YOUNGSTERS WHO think of "The Apprentice" as Donald Trump's contest-winning executive assistant may be taken aback to discover the title's Colonial counterpart, typically a 12-year-old child who worked for six to nine years sunrise to sundown for a master tradesman.
As young visitors to Colonial Williamsburg watch demonstrations of the tasks involved in various apprenticeships, "some of these little guys' eyes are like, 'Oh, no!' " says Susan Mullen, a historical interpreter who leads groups on "The Apprentice" tour, one of the living-history museum's new programs for families. "I think one of the things that surprises them is that the parents would put a child in that situation."
"The Apprentice" is one of several events offered this summer at Colonial Williamsburg, which, for the first time, is packaging kids' programs under themes such as "Natural Science: Revolutions in Science and Technology" and "Military Might -- The Revolution Has Begun."
"We've also never really offered a brochure that's as complete as this," says Rene Willett, manager of domestic sites and family programs, of "A Kid's Summer Program 2005," a colorful, two-sided information sheet featuring program descriptions, a scavenger hunt and kid-friendly map.
"We've actually seen kids leading their families" by using the map, she says. Tiny symbols such as a tricorn hat, drum and strawberry help youngsters identify and find the locations of activities.
The twice-weekly "Apprentice" tour, offered Mondays and Fridays, takes kids and adults to three period trade shops, where trained tradesmen explain each profession. At the end of the program, the youngsters put together souvenir "stitch books" filled with information about the trades. Then they choose their favorite job and sign a mock contract.
On Mondays, groups visit a weaver, cabinetmaker and silversmith, and on Fridays, they check out a harness maker, cooper and blacksmith.
At the weaver's shop, a tradesman named Max describes a typical arrangement in which a binding contract provides that he must clothe, feed and house his young apprentice, in addition to teaching the child "the art and mystery" of the trade along with ciphering (arithmetic) and how to read the Bible. In turn, the apprentice cannot run around at taverns or get married before the end of the contractual arrangement.
"Have you all ever made a potholder on a loom?" the green-aproned tradesman asks. He proceeds to demonstrate how to weave cloth on a floor loom, which mechanically applies the same over-under technique kids use in their hand weaving.
"Aw, cool!" one young onlooker exclaims. The youngsters leave with strands of yarn, in cotton, wool and linen.
At the next site, a cabinetmaker's studio, the kids use warm glue to bond wood and push a plane across a piece of wood in need of smoothing, two common techniques used for making free-standing 18th-century furniture.
"It's not the speed you're looking at; it's more of the control," a mustachioed, aproned tradesman explains. The children add curled shavings from wood planing to their souvenir bags.
"This is your third shop and your last shop, right?" master silversmith George asks the children. "So they saved the best for last!"
"Silversmiths were much revered in this town," Mullen chimes in, as the adults groan.
"How many people here like to draw? You have to be able to draw to be a silversmith," the tradesman says. The youngsters then make a pencil tracing of a provided template. George also demonstrates how a silversmith uses various hammers to shape and smooth the material, and he lets two youngsters turn a crank on a machine that stretches silver wire to be used for chains. The kids leave with tiny pieces of silver wire.
At the tour's end, the group gathers for lemonade and cookies in a wooden pavilion, where children put together their stitch book and decide where to apprentice.
"Even though this 'Apprentice' was designed for ages 6 to 12, the adults really get into it," and some even take the tour without children, Willett says. And, unlike in Trump's televised competition, "nobody gets fired!"
COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG -- 105 Information Center Dr., Williamsburg. About 150 miles south of Washington, off Interstate 64. 800-447-8679. www.colonialwilliamsburg.com. Daily 9 to 5, along with various evening activities. $34 adult, $15 youth ages 6 to 17, free for ages 5 and younger. Various combination tickets, including year-long passes, also are available. Through Sept. 30, guests at official Colonial Williamsburg hotels receive free youth tickets with the purchase of any adult ticket. Families making reservations at 888-447-8679 by July 8 for four or more nights at a Colonial Williamsburg hotel receive free tickets. Tickets for evening programs, such as concerts and walking tours, cost $12, with discounts available to annual pass holders. At the visitor center, pick up "A Kid's Summer Program 2005" brochure. Summer family programs, running through Aug. 21, include the following highlights, many of which incorporate hands-on activities. Unless otherwise noted, times vary and admission is included with a Colonial Williamsburg ticket.
"The Apprentice" -- Mondays and Fridays at 9:30. $15 per person for adults and children ages 7 and older; $7.50 for ages 6 and younger. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Each session has a 20-person capacity, and reservations are required. Call 800-447-8679.
"Natural Magic: Revolutions in Science and Technology" -- Mondays and Fridays. Various times. Programs feature such topics as Colonial gardening, 18th-century medical science, toys and games, meal preparation, weather vanes, gunmaking, Colonial animals, brickmaking and chores using well water.
"A La Mode, or What's Hot and What's Not" -- Tuesdays and Sundays. Various times. Kids learn about what was fashionable in the 1700s through programs about life at the Governor's Palace, running a gentry household, dance lessons, horse care, clothing for Colonial infants, 18th-century stage plays, a "Necessities, Niceties and Luxuries" tour and a behind-the-scenes look at textiles stored at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
"Military Might -- The Revolution Has Begun" -- Wednesdays and Saturdays. Various times. Visitors observe how soldiers start their day, discover facts about the Declaration of Independence, learn how civilians obtained their weapons for the Continental Army and see how women supported the troops. Activities include musket demonstrations and militia drills, a play about the American Revolution, and a fife and drum march.
"Delightful Diversions" -- Thursdays and various times. Programs focusing on 1700s entertainment include Colonial games on the palace green, dance instruction, theater performances and examples of how families prepared for company and outings.