By Jennifer Klein & Meg McAllister, Leaders of Troop 71644
Bedford Girl Scout Troop 71644 recently got to spend a Colonial Overnight at historic Plimoth Plantation, a program offered through Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.
In the Wampanoag homesite, the fourth graders tested out the Native American’s dug-out canoes for comfort and for photos before exploring their wetu houses. “Where did they sleep?” a few of the girls asked. “Right there where you’re sitting,” one of the Native American guides replied. The bench was a far cry from most of the girls’ comfortable beds.
Forward to the English Village, where the girls went in and out of tiny one-roomed houses, trying out brooms, testing ladders, and inspecting foods and crafts that the role-playing colonists were making. The girls spotted small gardens waiting for their spring planting, new baby lambs, meandering chickens and a very friendly cow.
At dinner, the troop was served a 17th century-style meal of roasted turkey, a carrot sallet (salad), cheate bread, a Shrewsbury cake (a cookie meant to be eaten with the rest of dinner), and apple cider. The eating utensils contained no forks, as forks were not yet common in 1627.
The program included fun and educational evening activities for the troop. The girls tried their hand at writing with quills and learned how different the letters and spelling of 1627 looked from current day. In 1627, traditional English spelling rules had not yet been established (an idea the girls were very happy to embrace).
After their writing lesson, the girls tried on the linen pants, shirts, vests and skirts that would have been worn by pilgrim girls and boys. Another favorite activity was learning about traditional 17th-century games. The scouts tested out the wooden cup and ball game, nine pin bowling, shooting marbles through a knicker box, and hoops and sticks. They spontaneously launched into hoops and sticks races just like children of the 1620s would have done.
When the darkness of night had settled in, the troop and chaperones huddled together by dim candlelight on the first floor of the English Village’s fortress. Candles would have been rare in 1627; instead, Pilgrims would have used cod liver oil as a lamplight, which makes a very stinky fishy-smelling light, the guide explained. In a brief question-and-answer session by the candlelight, the pig-loving troop learned that the pigs of Plimoth Plantation would have been swine, closer to wild boars, and less like today’s tame tuskless pink farm pigs.
When the wind blew out the candle, the troop listened to the quiet that surrounded them and imagined the cries of the mountain lions, wolves and coyotes the pilgrims must have heard. A walk back to the indoor sleeping quarters revealed more stars than most had seen in a long time.
After a modern breakfast, a trip to the museum gift shop, and a jaunt to the Mayflower II, the girls and their weary chaperones headed back home to their present-day lives in Bedford. The girls had gained a deeper understanding of what life was like in the 1620s as well as a greater appreciation of the advancements that have been made in the past 400 years.
You don’t have to be a scout to enjoy this unique experience! For more information about group and family overnights, see https://www.plimoth.org/learn/programs-kids-scouts-families.