Last week I had the privilege to work with our Archaeology Program that hadn’t been run since the park was turned over to the NPS. Some YCC’s, a park ranger, and I put together a program for the eight or so children signed up for the program. It was especially exciting for me to be involved with this program. My educational background is in Anthropology and a sub-discipline of Anthropology is Archaeology. I have experience with archaeological digging and knowledge of archaeological methods. While my field experience is in Wisconsin looking for structures left behind by the people of Aztalan (now a state park in Lake Mills, WI, Aztalan State Park), I used what I gained from classes, labs, and field experience to prepare the children for a grand archaeology experience.
Of course the things that the children were going to be digging up were related to the American Indians who utilized the land and river, the French settlers and traders moving south from Detroit, and the War of 1812. We had a real coyote skull for them to dig up, whirligigs, candle snuffers, metal and plastic buttons, a cannon ball, musket balls, wooden spoons, tent stakes, and some more modern finds like a plastic bottle cap. The children were taught how to grid their dig sites, sift dirt in our parks authentic archaeological sifter, and document the artifacts they found. They were able to keep their documentation forms and any pictures of artifact that they found.
Most of the children were elementary school aged and their tiny hands had a hard time manipulating the digging tools in the adult sized gloves. We all wore gloves for safety. It was so encouraging to see children excited about finding things in the dirt filled (permanent) sites under our pavilion. There was be a girl who had to show our park ranger everything she found! Like it was the first time it had ever been discovered. One little boy keep a picture of every artifact, even if he didn’t find it. The family members who came along also showed interest in the program and helped their children find artifacts and explain what things were.
Even though the Archaeology Children’s Program has little to do with my CVA duties I was glad to help and be a part of the happenings. It helped me feel more integrated into the park culture, meet visitors, young and old, and share some of my passion for digging in the dirt. I hope to continue helping with the program, since I really took a interest in developing the materials and resources, and see more children learn about the park, history of the United States, and get outside with thier families.
I am a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador for the National Park Service at River Raisin National Battlefield Park.