We asked teachers from across the nation to submit stories about how they use archaeology in their classroom or a time when they took their students to visit an archaeological site.

Dan McRoberts from Iowa is the winner of the Project Archaeology Story Contest!!! He will receive the award-winning guide Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter, a DVD, pencils, bookmarks, and a t-shirt. Best of all, an archaeologist will visit home-school students in Iowa City.!We are featuring Mr. McRoberts’ story on our blog this week.

Project Archaeology with the Iowa City Home School Assistance Program

by Dan McRoberts

Setting up the grid for classification of artifacts.

Setting up the grid for classification of artifacts.

We are a school district program assisting home-school families with resources, activities and support. Last year with assistance from the Office of the State Archaeologist Education Program (thanks Lynn and Cherie!) in Iowa City, Iowa, we were able to put together an Archaeology Themed Unit for our K-6th grade students.

First we talked about differences between geology, paleontology and archaeology and what artifacts can teach us through inferences using a customized lesson 5 from Project Archaeology. We set up a grid in the classroom and reconstructed a hunting camp. Then we thought about going back 800 years in Iowa and asked what would the artifacts of a hunting camp include? Thanks to the traveling trunks of replica Woodland artifacts, we were able to find out and talk about the complex culture of Woodland Indians living in the area. Many were very surprised to learn that the native people in Iowa traded goods with people in locales as far away as the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico.

Visiting Woodpecker Cave Rock Shelter at Coralville Reservoir.

Visiting Woodpecker Cave Rock Shelter at Coralville Reservoir.

Later we visited the Woodpecker Cave, a small rock shelter near Coralville Reservoir that has been excavated extensively since 1922 and had artifacts mostly from the Late Woodland times ~1200A.D. Artifacts found at the site included Late Woodland pottery shards including Great Oasis (a culture based near the Des Moines River further west) pottery shards, projectile points, stone knives, celts, and abrading stones. When we arrived at the site the kids were like any kids visiting someone’s home: they stood outside respectfully waiting until they were invited in! Then the explorations began with some students pretending to cook over fires, others peppering me with questions about Woodland Culture and others looking at fossils in the rock. “That’s paleontology!”, exclaimed one young boy remembering our lesson about geology, archaeology and paleontology.

On another day we visited the Pest House site in Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City. This was an historic Pest House, or TB house that was on the outskirts of town in the early 1900’s. Archaeology doctoral student Sarah Trabert gave us a thorough tour of the site explaining public health practices of the early twentieth century and showed us historic photos of the house amid an open hilly grassland. Now the site is hidden in a thickly wooded hillside.

Archery with naturalist Brad Freidhof.

Archery with naturalist Brad Freidhof.

Lastly we visited Johnson County naturalist Brad Freidhof who led us back in time by thinking about the ancient technology of archery. Even with modern bows, the art of archery was a challenge for our upper elementary, middle school and high school students. But thanks to Brad’s coaching several students “got their deer”. We cycle through our Thematic Units every couple of years and are looking forward to returning to our Archaeology theme soon.

If you want to know about archaeology opportunities in your state for students, visit the Project Archaeology State Programs page and contact your state coordinator today!