We are excited to welcome our first guest blogger, Sarah Mistak Caughron! Sarah is the Texas Project Archaeology Coordinator and Lead Educator of the Earth and Space Programs at the Museum of  Nature and Science in Dallas, TX.  Take it away Sarah…

Greetings from the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas!  As the first blog, I wasn’t quite sure what to write.  Since we have recently given a lot of discourse to badge programs and other such programs, I thought I would provide an update of what we have going on in the Big D!

It’s been a very busy year for us in terms of archaeology programming.  While we continue to offer school programs including Exploring the Past: The Archaeology of Texas and Moments in Time as our most popular school offerings for grades 3-6, we branched out this year to offer archaeology scouting programs.  As an archaeologist who chose museum education and public archaeology over CRM, it is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to work with special groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Sarah Caughron teaching Boy Scouts how to throw an atlatl

On November 6, I was joined by 20 Boy Scouts as they earned their Archaeology Merit Badge.  It was an entire day’s work, but they boys enjoyed a range of activities including, spear throwing using an atlatl, pot making, artifact show-and-tell, and researching fascinating archaeology sites from around the world. I am happy to report that this was our first attempt in many years at offering such a program, and we had a waiting list of over 30 participants.  We have scheduled 2 more Boy Scout Archaeology Merit Badge workshops to be held on February 26 and March 5 – both are already full!

Not to be outdone, we received a call from an incredible Girl Scout mom, and we arranged our first-ever Girl Scout Native American Badge on December 10….with a twist….it was a museum sleepover!  58 girls filled our museum halls for what proved to be an amazing night! I worked through California Girl Scout badge protocol to develop a program for our Texas residents.  We had a great time learning about indigenous Texas tribes, participating in our version of a pow-wow, practicing Native American languages and games, exploring the night sky and Native American legends in our planetarium, and topping of the night sleeping among our life-like dioramas.

Girl Scout sleepover at the Museum

This year Dallas will host the Super Bowl.  The museum is hosting an event for the NFL called the One World Super Huddle, in which several area 5th grade classes that have engaged in pen pal style letter writing will come together at our museum on Monday, January 31, just days before kickoff to celebrate cultural diversity in the DFW area. (Did I mention that 4 NFL players are going to show up to join in on the fun?)  Students will experience African drumming and dance, Mexican Art, and Latin Music.  I am contributing a program about language – since language shapes culture.  I am adding an archaeology spin (of course!) and framing the program around the idea that North Texas has ALWAYS been a place rich in cultural diversity, and prehistoric/historic tribes spoke many different languages.  Students will be exposed to languages of the past and present to draw connections to the importance of language and culture.  I am still working out the details of the hands-on activity, but I am thinking of doing an activity where students can make something like a pot or effigy and decorate it with words that represent past and present languages and symbols.  (Any suggestions are welcome!)

Girl Scout sleepover event at the Museum

A final archaeology-themed event we are doing at the museum in the coming months is a program I created specifically for Dallas-area home school groups.  This is a constituency that museums often have trouble reaching, and we are designating a day just for home school groups and individuals on February 22.  I thought archaeology would be a perfect topic for such an event because it is an area that home school teachers might encounter some subject-matter inadequacies. Plus, as we all know, archaeology is typically a crowd-pleaser in addition to being a REALLY cool subject!  In conjunction with our National Engineers Week festivities, I thought it would be fun to explore the topic Ancient Technologies and Engineering.  Students will investigate the science and engineering behind the atlatl, ancient pyramids, and the Terra Cotta warriors just to name a few.

Sarah showing Boy Scouts how to excavate properly in a mock dig

In March, I am hoping to turn my attention to teachers and conduct a Project Archaeology teacher’s workshop at the Collin County Outdoor Nudge or GeoTech 2011.  I would also like to conduct some professional development workshops onsite at the museum in the late summer.

Thanks for reading. Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions. I am looking to expand public archaeology in the DFW area, make a name for Project Archaeology in North Texas, and become an active member of our own PA network of creative and talented individuals.  Your comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Sarah Mistak Caughron, M.A., RPA

Museum of Nature and Science

P.O. Box 151469 – Dallas, Texas 75315