Museum educator wants to show that history is fun and relevant

Lola Chen

Lola Chen

If you have attended a workshop or class at the Wilton Historical Society, there’s a good chance you’ve met the society’s museum educator, Lola Chen.

Chen joined the historical society in November and has been creating and leading classes there ever since.

“Much of my time is spent on programming for children,” she said. “I come up with ideas to get kids interested in history by having them work with their hands.”

Every Saturday, Chen leads the Colonial Cookery and Customs for Kids workshops at the historical society, where six- through 12-year-olds make a variety of Colonial dishes and crafts like candles, decoupage, and marbled paper.

“While they work on their project, we talk about the historical connections,” said Chen, a Fairfield resident.

“For instance, when I did a workshop on making hand pies in April, it was during the 240th anniversary of the famous British Raid on Danbury. We talked about how a Wilton patriot like Lt. Seth Abbott might have carried one in his pocket to eat on the run that momentous day, and what was happening in town as the British marched down Ridgefield Road.”

Chen said a “really important” aspect of being the society’s museum educator is “the time devoted to our school programs, which are a touchstone part of the town’s second- and fourth-grade history curriculums.”

“The society works with the teachers to create a curriculum-based experience for the students,” she said.

“There, I help find and organize the volunteers and professional educators who teach about specific areas — like Colonial textiles or hearth cooking — and take part in presenting.”

Chen also runs the Ready Rangers program — a corps of fifth- through eighth-grade volunteers who are willing and able to help the historical society when called.

In addition to children-focused programs, Chen also leads lectures, workshops, and other events for adults, including the historical society’s Booked for Lunch book discussion group.

Before joining the Wilton Historical Society, Chen volunteered as a full-time assistant to the Westport Historical Society’s education director.

Chen has a degree in French and politics from the University of London, studied Chinese in Taiwan and Shanghai, has a Teaching of English as a Foreign Language certification and a certificate from the French Culinary Institute. She also has an associate’s degree in interior design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

“I have had a varied career and many interests,” she said,” but I really like history.”

While her experiences have been wide-ranging — from teaching children and adults to working in wedding planning and interior design — Chen said, “the common thread is that I enjoy history, teaching, and I have a knack for cooking and art/workshop projects.”

Chen said her favorite Wilton Historical Society activities so far have been Colonial Cookery and Customs for Kids, the Mad Hatter Tea Party and the Prohibition Party the society threw last year.

As the historical society’s museum educator, Chen said, her goal is to “show everyone that history is fun and relates to your life today.”

The Wilton Historical Society is at 244 Danbury Road.

Information: wiltonhistorical.org.

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