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Apprentice Program GLT

Historic Richmond Town’s rich array of apprenticeships build real-world skills based upon centuries of American ingenuity. The program is a wonderful alternative to the tried and true summer camp.

The best “What I Did This Summer” stories start here!

Individualized sessions in the Historic Trades are conducted in small groups of less than five and accelerate learning as students work with an experienced Artisan to build their skills forging iron, weaving baskets, carving wood, crafting tin, and cooking over an open fire as they create one-of-a-kind, hand crafted items. The historic settings are fully furnished for an immersive and hands-on practice. Apprentices will visit the other trades during their week to add to the fun and the 360-degree learning. At the end of each session, apprentices will have the ability to present their trade and lead a specialized tour of their workshop to visitors and their families.

New this year are experiential Maker-based programs that leverage the natural environment of Richmondtown and the Richmond Town archives A propeller car challenge allows students to participate in the design and building of a propeller car to race against their fellow campers for the title of propeller car champion, and a fiber dulcimer segment that students build and learn to play.

Apprentices at Historic Richmond Town are sure to have the best “What I did this summer” essays come September thanks to an in-depth and engaging hands-on, discovery-based experience unlike any other!

Call and speak with an apprentice specialist today and reserve space for the most unique summer experience on Staten island.

Reservations Office
(718) 351-1611, ext.280
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Junior Apprentices>    Artisans and Teachers>    Alumni Testimonials> 


Hours: Monday through Friday 9:30am-4:30pm.
Program Costs: $450 per student week. $100 discount for each additional sibling. $100 discount for 2nd and additional weeks.
Early/Late Hours: 8:30am drop off and 5:30pm pickup available. $20 per hour, reservation required.
Lunch: Bring your own picnic-style lunch.

Apprentice 2018 Schedule Final

Historic Trades

Basketmaking and Textile Arts: Textile arts can include a wide variety of skills including building objects of wood, paper, cloth and thread. Each project will be chosen according to your interests in discussion with the teacher.

Blacksmithing: Wield hand-tools to shape red-hot iron and manage the fire in the forge. Apprentices create useful objects using the anvil, teaming with other blacksmith apprentices.

Dulcimer Construction and Instruction*: Apprentices create a fiber instrument and decorate it before learning to tune and play the dulcimer. Instruction includes modal tuning and strumming rhythms. The instrument and playing skills return to the home for a summer of musicianship. ($60 material fee payable with reservation)

Gardening/Agrarian Life: Apprentices will curate period gardens, plant, harvest, and care for plants. From their harvest they will cook and preserve food items according to the traditions of the 1800s. Learn to choose plants for a variety of kitchen garden styles, identify plants, types of soil.

Living Environment: The World Around Us: Richmond Town’s natural environment was as important as its tradespeople and other citizens. Apprentices will learn to examine the space through a scientific lens by testing water samples, exploring salt marsh ecosystems, and observing the beavers' habitat, while proposing and building conflict solution preventions between beavers and other species in Richmond Town’s rich ecosystem.

Making History: Apprentices Richmond Town’s explore extensive archives in order to create their own, researched, accurate historic replicas. Participants will make their own colonial money, design and distress 19th century portraits, and rebuild inventions that played integral roles to our Staten Island ancestors.

Open Hearth Cooking: The hearth is the center of the kitchen; apprentices learn to manage the fire to power a Dutch oven, griddle, and reflector oven with a variety of authentic recipes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Desserts, main dishes, berry jams and more will be added to the take home recipe book and skill set.

Pottery Making: The creation of American Redware is as old as the nation itself. Using sturdy containers to store and serve food was an important part of life on the farm. Apprentices will use clay similar to Staten Island earthenware to create household pottery common in the 19th century.

Propeller Car Challenge: Simple machines are at the heart of the action as participant build, modify, brand, and write about their individual car. Students bring content knowledge from science and math to life as they compete against each other to claim the title of “Propeller Car Champion.”

