Diggin’ science

Barry Elementary fifth-graders Ryan Curry, 10, left, and Michael Maese, 10, looks for articles in their plot during an archeological dig Friday at Highland Elementary.

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

Clovis scientists are starting young these days.

Barry and Highland elementary combined for a science project that left students piecing together artifacts and deciphering piece by piece the lives of other students.

Fourth- through sixth-graders at the two schools buried newspaper clippings, pottery and other subtle hints of their personality in a plot of land on their school yard. Students also painted representations of their family on clay tile — then smashed it up for burial.

The land was marked off meter-by-meter, as it would be in an archeological dig. The artifacts were covered up, and students swapped schools one afternoon for their dig.

Barry Elementary fifth-grader William Murray found pottery pieces and buttons. He thinks he can connect the evidence to a girl based on the flower painted pottery.

Barry Elementary fourth-grade teacher Barbara Parson spent Wednesday helping students pull their findings together for this coming Wednesday’s museum presentation.

It is then the two schools will combine to see what students believe based on evidence — and what is really the truth.
“I am quite confident they are making a hypothesis on an incomplete picture, which is what archeologists do,” Parson said.

One of her students, 10-year-old Chris Cox, wrote a short report on his findings — various newspaper clippings about fried chicken and football. Combined with a blue Hot Wheels, he had the impression the evidence pointed to a boy.

Using eastern New Mexico’s rich archeological history, students took field trips to the Blackwater Draw museum and a dig site north of Clovis.

“At the museum we wanted (the students) to see how the objects were displayed so that at our museum they will have an idea what information should be put on there and how it should be displayed,” Parson said.

Ziggy Gamble, an archeology graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, spoke to the children about her profession.

Following her undergraduate work at the University of Texas, the 36-year-old Gamble spent several years working in the field.

“One of the things that really surprised the students is when they went out to dig. It was hard,” Gamble said. “I really do think it helped get them interested in science. So I am excited about that.”

Gamble has helped Texas schools with similar projects. She said for these students, common misconceptions about her profession were evident.

“All the kids wanted to know about dinosaurs and archaeologists only deal with people,” she said. “The biggest thing the kids were curious about was how much gold we dug up and treasures.

“And the answer to both questions is none at all.”