CAMP VERDE - The Verde Valley Archaeology Center wants children to know there is more to archaeology than what they see in the movies.
"Children usually think that archaeologists look for dinosaurs or old rocks, or they think of Indiana Jones looking for treasure," says VVAC Executive Director Ken Zoll. "We want children to understand that archaeology brings the past to life through a process of exploration and discovery that can be grasped by children of all ages."
Linking Verde Valley's archaeological history to its youth, VVAC will unveil its new Children's Archaeology Adventure at 10 a.m. Saturday. Jan Anderson, director of Children's Educational Programs for VVAC, says the center "realized a need" to reach children.
"We had to dedicate a space to entice them, to capture their imagination to have an appreciation for the unique heritage of the Verde Valley," Anderson says. "We'll never be able to preserve these treasures for the future unless we engage the youth."
Though the Children's Archaeology Adventure is mostly geared toward grade-school children, Anderson says it will also be important for VVAC "to engage the parents with the children and share with them, for them to learn for themselves and peak their interest."
Anderson says that as the center grows, she would like to reach older kids "and have something to engage them, perhaps some summer activities, such as an archaeology school and activities that would interest the teenagers."
Though the Children's Archaeology Adventure will not be 100 percent completed before the grand opening, children will be able to grind corn, handle the center's artifacts and see a finished mural of prehistoric life in the Verde Valley.
"Incorporated in the mural are metal plates, so that puzzle pieces can be placed onto the mural," Anderson says. "Also to one side are silhouettes of a Sinagua boy and girl. This gives children an idea of the small size of those children. You would also see a number of tools and instruments utilized by archaeologists in the field. These items are displayed in the archaeologist's desk. An increasing number of interactive activities will be available for children."
VVAC has planned a variety of activities for Saturday, including face painting and storytelling. Bringing to life the world of Native American people, Uqualla, a member of the Grand Canyon Havasupai Tribe, will tell tales that his ancestors passed down through history.
Says VVAC docent Jeanne Smith, the Children's Archaeology Adventure will be "a special place" to help children understand the life and culture of the Sinagua, early inhabitants of the Verde Valley.
The Children's Archaeology Adventure "will help to reinforce programs presented to children in classrooms in the Verde Valley by members of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center," Smith says. "Having this new area to reinforce what has been presented to them in their classrooms will help them begin to understand the importance of these special treasures we all have been blessed with in the Verde Valley."
The first 100 kids at the grand opening will receive a Junior Archaeologist badge and a copy of the VVAC Kid's Guide to Archaeology activity book.
For more information about the Children's Archaeology Adventure, contact VVAC at (928) 567-0066 or firstname.lastname@example.org. VVAC is located at 385 S. Main St. and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Closed Tuesdays.