Tinsmithing: Cutting and piercing tin may look simple, but it requires a good deal of skill. Apprentices will learn to use tin snips, cut a clean edge and read patterns to fashion bright, reflective objects. With practice, apprentices may evolve to shaping tin pieces on stakes and soldering multi-piece items.

Woodworking: Learn the trade from a tried and true craftsman. Create household items like wooden plates and bowls, or, farm tools like wooden rakes and flails. Discover wood's ability to bind and create a water tight seal. Build and create objects using original patterns and tools.

Junior Apprentice Program
Students ages 9-11 choose the themes that interest them and enjoy activities that give a taste of kids’ lives and skills of the past. Tours of the historic village are part of the fun!

Patriotic Americans (Week of July 2) Students visit the kitchen of the historic Guyon-Lake-Tysen farmhouse to see how pies were baked in an original beehive oven, then bake and sample their own pie in a Dutch oven, learn to make a paper pinwheel and march in an Independence Day parade. Hand-churned ice cream and Victorian parlor games add to the fun.

By Lantern Light (Week of July 9) supported by Con Edison, students will make wax candles and visit the tinsmith to see how tin lamps and trays are made. Paper lanterns are punched with designs like the authentic tin lanterns and lit by safe LED lights. A cooking session brings African American recipes to life. Participants learn to use flint and steel to make sparks for the fireplace like colonial kids.

Colonial Trades (Week of July 16) Students will meet the blacksmith and see how he shapes iron at the forge. They will assist in the creation of a simple object using a hammer at the anvil. They will craft a leather pouch, spend time learning and harvesting in the garden. Students will visit the tinsmith for an expert demonstration of tin punching and try their hand at it too! Learn “new” games that are over 100-years old.

Folktales and Drama (Week of July 23) Participants choose a folktale and bring it to life as a puppet play. Make scenery, puppets, plan a script and be part of the presentation. Learn old-time traditional kids games.

Victorian Kids (Week of July 30) Tour the exhibit TOYS! and meet a curator. Visit the historic village to see tasks and fun that kids had in the past. Make paper toys and learn how to play with them. Spend time in the garden, tour a Victorian garden and learn to identify flavorful plants.

Moving Pages (Week of August 6) Bind a Book and write a story to go in it. Make decorative marbleized paper to add to your book. Make a toy that works like animation, then make a simple flip book. Apprentices learn to write with a feather.

Artisan and Teacher profiles:

Chris O’Brien is the founder of Lower Bay Learners Guild, a small educational support company whose mission is to help ALL students achieve personal and academic success through alternative, hands-on, project-based approaches to the already existing curriculum.

Edita O’Brien is a biology teacher focused on delivering hands-on learning experiences that promote real-world inquiry and ecological stewardship. She is currently a Math for America fellow and is developing several citizen science programs to help bring Staten Island youth in direct contact with the rich ecosystems that surround them. 

Annie Wickersty trained extensively to become a tinsmith and teach the trade to the next generation of apprentices at HRT's summer apprentice program. On weekends and during special events, Annie is often found in the Tinsmith’s shop crafting useful and decorative reproduction tinware with her dedicated apprentices. Annie has taught the trade at various museums and festivals in the Northeast and appeared on PBS's “The Woodwright's Shop."

Norm Pederson has one rule in his carpentry shop: everything must be hand-crafted with tools that existed before 1860. The 1836 building is furnished as a rural shop at it would have appeared sometime before 1860.  Norm crafts the typical items produced in shops like this, including simple furniture, farm tools, kitchen utensils and home furnishings.

Cheyney McKnight is a living historian and material culture researcher who has focused her studies on the African-American experience in the 18th and 19th centuries, with an emphasis on the daily lives of African-American women. Cheyney is a member of the National Association of Interpretation, and has presented programs and interpreted the lives of African-Americans, both enslaved and free, at more than 50 national historic sites and museums.
Carlotta DeFillo has extensively studied open-hearth cooking, food preparation and preservation as well as textile arts. When Carlotta is not leading cooking workshops in the historic Guyon-Lake-Tysen farmhouse she is researching 18th and 19th century quilting techniques which she uses to create stunning recreations of original quilts.

