The Grade 5 trip to the Colony of Avalon in Ferryland

Many of the larger archaeology sites in the province have, over the years, also become tourist attractions. The Colony of Avalon site in Ferryland is a perfect example of such a site. I recently had the opportunity to tag along with my son’s grade 5 class as they toured the Colony of Avalon Interpretation centre and dig site.

It was an interesting experience for me because I went to the site as a parent. Often when I go to sites like Ferryland I have friends or family with me and I end up playing the role of site interpreter – which I am happy to do but this time I was just another parent. It was also interesting because I got to spend a day with a great group of grade 5 students. The kids were smart and well behaved, having said that, let me just say, teachers don’t get paid enough or get enough respect! Have you ever tried to get a class of kids just to walk in a group? It’s like herding cats!

The teacher in the orange coat is trying to her her cats in one direction and keep one cat from jumping over the breakwater.
The teacher in the orange coat is trying to herd her cats in one direction and keep one cat from jumping over the breakwater

The morning started out with an introduction to the history of the site by one of the site interpreters. She gave the students some background on when the colony started, who started it and why. She did an amazing job of handling the kids and interpretation; much better than I could have done. I am not going to tell you what she said; you’ll need to visit the site yourself.

She then took the kids out to the interpretation centre where many of the more interesting artifacts are on display. While they were out there they watched a short video on the site which reinforced the interpreter’s introduction to the site. The kids were then given a sheet of questions and divided up into groups and told to explore the centre to find the answers. I looked at the questions on my son’s sheet; I think I would have passed.

Showing the video
Showing the video
Exploring the interpretation centre
Exploring the interpretation centre
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Beothuk arrow heads and knives
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Tin-glazed earthenware

small 20140916_105025These are just a few of the artifacts on display at the interpretation centre. If you want to see more you can visit the actual site in Ferryland or the Colony of Avalon website. If you want to go to Ferryland you should check the website first to plan around their operating hours.

After they explored the interpretation centre and worked through their list of questions it was time to head outside. We first went to the early 17th century kitchen reproduction. The room contains a working fireplace, authentic doors and windows, a flagstone floor and other details typical of the era. Demonstrations of life in the 17th century take place daily. The kids were told about various games that would have been played in the 17th century and they were offered a sample of bread that was made using a 17th century recipe.

In the 17th century reproduction kitchen
In the 17th century reproduction kitchen

The final part of the trip was taken up by a tour of the actual site with the interpreter. This was a great experience because all of the things the kids were told about in the interpretation centre, such as the construction of the various buildings, the street and the waterfront, were shown to them in the excavation area. This really made the facts come alive.

The kids were shown the forge and the interpreter explained how it worked. They learned about where the iron came from and what was built at the forge. They were also told about the Beothuk occupation layer that was found below the forge.

Learning about the forge
Learning about the forge

They were shown the ‘prettie streete‘ as it was described by Captain Wynne. They also saw the foundations of numerous buildings including what is thought to be the mansion house.

Learning about the cobble stone street and the mansion house
Learning about the cobble stone street and the mansion house

One of the last features of the colony that was explained to the kids was the waterfront. This is a difficult feature to explain to children but seeing it themselves made all the difference.

The 17th century Colony of Avalon waterfront
The 17th century Colony of Avalon waterfront

Of course one of the feature of the waterfront is the stone privy. I am not sure what got more ‘ewwws’ and giggles from the kids, the fact that the privy was a two-seater or the fact that an archaeologist excavated the pit.

The stone privy on the waterfront
The stone privy on the waterfront

After this it was back to the interpretation centre and the bus ride back to St. John’s.  It was a great trip, thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The 17th century was such a different world than the one we live in today. Trying to get people to understand just how different life was in the past, such as the 17th century or even thousands of years ago, is made a little easier by places like the Colony of Avalon, L’Anse aux Meadows, Port au Choix or any of the Provincial Historic Sites.

4 thoughts on “The Grade 5 trip to the Colony of Avalon in Ferryland

  1. The Colony of the Avalon is indeed one of the more popular tourist attractions in the province. 2013 visitation levels exceeded 15,700 placing the site in the top 12 most visited attraction by residents and tourists of all ages.

    2014 visitation is currently (as of August) tracking 2% higher than last year. This increase has been attributed to the great July weather and the recent discovery of the 17th century crucfix

  2. What’s perhaps most exciting of all about our home is the fact that so much of it lies untouched. Many of the harbours in the resettled communities throughout Placentia Bay, for example, have never been dredged. Who knows what “treasures” lie, waiting to be discovered, remnants from the Irish/English, the French/Portuguese/Basque before them and the countless ones even further back in time?
    For my part I’m particularly intrigued by that which challenges (to some extent) the established canon. European/Scandanavian artifacts that pre-date “Cabot” or Ericson. Who knows, maybe they’re there for the finding!

    1. Absolutely, there is a lot yet to be discovered.
      Are you referring to particular artifacts “that pre-date “Cabot” or Ericson”?

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