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Just digging it — Otondo students trowel as archaeologists for the day
A class of fifth-grade students at Otondo Elementary had the opportunity to become archaeologists for a day using a sandy plot of land behind their school as an excavation site.
Equipped with the necessary tools, students conducted an archaeological dig — digging up artifacts that their instructor buried; measuring how deep in the ground it was found, weighing it, tagging and bagging it.
Teacher Michele Van Voorst said that after the students discovered the items they would return to the classroom to clean and inspect them in order to draw conclusions about what they found. She said she hid a myriad of artifacts from toys and coins to chicken bones and arrowheads.
“They're going to put it all on the table and they're going to write a story about this lost civilization that they uncovered,” said Van Voorst. “This project uses science, social studies, math and it hits about five or six state standards in each subject. They will also be working in groups so they'll learn leadership skills.”
Van Voorst, who has been teaching in Yuma Elementary District 1 for less than a year but for 23 years overall, said that she did this project once before when she taught in Lake Havasu City.
“Kids really learn best with hands-on activities,” she said.
The students had been looking forward to the dig throughout the class unit on archaeology in the classroom.
“The kids mapped out their site earlier this week and made a grid around it with string and building stakes,” she said.
Parents and other staff members were invited to come out and observe the dig with their classes, including the fifth-graders' kindergarten buddies.
“It's fun because we get to go outside and be with our kindergarten buddies and dig and get dirty,” said Alondra Maravilla, 10, after finding fool's gold and a hat on her site.
“It's more like hands-on learning and I just like that better.”
Sebastian Fierro, 10, said that he thought the activity was really awesome.
“I enjoy the digging part because when you find something cool it's really interesting. So far we've found some bones and some pictures... It tells me how they used to live and what they used to eat,” Fierro said.
Gizelle Avila, 10, said that she liked the assignment because she wants to be an archaeologist when she grows up.
“Being out here is way better because if you're just reading a book it gets kind of annoying if you don't get to do anything fun with it,” she said.
Her classmate Isaak Lopez, 10, agreed with her and said that he also wants to be an archaeologist.
“It's kind of cool actually because when you're digging you find a whole bunch of things,” he said.
Joel Zazueta, 10, said that he was enjoying applying what he learned in class.
“I'm finding things in the dirt like a real archaeologist,” he said.
His dad, Joel Zazueta Sr., said that he thought the project was a great opportunity for the students.
“It's one thing to talk about this in class and do it all on paper but once you get out here and put your hands on it, it puts more of a perspective on everything and it also helps you learn better. At least for me, hands-on helped me learn better,” he said.
He noted that he thought it was a great idea to have the students' kindergarten buddies join them.
“The fact that the kindergartners come out and work with the older students, it's great for the kids.”
Van Voorst said that this year she is trying to institute a once-a-month event for parents to attend like the archaeological dig or class presentations. She added that she is also including “Saturday school” once a month to do fun activities with the students and their parents, like going to the movies.
“I'm doing an informal study to see if the kids have a better year with more parent involvement.”
She concluded that so far she has had a great response from parents about wanting to get involved.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.