Friday, July 1, 2011


I'm finally back in the office for a couple of days after what has been an incredibly busy spring (and early summer).  I'm so glad to have a few minutes to pass along some of the fun I've been having with kids all over northeast Florida.  I love getting to work with kids and visit classrooms, but really don't get out there as much as some may think.  May and June of this year, though, had me hopping from county to county to talk (and play) archaeology.

Clay County Students map in artifacts found in a Kingsley slave cabin.

One of the visits I make most regularly is not to a school at all, but to Camp Chowenwaw in Clay County.  It's a county park with camping and even tree houses, but during the school year they offer terrific field trips.  When a school arrives, kids break into groups and rotate through a few different programs.  Some focus on local plants or aquatic life--one even revolves around the ongoing adventures of a flying squirrel!  I love getting to work into their rotation.  This spring I brought out the Kingsley Plantation tarp, which displays images of artifacts in the locations where they were found.  Kids get to take a look at them and map them in, then we work together using context & classification to draw conclusions about the site itself.

Not long thereafter, I got to cooperate with the Friends of A1A and other entities at the Environmental Education Fair near Marineland.  What a whirlwind!  They had invited several participating groups to that event; kids rotated from station to station in ten-minute intervals.  If you ever want to know just how quickly you can form sentences, get yourself a half-day of ten-minute intervals.  This event was terrific too because it highlights the way that FPAN can act as a partner in events, working with organizations with diverse interests to provide a truly unique educational experience for kids.

Nesting terns make homes on the beach.

Fourth graders from a school in Flagler County came out and got to visit my station as well as a number of others.  The St. Johns Audobon Society spoke to kids about nesting terns (and I almost didn't even notice the nest!). 


State Parks Ranger Melissa Kafel.
Melissa Kafel from Washington Oaks Garden State Park discussed point and non-point pollution, the Alligator Farm brought all things alligator (and other aquatic life), and Marineland's Dolphin Conservation Center provided information and activities about--what else?--dolphins.

The program that really tripped my trigger was from GTM-NERR, who provided microscopes and sands from a variety of locations.  Why?  Sea turtles return to the beach of their birth to lay their own eggs, and recognize home by the sand.  In case you ever wonder what sea turtles and archaeologists have in common, the answer is soil composition.

My program was a two-part dive into underwater archaeology--which meant that my kids got 5 minutes at each of the activities I planned for them.  At one station, we explored how shipwreck sites form underwater, using pages from the book A Shipwreck Through Time.  At the other hand, students got to try their hand at mapping an anchor.  Archaeologists, underwater or otherwise, know how important it is to document artifacts in situ, so it's a fun hands-on way to start thinking about the skills and methods we use in the field. 

Next, I was invited to Crookshank Elementary as a participant in their round of Earth Day Celebration.  I saw kids from 3rd-5th grades and showed pictures of real sites from excavations, as well as some of underwater sites I'd visited during a recent HADS training.  Then we played a game with a bag full of "artifacts" from a modern-day space to see what we could learn about the place and its inhabitants. 

Eco-campers learned how Native pottery decorations changed
over time & got to try some techniques for themselves.
When school got out, I had an event that allowed me the opportunity to spend nearly a whole day talking and playing archaeology with campers at Ravine Gardens State Park, which offers a five-day camp each summer.  At the first day of their Eco Adventures Camp, I brought a variety of different activities--we did a Project Archaeology context game, artifacts in a bag, and a hands-on activity to learn about the development of Native American pottery and decorations in northeast Florida. 

Some kids were so creative! This little
guy led to a discussion about figurines.
We finished out the day with a modified version of a perennial favorite, atl-atls.  I took the kids outside to talk a little more about Native American technology and showed them a replica spear and atl-atl before turning them loose to try their hand at the same sort of technology.  Using a modern version of the prehistoric hunting tool, campers documented the difference between how far they threw a tennis ball with their bare hand and how much farther it went using the extended throwing arm.

Campers use a modern interpretation of prehistoric atl-atl
technology--a toy used to play fetch with dogs!

As much as times like this keep me running, I really benefit from practicing different activities in a variety of formats.  Aside from getting my fill of fun with kids, it really does keep me on my toes.

My view of the beach from the A1A Environmental Education Fair.

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