Where in the hell am I?

June 20, 2013

Doing it for the kids

Filed under: archaeology, archeology — John @ 12:38 pm

It’s been a while since I posted here, and there has been a pretty major change I should mention.

As of April 1st, I have a new job with the Archeology (note: Texas state agencies use this spelling) Survey Team for the State Parks division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It’s been exciting, because I had been looking for a chance to move up, and I was also very interested in working for a state agency. I’ll talk more about my job for my Day of Archaeology 2013 post.

My office is in southeast Austin, near the main TPWD headquarters, which is by McKinney Falls State Park (side note: I lived here for almost 20 years before I finally went to this park. Lame on my part). Being so close to this park has allowed me to participate in some of the activities there (and also, unfortunately, respond to a looting incident).

One of these is the Junior Ranger summer day camp program. Over the course of the week, the kids learn about nature, wildlife, archaeology, and stewardship (or service) while spending a lot of quality time outdoors. Tuesday is Archeology day, which is where I come in. The park has a large rockshelter along a trail (the Smith Rockshelter, which was excavated in 1954-1955), and the ruins of several structures related to Thomas McKinney, the park’s namesake, including his house and a mill. There is also a probable section of the Camino Real.

Junior Rangers at the Smith Shelter

We take the kids (8-12 year olds) on a tour of these sites and talk about archaeology, the people who lived here from the native Texans to McKinney and his slaves, to the early 20th century sharecroppers. It’s not easy, because kids are easily distracted by things like all the Daddy Longlegs on the shelter ceiling and the tadpoles in Onion Creek. But I could tell that some were listening, and we do our best to explain a little bit about context and the importance of stewardship.

When the tour is finished, we do the part that all the kids love: throwing darts with an atlatl.

Junior Rangers atlatl demo

Sometimes, I try to sneak in some archaeological information during these parts too, but mostly its just fun to watch the kids trying to hit a javelina or deer target, espeically when the darts are almost twice as long as some of the younger ones! And as you can see in the photo above, sometimes they decide to find other ways to get the target 🙂

This interpretative tour and demonstration isn’t a regular part of my job, but I have really enjoyed my chances that I’ve gotten to do it, and I hope for much such opportunities in the future. I definitely need the atlatl practice!



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