ArchiCamp celebrates fifth year of cardboard structures and developing preservationists

ArchiCampers visit the Lankford Farm on June 26. The bridge that inspired this year's camp theme was the bridge on this property.
Photo credit: Emily Metheny
When ArchiCamp started five years ago in Martinsville, the program was carried out on scholarships and was limited in what they could do. The next year, the Morgan County Historical Preservation Society applied for a small grant through the Community Foundation of Morgan County. With this funding, the program was able to take the participants out into the county as well as bring in local artists to help with lessons.

"ArchiCamp has been around for at least ten years and has been done across the state," said Raina Regan, a community preservation specialist for Indiana Landmarks. The program was establish through the organization, but local preservation organizations host the camp in local communities.


ArchiCamp has a different theme every year, but the focus is always local. The camp uses Martinsville's history and culture as a classroom, Regan said. This year's topic was farms, barns and how they are important to Morgan County.

“It's all about teaching the kids about the history, about historic preservation," said Joanne Stuttgen, Morgan County Historical Preservation Society. "I think a lot of it is to do with pointing out something to them that they have seen a million times and not thought much about it."

The two day camp was filled with games, art, crafts, learning, and traveling. ArchiCamp uses Martinsville's assets like teachers in training and local artists, Stuttgen said.

Local artist Suzanne Lawler teaches campers how to draw 3-D structures in preparation of the cardboard barns they would be building that afternoon. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

Using local resources

With the help of local artist Suzanne Lawler, students learned how to draw 3-D barns that they would later build out of cardboard. Stuttgen said kids love building out of cardboard and thinks that's one reason they keep coming back.

“We have kids here who have been here for four years in a row to ArchiCamp and every year it's modeled pretty much the same way, and we do the same activities but they don't seem to mind," Stuttgen said. "In fact, that may be one of the reasons they keep coming back because they are anticipating building out of cardboard again.”

Another art projects the kids did was at the Lankford Farm the following day. Artist Ann Lankford led the campers in painting farm scenes on little gourds. The kids were encouraged to be creative but keep the them accurate within the time periods they chose.

Since it's creation, ArchiCamp has held camps over general architecture, masonry, downtown commercial architecture, bridges and engineering, and farming and barns. The idea for this year's camp came from last year's field trip. When the group visited an old farm to see a historic bridge, the kids were interested in the barns and animals as well, and Stuttgen said she realized they were missing something. That's how this year's topic was chosen.

Next year, the camp may be going back to its roots with general architecture in downtown Martinsville, Stuttgen said.

"Most of the kids live in Martinsville and probably pass through downtown several times a week if not several times a day," Stuttgen said. "It’s something familiar, but they get to see it in a whole different, more intimate way."

Ron Burnett tells campers about the history of his farm, including how the building in the background was once a schoolhouse. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

Building future architects and preservationists

During one of the early years, Stuttgen said she gave out sheets of paper full of architectural elements and information and had kids match the details with buildings in downtown. The next year, she used the sheets again, and one of the campers from the previous year came back and was pointing out all the elements.

"He was going, ‘that’s that’ and ‘that’s that’ and we were going like, ‘how do you know that?’ I mean, it was amazing. He was like, 'I was here last year,'" Stuttgen said. "He remembered it a whole year and was able to tell those pretty detailed elements the second year, and then he said, 'I want to be an architect.' And I thought 'ok, that’s how all of this works.'"

Emily Irvin, a Franklin College senior elementary education major, has been helping with the camp for two years. She said she got involved because ArchiCamp allows kids to learn about science and history while still being creative.

"One of my favorite memories was actually last year with the bridges. I worked with a kid one-on-one while he was building his bridge and his creativity astounded me," Irvin said. "All of these things he was putting into the bridge, it was really great."

There's still interest in ArchiCamp, Stuttgen said. Siblings of campers have been coming, and kids are asking for the camp to be longer.

"ArchiCamp is fun. As someone who works in historic preservation, I’m normally dealing with those who are 21 and up for most of my year so to have an opportunity to engage with students 8-12 who are passionate and interested in architecture and may be future preservationists, to me, is very promising and optimistic," Regan said. "I think it’s a program that Indiana Landmarks continues to see value in and building future preservationists."

And the children are getting it.


"One of the students back this year said to me, 'why are there not more camel back bridges,' and I said 'well, they are hard to maintain' and gave him some reasons. 'Well, they should be maintained. They are important. They should be preserved,'" Regan said. "As a preservationist, I was really excited about that because it meant that they understood that these were limited resources, calling attention to them, and they understood there is something that we are trying to get them understand that we want them to be advocates for preservation in the future as well."
ArchiCampers pose for a photo while visiting  the Burnett's Farm on June 25. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

Want to help ArchiCamp for future campers?

Donations to ArchiCamp can be made through the community foundation's website. Make your Dollar 4 Dollar matching grant donation today to support CFMC Impact Grants. 

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