Photo courtesy of Gene Pass
Bob Johnson (far right), president of the Madison County Historical Society, leads London Elementary second-graders through an “archaeological dig” on the history museum grounds in London. Museum Director Dorothy Richmond (standing at back) looks on.
“We dug. We got dirty. When you’re in second grade, what’s not to love about that?” asks London resident Bob Johnson, who led an “archaeological dig” at the Madison County Historical Society Museum in London May 28.
The diggers were students from London Elementary. Johnson, president of the Historical Society, served as their guide. The dig is a new hands-on activity the museum offers to youngsters during the school year and over the summer.
Johnson starts the day with a 17-minute video about the Hopewell Indians entitled, “Legacy of the Mound Builders.” He also informs students that archaeological digs still happen in Madison County. In April, for example, investigators wrapped up a dig on Amity Road that took place after construction workers found artifacts during a Big Darby bridge replacement project.
While the artifacts students unearth at the museum don’t have true historical significance, the explorative process is similar to an actual archaeological dig.
“We start with a 4-foot by 16-foot long sandbox that is a foot deep. The kids can grid it just like a real dig. They mark it off in two-foot units,” Johnson said.
Buried in the units are pottery shards, reproduction arrowheads and animal bones. Students are given tools and collection bags. They record their findings on a single sheet of paper.
“Some give the bare minimum, and there are some who go into great detail—measuring the artifact, determining its color, describing its shape,” said Johnson, who requires older students to also describe the size of the unit, the type of soil, the depth at which artifacts were found, how many artifacts were found together, and so on.
“It makes it more realistic for the older kids,” he said.
As a dig unfolds, Johnson encourages students to consider what stories the artifacts tell about the people to whom they were connected.
“We buried chicken bones in one of the units. I asked the boy who dug them up, ‘What does that tell us?’ He said, “That the people ate chicken.’ ” It’s the start of piecing together history.
Johnson sends a glossary of terms, word searches and other classroom materials to teachers before the field trip to prepare the students for the hands-on fun.
“The dig is something kids can really get involved in. They’re not just sitting and watching,” Johnson said.
“Our first time doing a dig was May 28. I think it’s going to be a popular activity,” Johnson said, adding that the dig fits nicely into the curriculum for second- through sixth-graders.
To schedule a simulated archaeological dig for six or more children, call the His-torical Society Museum at 740-852-2977.
Johnson said his next project is construction of a kid-size log cabin that can be built and torn down over and over again.