El Morro students learn crafts and trades of 1700s as they celebrate Colonial Days

With activities such as making candles or pounding designs onto pieces of leather to create bookmarks, it’s possible a person could overlook the finer details that help turn Laguna Beach’s El Morro Elementary into a village reminiscent of colonial America.

On Monday, the school’s multipurpose room buzzed with students decorated in attire suited for the 1700s such as headdresses and fringed shirts, bonnets, vests and dresses.

Students moved between various stations to learn the trades of Native Americans during Colonial Days, an annual school festival held during Thanksgiving week.

It takes nothing short of a collective effort to pull off the event as volunteers decorated the room beginning last Thursday, said co-chairwoman Patty Tacklind, in her 11th year as a volunteer.

Earlier this month, the school’s PTA, which organizes the event, held a two-day crafting bee for volunteers to prepare all the materials, such as cutting hundreds of leather strips to use as hangers for clay ornaments.

Tacklind estimated it takes at least 100 volunteers to run Colonial Days.

The event draws parents back year after year. Liz Tate said she started when her son Mason was in kindergarten. He is now in fourth grade.

Tate said her favorite part about Colonial Days is watching children be creative and learn something new.

“It teaches them all the aspects of a traditional Thanksgiving,” said Tate, who helped oversee the leather tooling station.

At the station, students used sledgehammers to strike steel tubes, which had letters attached at their ends.

Tate steadied steel tubes with her fingers as students tapped with sledgehammers.

Students repeated the procedure to create bookmarks inscribed with their names.

At another station, parent Lourdes Dequillen oversaw students as they made candles.

Buckets of melted wax sat next to containers of room temperature water as students dipped cotton wicks into wax — holding them in the wax for five seconds — and then into water.

Wax came in blocks and was melted in buckets that stood atop electric burners.

Students repeated the process for five minutes, until enough wax had caked onto the wick to create a candlestick.

“Sometimes they get out of control, making big ones that break,” Dequillen said in explaining that too much wax could render a candle too heavy.

Dequillen wrapped candles in wax paper and gave them students to take home.

“They can actually bring them to Thanksgiving [dinner],” she said.

Students learned that colonists used tallow, whale oil or boiled bayberries as wax since only the wealthy could afford beeswax.

Speakers throughout the week visited classrooms to explain how Native Americans helped colonists survive, while students in physical education classes participated in traditional games of that era.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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