Monica Veale, University of Texas at Arlington
As a child, my first experience with archaeology was a long road trip to Portland, Oregon, for a family reunion. The trip involved stops in Mesa Verde National Park, Bandelier National Monument, and Gila Cliff Dwellings. I was only eight years old at the time, but I can clearly remember the feeling of awe I had in these places. I even remember the volunteers and park rangers answering my questions and filling me with information I had never heard before. This experience affected me greatly—and now here I am at an archaeological field school in Mule Creek, New Mexico, not far from the places I visited as a child.
I believe it is critical for children to have exposure to these sorts of experiences. I am not the only one here at field school who has a childhood link to their interest in archaeology—which shows how important exposure and outreach can be. Victoria started digging holes in her backyard, and even built a mini adobe house that lasted for years. Joe was given an archaeology set with a mini trowel for Christmas. Alec participated in an outreach event where he got to do a public dig. Dushyant went to an IMAX movie about the Nile valley. Connor went to a museum where he remembers asking a lot of questions about how the artifacts made it to the museum. Even our experimental archaeology instructor Allen was only 12 when he went to Crow Canyon, where he knew that archaeology was for him.
The little things children get to experience can make all the difference in their path in life. At the end of the month, I am looking forward to our public event, where I will have an opportunity to spark kids’ interest in archaeology. I am still working on my idea for the outreach project, but I believe it is equally important to get the parents involved so they can support their child’s learning and interests, so I’m considering that in my plans.