UTSA regularly engages its future students by holding special events and gatherings, like clubs, workshops and camps, for elementary, middle and high school students; this semester was no exception.
From March 9 to 11, the UTSA Center for Archaeological Research held an Archaeology Mini Spring Break Camp for younger children which involved learning about the idiosyncrasies of real world archeology, mock excavations, and other activities surrounding Native American and Mayan culture.
While the anthropology department has hosted a number of summer camps, this year will mark the first time the program has been presented during spring break (apart from a special request from Lackland Air Force base).
“This is the first time we’ve done spring break,” said Program Coordinator Whitney Lytle. “We do hold summer camps, but this is sort of our test run for spring break.”
Children from all over the state, out of state and even overseas were welcomed to participate in the experimental program, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Every day involved a wide range of activities and fun lectures; however, it was events like archery and spear throwing that really drew the children’s interest.
“In all our programs, we always do spear throwing because that’s the most fun,” said Lytle. “They learn how to use this tool called an ‘atlatl’ that is an ancient form of dart throwing technology that originated before the bow and arrow.”
Not far from the Main Building are four dig boxes that were used in conjunction with the various programs. Children learned proper excavation techniques, documentation and site organization. The attention to detail required of professional archaeologists is made evident to the campers.
“It’s a very slow process in reality,” said Lytle. “Once you dig it up, you have to keep the context in place, so there’s a lot of documenting that you need to do.”
One of the main ideas that Lytle and her colleagues have been trying to emphasize is the importance of accurate archaeological procedures, not only for the sake of the campers’ education, but also for the mentality of the community as a whole. They strove to prevent the true identity of archaeology from being mischaracterized by pop culture and cavalier TV shows.
To that end, the campers are given a broad scope of how excavation procedures are carried out in the real world. Interestingly, Lytle has observed that children actually absorb the finer details better and easier than adults do.
“In Texas, there’s sort of this culture of arrowhead hunting,” said Lytle. “Because they are relatively easy to find, it’s a hobby and a pastime. We like people to be interested, but there is that desire for archaeologists to keep that context in place and not lose any information. With kids they have that interest, but if you can impress upon them the importance of what it can tell you in place, they have a stronger appreciation for it.”
As the program continues with full steam, Lytle and her colleagues look back on a very successful spring break venture with hopes that it continues along with future expansion. Currently, there are no UTSA Alumni involved with the program; however, many graduate and undergraduate students have immensely contributed to its success.