Archaeology Center educates children with back-yard history

Six-year-old Dani Khin, a first grade student at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Cottonwood, tries to pull apart a cotton ball. Khin and other students at St. Joseph's recently learned that the Sinagua tribe grew cotton. VVN/Bill Helm

Six-year-old Dani Khin, a first grade student at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Cottonwood, tries to pull apart a cotton ball. Khin and other students at St. Joseph's recently learned that the Sinagua tribe grew cotton. VVN/Bill Helm

VERDE VALLEY - Through education and research, the Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde endeavors to cultivate an understanding of prehistory and Native American history in the Verde Valley.

So it makes sense that VVAC's Educational Programs Department has an archaeology presentation geared toward schools in the Verde Valley.

Though the program has been in existence for a few years, Jim Graceffa, president of the center's Board of Directors, says he hopes to expand the program "and to bring this education to the schools. We hope to give children a basic knowledge of the pre-history of their back yard. What better way to protect it than through the children?"

VVAC Education Coordinator Lee Silver says the program is designed to act as an outreach for the community through Verde Valley schools, in effect, "to bring archaeology to life."

Conducted by VVAC volunteers, the presentation begins with a power point overview, followed by hands-on activities at different stations, says Jan Anderson, VVAC director of education.

"The children are able to examine various artifacts, including pottery sherds and projectile points, grind corn on a metate, create their own pictographs and learn about mapping tools," Anderson says. "Interest levels run high and feedback from teachers is always very positive."

Silver also says that the beauty of the program is that it is portable, that it can be taught either at schools, at VVAC or in the field.

Recently, students from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Cottonwood visited VVAC to learn more about the history of the Verde Valley. With all the faces of archaeology, parent volunteer Conrad Khin says the program "gives them a broader understanding that it's not just a singular discipline."

"Although this presentation has been given at several [Verde] Valley schools over the past few years, the Center hopes to expand and improve its outreach by working with local school administrators and teachers to support and enrich grade level curriculums," Anderson says."

"Only when our children become knowledgeable and appreciative of the unique and fragile remains of these past cultures can we hope to preserve these irreplaceable cultural resources for future generations," Anderson says. "Through these presentations, the Center hopes to inform and inspire our children about the rich and unique archaeological and cultural legacy of the Verde Valley and foster a sense of stewardship for this heritage."

For more information about the VVAC's education programs, call (928) 567-0066.

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