Junior Archaeologists Dig in at Weedon Island in St Petersburg

By: Kassie Kemp

As summer comes to an end so do two weeks of fun in the sun with our Junior Archaeologist summer campers. For the past six years FPAN staff have partnered with the Alliance for Weedon Island Research and Education (AWIARE) to offer two, week-long camps at the Weedon Island Cultural and Natural History Center in St. Pete. The Weedon Island Preserve is the perfect setting for campers to learn about the past residents of Florida, how they interacted with their environment, and the techniques archaeologists use to study them. Each day, campers learned about a different aspect of archaeology through hands-on activities, experiments, and hikes.

Plant collage

USF PhD student Kendal Jackson taught the campers about a different type of archaeological study with an experiment about how we study past environments. Kendal took two soil samples, one from a mangrove swamp and the other from an upland environment, had the kids mixed them with water, and pour them through a fine mesh screen to capture any macrobotanicals in the soil. The kids then compared the different types of plant remains that were gathered in each environmental zone.

Campers started the week off with archaeology basics, learning how to record an archaeological site, draw a map, use a compass, and even how to measure distance just using their feet. Other camp activities focused on the stuff, or artifacts, archaeologists find and use to learn about people in the past. The campers learned all about how Native Americans used plants, stone, shells, and clay to make tools for everyday life. They even got to try out prehistoric hunting techniques and make their own pottery to take home with them. The rest of the campers time was filled with hikes, visits to the amazing museum exhibit at the Center, and (most campers’ favorite part of camp) participating in a real archaeological dig out at Weedon Island.

The Junior Archaeologist summer camp is a fun, hands-on experience for the kids, but it is also important to us here at FPAN that the campers walk away with a better understanding of what archaeology is and why it’s important. The kids really showed us what they learned through their creative and absolutely adorable drawings they did during camp.

Drawing collage 1

Camper drawings show what the kids learned during camp. They drew their experiences digging, in the lab, and what they learned from camp (archaeologists want to learn about people in the past, not dinosaurs!).

 

Many of our campers that return summer after summer are aging out of camp this year, so to help them continue in their archaeology summer fun, we are happy to announce we will be offering a camp for children ages 12-14 in summer 2018! In this new camp, students will dabble in similar topics as our Junior Archaeologists, but go more in depth into archaeological research and technology.  We hope this new camp will help interested kids keep their curiosity and wonder for the past alive.

 

Kassie is an archaeologist working at the West Central Regional Center of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, located at the University of South Florida in Tampa. If you would like more information about public archaeology or have some ideas please contact her at kkemp@usf.edu

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