Network Spotlight: An Oklahoma Ambassador

By Bekah Schields, Public Outreach Coordinator

We often feature a Master Teacher or State Coordinator in our triennial newsletter, but we’re so excited about what Randy is doing in Oklahoma City that we couldn’t wait until April to share with you!

Randy Utt participates in a dig with the Oklahoma Anthropological Society

Randy Utt, a Project Archaeology Master Teacher, teaches Gifted Education to grades 2-5 in the Putnam City School District. Introduced to Project Archaeology through a local workshop, Randy attended Project Archaeology’s Leadership Academy in the summer of 2016. This immersive experience set her up with a network of archaeologists and educators with common interests, some of whom she is still in contact with two years later. For her, Leadership Academy was a solid foundation not only to begin teaching the curriculum, but to comfortably present Project Archaeology’s materials in workshops to her Gifted teacher colleagues. Before leaving for the Leadership Academy, Randy contacted her school’s Gifted Coordinator and upon her return to Oklahoma City she presented during a professional development day, co-teaching with a local archaeologist from the Oklahoma Public Archaeology Network. Project Archaeology’s Investigating Shelter curriculum has since been adopted by her school district as part of the 4th Grade Gifted curriculum. I asked Randy how this came about, “It wasn’t difficult” she responded. When the gifted coordinator watched her presentation to the other teachers during the workshop, “He saw we were doing inquiry, higher level thinking, categorizing, and classification. He saw the curriculum in action, saw the potential that it has, and now it’s expected that the gifted teachers teach it.” Randy teaches the Pawnee Earthlodge shelter to her 4th grade class every year in the fall, and finds throughout the year that her students often go back and relate current learning to the Investigating Shelter curriculum.

Investigating the Pawnee Earthlodge

This past year, Dennis Elementary hosted an Archaeology Day during Oklahoma’s October Archaeology Month. Randy and the Oklahoma Public Archaeology Network co-organized the event and included all of the 4th grade classrooms. The eighty-five students rotated through three stations; they saw a live flint knapping demonstration, excavated a 3-D simulated site, and learned about Spiro Mounds, a local archaeological site. The students loved watching the University of Oklahoma student at the flint knapping demonstration, creating something useful out of just rocks. But the students weren’t the only ones fascinated by the creation of stone tools. A fellow Dennis Elementary teacher was so impressed by the flint knapping that Randy gave her one of the created objects after the event. As Randy described, “You would have thought I had given her some fine jewelry, the teacher was that excited! It’s just one way of sharing my excitement of learning about archaeology and opening that door for future learning.”

In the last two years, Randy has taught two workshops to a total of twenty-two Gifted teachers. This year, she is hoping to present at an Oklahoma Social Studies conference and teach a workshop to pre-service teachers at University of Oklahoma. “Teachers are so inundated with requirements that they don’t want to add one more thing [in their classrooms], but they see the value in the curriculum when I teach it, how it meets other standards … The more I show my enthusiasm for Project Archaeology, the more other teachers want to teach it.”

Thank you Randy for being a wonderful ambassador for Project Archaeology in Oklahoma! Do you want your program to be featured in our next Network Spotlight? Contact Bekah Schields at rebekah.schields@montana.edu. Check out past editions of our Network Spotlight in our Newsletter available for download here. Interested in attending the Leadership Academy in 2018? Download the application here.