BLM Discovery Trunk offers Craig students hands-on learning
January 2, 2015
Craig — From carving their own petroglyphs to grinding their own corn, some Moffat County elementary students recently got a hands-on taste of life in the West thousands of years ago.
To help stimulate kids' imaginations and interest in Native American culture, the Utah Bureau of Land Management office created a Discovery Trunk full of relics from the past.
The trunk traveled to Craig with East Elementary School Librarian Christy Parrott in the fall. A lover of archaeology, she found the trunk during a student field trip to the Jarvie Ranch Harvest Fest in Utah.
"It contains replicas of artifacts, clothing, plants Native Americans used, it's all Native American based," Parrot said. "It is really a neat little program."
The lessons in the trunk are aimed at fourth- and fifth-grade students, however can also be adapted for high school kids.
So far, Parrott has presented the trunk to students at Ridgeview Elementary School and East Elementary School. Parrott spent nearly a full day at each school guiding kids through a wide variety of lessons and treasures contained in the trunk, all related to early American cultures.
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"My husband and I spent all last week making rocks out of plaster of Paris and painting them," Parrott said. "The kids are going to make petroglyphs. They're going to carve them out with nails."
The trunk also contained a mortar and pestle like one that early cultures would have used, along with dried corn for students to grind. One station that really caught students' interest was the fire-making station.
"They learn how to make a fire using sticks — one that they lay down and a skinny one they rub really fast and hopefully it will catch a spark," Parrott said.
Students also got to look through hundreds of artifacts and replicas, many of which they could touch and handle themselves, adding to the hands-on experience. Students learned about arrowheads, different uses for the yucca plant with items such as moccasins, paint brushes and rope, and even native trees and plants and how people used them.
"Oh my gosh, the kids loved it," Parrott said. "They got so into it, we actually ran out time. With hands-on learning, you see a whole new side of kids rather than just sitting here looking at a workbook… And the teachers love it."
The Discovery Trunk is in part a BLM outreach effort to connect with local schools, to get kids interested in science and also teach them about the importance of archeology.
"Archaeology is a science, people forget that," said Erin Goslin with the BLM Vernal Field Office in Utah. "That whole STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) that's becoming more popular… Archaeology is like the gateway drug. Most kids get into Indians, Egypt, dinosaurs at some point. That's the initiation and tumbles them down a path."
Parrott and Goslin both hope the program will get kids interested in sciences such as archaeology, botany, geology, and wildlife management that could lead into a possible career — perhaps even with the BLM — in the future.
With two elementary schools checked off the list, Parrott hopes to bring the program to Craig's remaining two elementary schools before she has to return the trunk to Utah by Feb. 1.
"Not every kid is an athlete, not every kid is a scholar, but you give them something hands-on and there may just be a little spark that lights up that you didn't know was there," Parrott said. "I just want the kids to get excited and appreciate what we have and maybe this will grow into something more for them."