Kids learn to ‘dig it’ at Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie archaeology campers uncover finds during camp. (Submitted photo)

Conner Prairie archaeology campers uncover finds during camp. (Submitted photo)

By Beth Taylor

Trowels, shovels, brushes, and sifters helped campers uncover artifacts from the past at Conner Prairie’s new specialty camp offering – Archaeology Camp.

The weeklong camp, held July 14 through 18, began with class instruction on Monday. Campers learned key archaeological concepts, as well as some fundamentals on stratigraphy, the branch of geology that studies rock layering. Campers were guided through formulating hypotheses, researching questions, and preparing presentations.

Tuesday through Thursday, campers explored dig sites by working with the same tools as those used by professional archeologists to excavate four layers of soil and rock, at a depth of 1.5 feet. Program Developer Gail Brown spent about a month gathering artifacts and objects. He and his team created four 3’x3’ dig sites.

“We bury artifacts that could actually be found in this area in the four layers,” he said.

Discoveries by campers included pottery, old nails, tools and bone fragments.

“Campers are placed in groups of mixed ages and abilities because we find that the older kids naturally take on leadership roles,” said Brown.

Crafts and art projects, such as creating sand art bottles and working with pottery, were also part of the week’s activities.

“I thought it was super fun, and I got to meet a lot of new friends; I learned about archaeology, and now I find it more interesting,” said sixth grade camper, Sarah Ellis. “We came up with connections. We found a piece of pottery in our dig area that came from Prairie Town.”

Parents also enjoyed the camp.

“Creating the connections helps with critical-thinking skills, and learning how to come up with a hypothesis is great,” said Sarah’s mom, Elizabeth Ellis.

On Friday, campers prepared poster board presentations to complement their group’s findings for the week.

“We offer suggestions, but the campers came up with the questions they wanted to answer and how to display their findings,” said Brown.

Parents and guests toured the exhibit-like presentations. Campers eagerly provided thoughtful answers to questions about their findings.