by Brittany Avila
When I began working for SBTHP my predecessor, Amanda Gonzalez, already had developed two fantastic activities offered for free to our younger visitors on the weekends; one focusing on adargas (shields made of leather) and the other on cueras (the leather jackets worn by soldado de cuera). Both were entertaining and informative, but Amanda’s creative ideas didn’t stop there. She came up with two more activities, one focusing on huerta, or fruit and vegetable gardens, created in Early California as a source of food production, and the Ring and Pin game created by the Chumash. Both activities were beneficial in that they drew the attention of children through the idea of playing with dirt, or making a game with their friends, as well as providing insight into two different life ways in Early California.
Unfortunately Amanda moved on to graduate school before she could complete the activities, so I began to pick up the pieces in hopes of bringing her ideas to life. The original goal of the huerta activity was to not only show children where early settlers’ food and medicine came from, but also to shed light on the Presidio Heritage Gardens as part of the site. During the activity kids are urged to go and see a reconstructed huerta for themselves at the Presidio Heritage Gardens to obtain a realistic sense of the types of plants grown in them.
I was fortunate enough to have both literature and hands-on information to be able to write up an accurate description of early plants and what exactly a huerta was for our weekend interpreters to share with visitors. Our archaeologist Mike Imwalle took me to La Huerta at the Santa Barbara Mission to see for myself a reconstructed huerta on a larger scale and get a better understanding of what many of the native and introduced plant species looked like. Our Associate Director for Historical Resources, Anne Petersen, then introduced me to some wonderful books and files in our Presidio Research Center collections that created a basis for my knowledge.
As for the Ring and Pin activity, which, to give you a picture, is a game in which a ring of a certain size is tied to a stick of a certain size, and then you attempt to fling it up and around the stick (it’s more difficult than it sounds!). Most of my information on the topic was found in the books The Chumash and the Presidio of Santa Barbara: Evolution of a Relationship and Material Culture of the Chumash Interaction Sphere, V.5. I was fortunate to have one of our docents, Frank Arredando, a Chumash descendant, review the information I compiled about the game and add in suggestions. Overall with the help of some experts I was able to put together two comprehensive and informative backgrounds on the new activities.
The next step was finding the funds to supply the activities, which although not a large expense, posed a problem nonetheless. After sending in a donation request, Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center was gracious enough to provide us with a $100.00 gift card, which covered the costs for the majority of our supplies. The rest was taken care of by Mike Imwalle and Frank Arredando, who helped gather sticks, piping, and compiled some leftover garden supplies to cover the two activities. We are currently supplied enough to continue these activities for at least one year, with no cost to SBTHP!
I presented the huerta activity to a tour of 3rd graders, who were ecstatic and very enthusiastic about beginning their own gardens at home. So far our Weekend Interpreters have reported that the Ring and Pin activity is also a hit with the young ones, who are all very determined to get their ring on their stick and intrigued that a real local native tribe played this game too.
We at SBTHP are happy to present these activities and thankful for all of the support we received in their creation!
Brittany Avila is the office manager at SBTHP, and provides oversight for the visitor experience on the weekends.