Principia College

Kids Explore Archaeology at Summer Camp

College for Kids is a summer camp program offered by the Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. The program this year included a camp titled Can You Dig It? Adventures in Dirt, which was held at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, Missouri. This camp was designed to teach children about careers like archaeology that involve outdoor adventures and getting dirty. Riverlands staff partnered with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Meeting of the Rivers Foundation, Center for American Archaeology, Principia College, and Cahokia Mounds to provide this year’s participants with a fun and educational experience.

Fourteen children attended camp this year from July 7th to the 10th. Each day they learned about different dirty jobs by playing games and completing fun, yet challenging activities led by Riverlands Park Rangers and guest archaeologists. On the first day they tested their knowledge of pre-history with a game of Jeopardy, searched for artifacts in the strata of a layer cake, and made pottery using Native American techniques.

The following day began with a lesson on the Piasa Bird, a creature depicted in a local Native American rock painting. Afterward the campers traveled to Principia College for a lesson in paleontology. There they had the opportunity to learn about the mammoth dig site and visit the paleontology laboratory. To end the second day, the campers returned to Riverlands for an adventure in geocaching.

On day three, the campers learned about mending pottery by piecing together broken fragments (i.e., sherds) of ceramic plates like jigsaw puzzles. After stretching their legs on a nature hike with a Riverlands Park Ranger, they reviewed archaeology vocabulary terms and raced to find them all in a word search puzzle. The campers also practiced analyzing artifacts and inferring when, where, why, and by whom they were used. To end the day, they played Native American games with representatives from Cahokia Mounds.

On the fourth and final day of camp, the children stayed active with a canoeing trip to Ellis Island where they explored hiking trails and completed a mock excavation. Campers learned about the tools and methods archaeologists use for digging, and then practiced uncovering and recording information about modern, historic, and prehistoric artifacts. Before departing Ellis Island in their canoes, campers shared their findings and discussed archaeological ethics (e.g., what to do when you discover a new archaeological site at a national park or historic site).

Overall, the campers enjoyed their four days of adventure in the dirt. The wide range of activities ensured that there was something for everyone to enjoy, and some activities (e.g., pottery making and plate mending) even provided souvenirs for the campers to bring home and share with family and friends. At the end of camp, the children evaluated their experience to provide feedback for the rangers and guests, which will help to make camp even more successful in the following years. Perhaps a great experience at camp will inspire some participants to become archaeologists, paleontologists, or even park rangers in the future!

To learn more about the programs offered by College for Kids, visit http://www.lc.edu/c4k/.

To learn more about the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and partner organizations, visit the following links:

Making Pottery

Exploring the Outdoors

Excavating Layer Cake