Programs for kids bring Brac heritage to life

Children at Cayman Brac Day Care learn about the national symbols.

For the past few weeks, Brac Heritage House staff and volunteers have been out and about in the community delivering a variety of kid-friendly programs, bringing Cayman history and tradition to life for the Brac’s youngest residents.

The Heritage House welcomed the eldest group attending the Cayman Brac Day Care on April 4 for a session introducing the children to Cayman’s national symbols.

“The little ones became familiar with, and learned how to identify some of the national symbols, such as the national bird, the national tree and the national flower,” said Heritage House program manager Saskia Edwards.

She said the children further explored the symbols by decorating paper and putting together photo puzzles.

“They also participated in another activity where they were asked questions and then took turns tossing balls into a basket with a photo of either a Cayman Parrot, Silver Thatch Palm or Banana Orchid,” she said.

On April 18, the children were back at Heritage House exploring how daily life in Cayman’s early days differed from that of today.

Greta Tatum leads a class for Layman E. Scott High School students on traditional preparation of whelks.
Greta Tatum leads a class for Layman E. Scott High School students on traditional preparation of whelks.

“They looked at and compared various items that were once commonly used with that of modern day inventions, such as the washboard and bath pan versus a washing machine,” explained Ms. Edwards, adding that for a craft the children decorated an activity sheet, and during game time took turns matching photos of past objects with their modern-day counterparts.

High school students also took part in Heritage House activities at the Layman E. Scott High School’s traditional cooking class on April 7, learning how to make the traditional dish of stewed whelks under the guidance of Greta Tatum.

“Whelks are West Indian Top Snails, saltwater mollusks that live in the shallows of the tidal line along the rocky coastline,” said Ms. Edwards.

“They are considered a local delicacy, and are stewed in coconut milk and seasoned with onions and peppers.”

She noted that preparing the dish is a lengthy process as the whelks must be boiled, picked, cleaned and chopped finely before the stewing begins. The class learned how to chop and season prepped whelks and cook the dish.

Stewed whelks are a delicious traditional dish.
Stewed whelks are a delicious traditional dish.

“The students also learned how to make ‘sea pie’ – a flour dumpling stretched very thinly and stewed along with the whelks,” said Ms. Edwards. She said the name’s origins may lie in the fact that the dough should be so thin you can “see” through it, or because it resembles pieces of a soft pie crust for seafood stews.

Whelks are protected by Marine Conservation laws and closed season is from May 1 to Oct. 31.

Heritage House staff were also on hand to lead two sessions at the Cayman Brac After-school Program on April 13 and 20. At the first session on past industries and exports of the Cayman Islands, the youngsters learned about popular past trades like ship building, turtle and shark fishing, egging, phosphate mining and tanning. The students also learned about local products, like coconuts, turtle shells and thatch rope, that were often sent off for sale to international markets.

Following the lesson, the children made shark-shaped headbands adorned with symbols representing each past export or industry.

At the second session on, traditional Caymanian homes, the students learned how the early Caymanian settlers who came from many backgrounds and countries played a role in influencing local building styles. After familiarizing themselves with the appearance, design and variety of building materials of past homes including wattle and daub construction, Ms. Edwards said, as a craft, the children then each made and decorated their own model houses, complete with beautiful flower and sand gardens.