Time Travelers go back to the future

Teph Huot (left) and Auggie Armstrong spent part of their time at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Time Travelers program in arts and crafts making masks.


On a hot August day, a group of children move and shake to jazz tunes from another era. An excited boy plays with a rolling hoop over dry summer grass.

While one could be forgiven for thinking they time-traveled back to the Newport Jazz Festival circa 1965, it was, in fact, the last Friday of the Shelter Island Historical Society’s annual Time Travelers Youth Program.

The program this year did not work backwards from modern times, but compared past history with more current era happenings. Participants learned about individuals who were part of Shelter Island’s history, and how they relate to today’s Shelter Island.

Time Travelers is geared for kids ages 6 through 12 and started in 2012.

According to Kathy Gooding, who spearheads the program, the goal of the program is to teach the history of Shelter Island to children through developing their artistic and creative abilities using primary sources and actual artifacts. The week-long, half-day program is constructed around music, art, performance, crafts, gardening and games.

Activities for the week included tours of old and new fire trucks led by Larry Lechmanski, a former teacher, firefighter and now a Fire Commissioner; handmade ice cream lessons led by Gene Shepherd and his family; two types of puppet-making, and woodworking projects with Chris Fokine and Marty Bazata who taught them to make tool boxes; and an introduction to “the Dimonscape” by Roz Dimon.

The program aims to highlight the Island’s uniqueness and the cultural aspects of different historical periods, along with people’s relationship to the past and how it influences the future. Another goal is teaching youngsters how to use the arts for personal expression and enjoyment.

Heather Reylek handled the music program with help from Penny Kerr and Marianne Baird with Ms. Reylek also teaching them to play harmonicas.

Karissa Despres taught the children a series of era-related dances which they performed for their parents on Friday.

Stephanie Lebowitz organized the paper-bag puppet-making.

“It’s really nice helping kids discover their creative and artistic abilities that they didn’t know they had,” she said.

Earlier in the week, Liz Joyce taught the children about shadow puppets.

The program, which was launched seven years ago with aid from the Shelter Island Educational Foundation, is now supported by the Jasteka Foundation and individual donors.

About a third of the children who participated were year-round Islanders, while the rest were summer residents, staying with parents or grandparents, Ms. Gooding said.

The program was helped by volunteers, many of whom were former program participants.

The happy participants left with handmade puppets, plus the memories of experiences they’ve had during the week and a newfound knowledge of the Island’s history.

When asked about the best part of the program, one young participant replied, “Making the toolboxes,” proudly presenting the handiwork.