Junior Ranger Camp and Call to Arms: 1778! among
Summer learning moments for kids at Valley Forge

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. - Summer break doesn't have to mean a break from learning for America's kids. National Parks across the nation provide an abundance of teachable moments. At Valley Forge National Historical Park, for example, a camp and new Call to Arms program are among the fun, memorable and educational opportunities available to parents hoping to avoid the "summer slide." *

Junior Ranger Adventure Camp at Valley Forge allows children to explore the park, hike the forest and meadows, discover plants and animals, meet characters from the American Revolution and earn Junior Ranger badges. The weeklong sessions are available from July 11 to August 5 for children 8 to 12. A 20-page activity booklet, downloadable at http://www.nps.gov/vafo/learn/kidsyouth/index.htm, focuses on reading comprehension and fun math problems such as figuring out how many trees the soldiers needed to create the encampment's 1,000 huts.

And kids can enlist in the Continental Army during the new, no-cost Call to Arms: 1778! Presented by Once Upon a Nation at noon on Saturdays and Sundays, young recruits will learn to march and drill just like the soldiers trained under Baron von Steuben on the Park's hallowed grounds. After a vigorous, hour-long military muster, the children receive orders for their first "mission."

Valley Forge Secrets and Spies, each Saturday at 2 p.m., is keen on keeping young minds sharp. The scenario: There's rumor of a plot to kidnap George Washington at Valley Forge and he needs help. Savvy youth sleuths, will learn 18th century spy techniques to foil the plot from the General's trusted Life Guards. Think invisible ink, counterespionage and more.

A must for tweens is Valley Forge After Hours. Also produced by Once Upon A Nation, it's an immersive three-hour evening adventure in which participants role-play characters of the period as they dine on Colonial cuisine with Martha Washington, meet the General in his original stone headquarters and hear the tales of soldiers around a campfire.

During hour-long Ranger-led walking tours, kids can also learn about the Continental Army's historic winter of 1777-78 Valley Forge encampment and its significance as the turning point in the American Revolution. The walks begin at Varnum's Quarters at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays and forty-minute versions for the whole family are hosted throughout the week at 10:20 a.m., 12:20 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. Young participants are encouraged to write about their adventures.

Guided Trolley Tours, bike rentals and more are also available at Valley Forge National Historical Park, affording families the opportunity to better appreciate the beauty and vastness of its 3500-acre landscape as well as to envision the events that took place on it some 234 years ago.

Recommended reading for children with an interest in Valley Forge and the American Revolution includes The Winter of Red Snow: The Diary of Abigail Stewart at Valley Forge; Yankee Doodle Boy: A Young Soldier's Adventures in the American Revolution; and, for older kids, Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson. All are available at the Encampment Store in the Visitors Center at Valley Forge National Historical Park.

For more information about Valley Forge National Historical Park, go to www.nps.gov/vafo. For more information about how to plan a weekend escape or find affordable accommodations in the Valley Forge area and Montgomery County, visit www.valleyforge.org.

* "The summer slide" refers to reading and math proficiency losses in school children during the three-month summer break. Research cited by Reading is Fundamental also suggests these losses can often be cumulative. For more information about how to combat the summer slide, visit Reading Is Fundamental's Summer Slide page.