SOMERSET, Ky. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District collaborated with a team of facilitators from the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Archaeological survey and the Bureau of Land Management to educate local school teachers about archaeological history and preservation at Somerset High school, July 14-18.
Valarie McCormack, an archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, said the class is designed to equip teachers by instruction and allow them the ability to take the information back to their students and teach it in their classrooms.
“This method is a good process for learning about archaeology,” said McCormack, “Archaeology is a great learning-by-doing way to teach about the past and it helps students to understand difficult concepts.”
According to A. Gwynn Henderson, an archaeologist and a course instructor from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey the curriculum, “Investigating Shelter” was developed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and it provides fundamental teaching knowledge of areas around Lake Cumberland, and local history and archaeology.
“One of the best things about this class is the class visits various locations and gathered the information needed,” said Henderson. “We are teaching them some valuable information about exploring inquiry, investigating shelter, and learning about their ancestors and state history.”
She said the course deals not only with the material remains of ancient cultures, but also with important social and what it means to be human, and preparing to apply inquiry-based teaching methods in the classroom.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the class visited Barren Fork Coal Camp and Natural Arch historical sites. Both are located in the Daniel Boone Natural Forest near Somerset, Ky.
Randy Boedy, a course instructor and Park Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service at the Daniel Boone National Forest, led the students on a tour of the Natural Arch scenic area and described the importance of the trip.
“This place has unbelievable scenery and is very rich with history,” said Boedy. “Archaeological evidence tells us that Native Americans camped in the rock shelters of this area for thousands of year. Ancient plant remains and other artifacts that have been preserved in dry soils underneath the arch teach us about early farming techniques as well as the genetic and nutritional value of prehistoric foods. It all teaches us about our past.”
Karla Johnson, fifth grade teacher at Nancy elementary school, Nancy, Ky., said the instructors were great and visiting the Natural Arch was phenomenal, which will allow her to tell great stories.
“I have learned so much about archaeology in such a short time,” said Johnson. “We covered some good subjects and the instructors did not talk over our heads, which allowed us take the information in and comprehend it before we moved to the next subject.”
McCormack said archaeology provides access to the entire spectrum of human experience that spans more than 12,000 years in North America.
“This also is an excellent opportunity for us to provide the teachers with an archaeology overview, introduction to stewardship and curriculum so they not only have the knowledge but the hands-on experience to talk about it with their students,” said McCormack.
She said archaeology helps us to travel back into time to get valuable information about the human settlements and connects its resources to Lake Cumberland, which existed centuries ago.
“The students are doing well and this allows them to see the local cultural history up close and gain answers to various questions about the lifestyles of the people who lived in this part of the world before us,” said McCormack.
McCormack added that it is important that teachers and archaeologists talk to students about stewardship and standing firm against looting or disturbing historical sites. She said looters irretrievably destroy evidence about the context in which artifacts are found, even if the artifacts are subsequently recovered.
"This has been a great learning experience and now I will know what I am talking about when my students ask me those hard questions instead of saying … hold on let me look that up,” said Johnson.