Vacation Archaeology Camp in Review

Sophie Stuart Museum

During the local schools’ April vacation week, we facilitated an archaeology-themed camp to introduce this diverse science to local students.  Each day of the camp focused on a theme which is critical to the practice of archaeology.  The first day of our camp coincided with Earth Day, so the morning discussions centered around environmental problems in Lake Champlain as well as an introduction to archaeology as a scientific discipline.  The afternoon was spent at Arnold’s Bay and Button Bay where the students participated in beach cleanups while also learning about the history of the area and looking for artifacts amidst the trash.

Tuesday focused on the discovery portion of archaeology from permits, to paperwork, to site surveys, and beyond!  The Crown Point Historic Site in New York provided a fun and educational field trip where they explored the museum and the grounds which house the ruins of both a French and British fort as well as natural limestone beds.  The weather was perfect for outdoor exploration, so we spent the majority of the afternoon touring the grounds and even found some fossils as we were in the limestone beds behind the forts. 

Wednesday revolved around the importance of documentation to archaeology and the kids got to see examples of multiple types of documentation that archaeologists use in the field.  The afternoon activity consisted of practicing some of these skills at a local site that hasn’t been documented, so our budding archaeologists were the first to create any documentation of the site!  They worked together taking measurements and surveying the surrounding area for additional signs of occupation.  Their individual measurements and drawings were then compiled into a full map of the site back at the museum which should be a source of great pride to each of the kids!

Thursday involved activities relating to the conservation of artifacts, specifically those that have been excavated from aquatic environments.  The kids spent the morning assisting one of the museum archaeologists with the cleaning and documentation of some grapeshot in the conservation lab.  After lunch, they participated in a relay race on site involving our shipwreck simulator and were instructed to always “swim run” to and from the site in an effort to simulate swimming to and from the shipwreck.  That afternoon they also got the chance to try their hand at the reconstruction of artifacts and even got to participate in Cookie archaeology-which is definitely harder than it sounds!

Friday was our culmination of everything the kids learned throughout the week, and the rain did not dampen the spirits of our enthusiastic archaeologists in training! In the morning the kids removed artifacts from a local site and brought them back to the museum where they cleaned, documented and analyzed what they had found.  In the afternoon we went to another local site where the kids practiced their archaeological observation skills.  As an educator this day was such a joy to behold, witnessing the kids using the skills they learned all week and seeing their faces light up each and every time they discovered something new.  The goal of this camp was for the kids to get a fun and interactive introduction to the fascinating and diverse field of archaeology and I wholeheartedly believe we delivered on that front.  We look forward to seeing many of these kids back at the museum for future events and continuing to inspire local youth through the power of knowledge here at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum!