Around this time of year many FPAN offices are busy working summer camps around the state. When I tell people this, they always ask, “What do kids do at archaeology summer camp?” Well, I decided that would be a wonderful blog topic. Most seem to think that we put the kids in a big pit and make them dig in the dirt all week long. Well, I don’t know about you, but in this heat, that does not sound too appealing. Thank goodness archaeology summer camp involves a variety of activities – some indoors and some outdoors!
This summer I worked with three different summer camps, and all three ran very differently. At one summer day camp I spent one hour with a different group of children each day. So each day I did the same activity, just adapting it to make it age appropriate for each individual group. I spent that week doing an activity called “Ancient Graffiti”. In this activity the children create a graffiti panel to show how people expressed themselves in the past. The campers learned that wall paintings, rock art, and even graffiti are found at archaeological sites throughout the world. They learned that pictographs created by prehistoric Native Americans are studied by archaeologists to interpret their meaning and use. Archaeologists use this type of rock art to understand the beliefs, religion, experiences, or stories of the people who created them. We even took it one step further and discussed how graffiti created during historic times can be studied the same way. The children even had the chance to learn about some ancient rock art found within a cave in Florida! The campers worked on their ancient graffiti in groups and had to tell a story without using any written words. They then had the chance to share their story with the rest of the campers. It is a great activity, and the stories were very entertaining. There were hunting parties telling about their latest catch, stories of adventures around the world and even stories of aliens landing on earth!
The second day camp I had the same group every day. Therefore I was able to do a different activity each day. This allowed for a more in depth look at Florida archaeology. We did a variety of activities, but the camper’s favorite one seemed to be the Chocolate Chip Cookie Excavation. This gave the children a chance to learn that excavation is a very scientific process and takes time. They also learned the importance of documentation by mapping their cookie prior to excavation. We took this lesson a step further by discussing the Law of Superposition, which states simply that in an undisturbed environment, the artifacts that are closer to the surface were deposited more recently than those that are found deeper within the ground. This, in turn, led to a productive discussion on the importance of not disturbing archaeological sites. It never ceases to amaze me at how intelligent and observant children can be! They latched on to this concept and ran with it.
The third camp was a Girl Scout sleep away camp. I was probably busiest at this camp. It was a week long and there were multiple archaeology activities scheduled each day. We had a chance to do both indoor and outdoor activities. Many activities I did with the campers came from either Project Archaeology or Beyond Artifacts. Beyond Artifacts is available for free on the FPAN website, and FPAN offers Project Archaeology workshops on a regular basis (www.flpublicarchaeology.org). I would have to say though; Atlatl Antics was probably the favorite activity for these campers! What could be more fun than learning about Native American technology and then having the chance to learn how to throw with an ancient hunting tool, the atlatl (also sometimes called a spear thrower)! The campers had a blast and learned that although prehistoric cultures did not have tv’s or computers, their technology was anything but primitive!
So there you have it, archaeology summer camp in a nutshell! Of course I could not go over each individual activity that the campers did throughout their stay at summer camp, but as you can see, it so much better than being stuck in a pit for a week! So, while this summer is coming to an end, remember, there is always next summer!