Students at Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired in Baton Rouge are getting an introduction this summer to archaeology, including a taste of what it’s like to participate in an excavation.
This mock dig began Wednesday and finishes Thursday, the high point of a three-week summer camp at the school on Brightside Lane. Twenty-six students are participating in the camp, though only a dozen were present Wednesday.
The students were feeling their way through a series of wooden boxes with layers of mulch, dirt and sand. Lurking underneath somewhere was an array of artifacts, ranging from pennies and bottles to historic pottery and tools. The different layers are meant to take students back in time, to before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas.
The project emphases “not only how important archaeology is, but also Louisiana history,” said Val Feathers, outreach coordinator with the Division of Archaeology, an arm of the state’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Melanie Brenckle, LSVI’s principal, said she was looking for something different to try for this year’s summer camp, something that would allow students to “really experience the things they’d been learning in the classroom during the year.”
Can't see video below? Click here.
Feathers helped create the archaeology curriculum, trying it out for the first time last August with students at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge. She spent two months adapting the lessons for LSVI children, who are either blind or have other visual impairments. She said she thought she’d have to move slower and spend more time on each lesson, but that hasn’t been the case at all.
“I have had to come up with more lessons,” Feathers said. “The students are just eating it up.”
Allen Crosby, 16, said he was having a good time.
“Yeah, I like being outside and digging in the dirt,” Crowley said. “I like discovering stuff. It’s better than doing oil changes. You don’t get oil on you.”
It wasn’t long Wednesday before Crosby was covered in dirt.
“Want a hug, Mr. Ellers,” said Allen Crosby, stretching his dirty hands out to the school employee.
“I went to school so I didn’t have to dig in the dirt every day,” joked David Ellers, who works in information technology.
“That’s funny. I went to school so I would have to work in the dirt,” responded Steve Fullen, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area executive director who was helping with the summer camp.
Evan Hoffmann, 11, said he’s enjoying learning about archaeology, but he's not sure about it as a career. He’s also interested in electrical engineering, construction, gaming and YouTubing.
The best part of Wednesday’s dig, he said, was finding a big bone.
“I want to find a lot of bones,” Hoffman said. “They’re cool because they’re creepy.”
Charles "Chip" McGimsey, state archaeologist, was on hand Wednesday. He said that during the final days of the camp the students will have to analyze the results of their dig.
“The final product for them will be to come up with a story for what they found in each box,” McGimsey said. “What’s the history, what’s the difference between the layers … just like any archaeologist would do.”
McGimsey said that in the right circumstances any one of the LSVI students participating in the camp could one day be an archaeologist, though doing excavation work might be hard for someone completely blind. Nevertheless, the field is broad, offering many niches. And those with a strong sense of touch have an advantage, he said.
“You get very sensitive to feeling for changes in the dirt and what not,” he said. “Archaeology is a very tactile science.”