Lone Tree Summer Camp Transports Students Back in Time – Loveland Reporter-Herald

Kaia Cousino, 10, center, and Basil Price, 10, right, practice handwriting with pen and ink Tuesday during the Lone Tree School summer camp at the historic one-room schoolhouse in North Lake Park in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Visitors to Loveland’s North Lake Park this week can step back in time to the past.

Children dressed in old-fashioned costumes walking single file to a one-room schoolhouse? This isn’t “Back to the Future Part III,” this is Lone Tree’s annual summer camp, a living history experience for second- through ninth-graders where they spend a week learning the three Rs, as well as an engaging lesson from the past.

Lone Tree School students use a slate board to work on spelling words Tuesday during summer camp at the historic one-room schoolhouse in North Lake Park in Loveland. From left: Basil Price, 10, Gracie Bigus, 11, Sofia Bigus, 12, and Frankie Dickson, 10. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

“I think it’s really important to instill a love of history in these kids,” said Teri Johnson, who has run the summer camp since the mid-1980s. “They can do it in a fun way that they enjoy. And being exposed to living history really solidifies in their brains what life was like.”

Students study with period-appropriate materials such as McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader, play period-appropriate games such as The Shepherd and the Wolf, and learn period-appropriate skills such as churning butter, making homemade ice cream, weaving rugs, and writing with an inkwell.

“It’s amazing,” said Kaia Cousino, a 10-year-old who is attending camp this week. “It’s different and I’m not used to it, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Many of the students, including Cousino, came dressed in attire that wouldn’t look out of place in a school building in 1890. Aside from a few mementos, a Hydroflask water bottle next to a desk, a pair of tennis shoes peeking out from under the hem of a prairie dress, and maybe a stray tack or two, it’s easy to imagine someone having been transported back in time more than 100 years.

The building itself is not a reconstruction, in fact it was a school used by Loveland students from 1883 to 1920. After that it was basically abandoned until the 1970s when several civic organizations decided to renovate the building and turn it into a historical landmark.

Then in the 1980s, Johnson, then a public school teacher, and Lola Johnson (no relation), who had just retired from teaching, founded the summer camp. Lola Johnson died in 2013 after a long battle with cancer, but this year is special for Teri Johnson because three of her grandchildren and two of Lola’s attended the camp.

It appears her goal of inspiring the next generation is paying off.

Isabella Bigus left the program last year but became Johnson’s assistant this year.

“I’ve been attending since the second grade,” Bigus said, helping students write invitations to the camp’s ice cream social, held at the end of the week for parents and family members, with pens and inkwells. “I enjoyed it so much that I started volunteering when I was older.”

Many students return each year, Johnson said, and some make new friends they might not have made otherwise.

Lone Tree School teacher Teri Johnson, center, explains the rules of the game to students Tuesday during a summer camp at the historic one-room schoolhouse in North Lake Park in Loveland. Teri said this session is special because the students include three of her grandchildren and two of Lola Johnson’s grandchildren. The two women worked together as teachers. Lola worked hard to help build the Lone Tree School program, and Teri has been a teacher for decades. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Especially important, she said, is the dynamic between older and younger students. Second-graders and ninth-graders share the same classroom and do the same activities, which leads to the kind of friendships that don’t often develop between children with such a large age gap.

“Tomorrow we’ll be braiding,” Johnson said, referring to the rugs. “And some kids can braid and some can’t. And all of a sudden you’ll see the older kids helping the younger kids who don’t know how. So there’s a really good teamwork that can be created from that. That’s how it worked 100 years ago, and I can see it working now.”

Johnson said there are still spots available for the third session of the camp, which will begin July 29, so interested parents can still sign up their children. Registration is available at