to invite each participant to pick a person, place, or event from Lake Placid history and explore that topic while creating a final project that goes on exhibit at The History Museum for a month.
This past August, nine boys and girls participated and in an effort to be truly transparent, my two daughters were part of that mix. Day one looked something like this: as parents drove up to the front of school to drop off their child, kids were slowly exiting the cars with looks of trepidation, sleepiness, and boredom already on their faces. As parents filled out the required registration forms, many admitted they weren't really sure about this program and sheepishly admitted they had to convince their kid or kids to attend. This was not a surprise. The same statements were made last year and we were ready with the response. "Just wait" we said. "Keep them coming and we promise them a good time." They kept coming and a good time was surely had by all.
Day one consisted of an orientation to the historical society and a walking field trip to tour the museum building. Kids received 'behind the scenes' tours of our back storage room and Freight House facility which allowed them to select a physical object which would inspire their project. The rest of the week was spent conducting research in the beautiful elementary school computer lab with Tom, myself, and Dean Dietrich, retired Lake Placid High School teacher and historical society trustee. This was where the magic happened and was the time kids stopped thinking of history as 'old stuff that happened a long time ago' and instead it became 'people and events that happened to people I know.'
Why do we conduct this program? To say it's because we're chartered by the state regents and it's required, is easy. To say it's because we want to connect to the schools and have teachers know we can be a resource for their classes is also a good answer, and true, but doesn't quite get to the heart of it. Personally, I want to conduct this program because connecting kids to THEIR history connects them to their families and to the community in which they live their lives. Two wonderful examples of this came to light this summer. One boy, while trolling the Freight House, came across a metal, German World War I helmet that had been found many years ago on a nearby property. This became his inspiration and he devoted his week to exploring this helmet and others like it as well as the 10th Mountain Division and their time spent training in the area. What was truly moving was on day two of camp when he showed up wearing his Grandpa's Army jacket. Now, his Grandpa wasn't old enough to be in World War I, but that helmet started a conversation between the boy, his mom, and his Grandpa in a way that maybe hadn't taken place before and perhaps wouldn't have without this nudge. The pride on the boy's face spoke volumes.
Now as if this wasn't great enough this same boy found a helmet similar to ours on a Google Images search. As it turned out, the helmet in that image belonged to the Potsdam Historical Society so we helped this brave boy make a call to their curator so he could ask questions and learn more. Their curator was more than willing to chat and was intrigued that this young person was asking such questions. Our thanks to the PHS for their kindness and patience.
Two other young ladies, both entering 6th grade, chose a luge sled as their inspiration. Wanting to make their presentation more personal, they got in touch with a Northwood School teacher who just so happened to have competed in Luge. They developed questions and, once they received the answers, came up with the idea to stage a news show set and videotaped themselves as if one was the newscaster and the other a reporter who conducted the interview. Thanks to Tom, they used green-screen technology to actually put themselves in the newsroom seats. Complete with suit jackets and microphones, they were ready to show everyone what they'd uncovered.
On the final night of camp, each student, or team, presented a finished project including power point presentations, videos, and posters. At the History Museum building in front of a crowd of family and friends including the new elementary school Principal Brian Latella, these brave kids shared what they learned. There were lots of nervous faces and shaky voices but these kids knew their stuff. History became about them and not just about dead people and long ago events. It became personal. And that was the whole point.
In other news, there are still spaces left in our Historic Pub Tour scheduled for next Thursday, Sept. 12 from 5 to 7:30 pm. Please call or email Jenn Tufano at the historical society for more details and to register.
Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society
Contact: Jennifer Tufano
by email at
verizon.net or visit