Oh, What a Dig!
by Dottie Gray, Boundary County Museum
Plastic spoons, toothpicks, and paint brushes were transformed into tools needed by budding junior archaeologists, as fourth graders from Mt. Hall, Naples, and Valley View schools came to the Museum on Wednesday, March 4 to celebrate Idaho Day. 152 years ago, in 1863, on this date, President Abraham Lincoln signed the act that created the Territory of Idaho. The 2014 Idaho Legislature established March 4 as a day to commemorate this historic event.
In small groups, (with a cadre of Museum volunteers as leaders who were having as much fun as the kids!), the students constructed a grid using measurement skills over their “dig sites.” They labeled the axes to give common language to each sextant of the site. They imagined themselves as homesteaders to this new territory and prepared to clear their land. But, oh look! There is something sticking out of the dirt and gravel. Their challenge was to discover what artifacts might be waiting to be uncovered, and to do so carefully so as not to damage the treasures that await them.
Each site contained at least one real artifact from the Museum’s collection: stone scrapers, stone axes, stone fish weights, and even some trade beads. They discovered other clues to plants and animals that may have been here at the time: huckleberries, morel mushrooms, rose hips, sweet grass, snail shells, bones, leather strips, feathers, and deer hair. The children easily identified the Kootenai Tribe as the first inhabitants of the land, and these artifacts would have been a part of their lives and culture.
Following the enthusiastic and successful dig, Curator Sue Kemmis, led the groups in a debriefing “show and share” discussion of what can be learned about people and places from the artifacts left behind. The children were eager to share what they had found and what they had learned. After a brief clean-up, each student was treated to an Idaho shaped cookie, before boarding their buses back to school. We thank the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho for providing funds to bus children to the museum for this and other programs.
The Museum appreciates the opportunity to work with the schools, teachers, and students. In April a “trunk story” will go out to all district 4th grades, as well as to the private schools in the county. And in May students will board those buses once again for the annual tour of the Boundary County Museum.