Melissa Perez has been part of the Historic Richmond Town family for nearly five years. She has proved herself an excellent interpreter as well as a skilled basket maker and textile artist. In her free time, Melissa enjoys photography and digital design. Her stunning photographs and design work can be seen across the site in both visitor literature and rotating exhibits.

Jeff Cavorley has had his hand to the forge for more than a decade, filling the homes and shops at Historic Richmond Town with his skilled iron work. He is also an expert English Country Dance instructor and has travelled the country calling sets and instructing other historians in the art of 18th and 19th century music and dance. Jeff has studied Science and Secondary Education at Hunter College. He is an avid astronomer and can be found most weekend evenings at his local observatory.

Harry Oppenheimer is a musician and consummate dulcimer player who built his first zither at 8. He has been performing and building dulcimers for more than 35 years. He has been a featured performer and teacher at numerous dulcimer festivals including The Nutmeg Dulcimer Festival,Pocono Winter Festival, and Raritan Bay Festival .. to name a few. Harry lives and works on Staten Island.

Apprentice Alumni Profiles:
"I don't know whether it was the joys of making something by hand and seeing the tangible fruits of my labor; whether it was singing hearty, happy songs with the tinsmiths as we banged away; or whether it was eating homemade ice cream and lemon chess pie on the 4th of July. Participating in the apprenticeship program has added so much color and so many friends to my life.” --Anna Maj

“I took the apprenticeship course in tinsmithing, looking for a historical experience, and I found it! I started at the bottom, cutting circles, but worked my way to making objects like cups, trays and sconces using tools and techniques that, without historic villages like Richmond Town, may have disappeared entirely. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the master Tinsmith is always there to lend a helping hand so that you may succeed.” –Christopher Brown

“The summers I spent as an apprentice at Historic Richmond Town were some of the best summers I’ve ever had! Learning basket making, cooking in the Guyon Lake Tysen House, and dancing in the Town Hall were just part of what made the apprenticeship such a memorable experience. The people who work at Historic Richmond Town are so knowledgeable and fun and taught me so much during my time here. I made lifelong friends here and still love to come back to volunteer.”
--Lindsay Hyman (in the program 2011-2013)

“While I don’t know what I was expecting when I first came to Historic Richmond Town in 2011, I do know that it ended up being a second home that far exceeded any expectation I could have had. Aside from learning how to avoid accidentally setting my petticoat on fire while cooking, I learned a lot about history, people, and love in general. It was a place where everyone was welcome and an environment that brought about meaningful relationships. Seven years later, I still talk to my mentor, who taught me a lot more about life than just basket making (although basket making is very important). And a casual friend from middle school who did the program with me ended up becoming my best friend and currently my college roommate. Even though I’ve long aged out of the program, my time as an apprentice continues to play a huge part in who I am as a person. Being there gave me a level of confidence and support that I hadn’t found anywhere else, and I am forever grateful for the memories that Richmond Town has given me.”
-Maria Conte (in the program 2011-2013)

Historic Richmond Town demonstrates a dedication to accessibility and inclusion year-round through diverse, mission-centric programming such as the Summer Apprentice Program, which introduces 7-14-year-old students of all abilities and interests to a focused, immersive experience in the Historic Trades that still have deep meaning today, such as woodworking, tinsmithing, blacksmithing, basket weaving, pottery-making and other maker-based experiences. The Artisans of HRT have a deep-held commitment to sharing their skills and mentoring the youth.

Although the program is expanding exponentially, there are a limited number of spots available this summer. Be sure to visit Historic Richmond Town’s website for further information about each Apprentice offering. Applications are available there as well.