This year of 2022 we celebrated the 65th Urbanna Oyster Festival in Middlesex County with beautiful weather the first weekend in November: Picturesque, perfect fall weather actually. The museum was there for all three days and saw over a thousand people come through our exhibit station. On the Thursday before the festival, the museum as part of the Museums of Middlesex (MOM), joined others for Education Day down at the town marina.
As explained on their website: Oyster Festival Education Day brings the expertise of local non-profit, government, and private organizations to local students with a focus on watershed science and history. It is a cooperative effort of the Marine Science Legacy Program, the Oyster Festival Waterfront Committee, and the Oyster Festival Foundation.
Students from 5 schools came through the exhibits, divided into 20-minute sessions of 31 groups throughout the day. Middlesex Elementary School, St. Clare Walker Middle School, Christ Church School, Chesapeake Academy, and Ware Academy attended this year.
The Middlesex County Museum educated the students on the importance of the oyster to early colonial housing and architecture. Crushing and grinding the shell, the outside of the oyster was mixed with local clay found beneath the soil, sand from the rivers and creeks, mixed with water and patted into blocks that were backed into hard bricks. The crushed shells were also mixed with ashes from fireplaces and formed the mortar that held the bricks to each other to form walls and in turn houses and buildings. Many buildings are still standing across the county that were constructed from these handmade bricks in the 1700s. On display for the students were samples of four different such bricks illustrating this technique and the color variations depending on the clay utilized.
Then the hands-on fun began. The students were able to build their own structures out of wooden Jinga blocks following the directions for five different manners of stacking the blocks or bonds. Running bond, Common bond, English bond, Flemish bond, and Stack bond were practiced by the students as they manipulated the bricks and alternated the headers and stretchers as required by the pattern. It is actually harder than it sounds and is a creative application of patterning and math. But don’t tell the kids, they were just having fun!
Education day Referenced above: https://www.urbannaoysterfestival.com/highlight-events/oyster-festival-education-day/