Assignment: Education – Lessons learned from local soil

Some local students are digging for buried treasure. They’re hoping to uncover a piece of history on school grounds.

The second through fifth grade students at Summit Environmental Elementary School in La Crosse are working with the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center to learn the excavation process.

“They are, right now, archaeologists,” said Summit Environmental School teacher Deb Klaeser. “They’re doing everything an archaeologist would.”

They have been trained to look for artifacts in three test units, which involves opening up a larger area of land to get a good sample to see if the area is a significant site for Native American artifacts.

“So knowing that this area had that concentration of prehistoric artifacts, we came back here,” said Jean Dowiasch, from the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center.

The students chart the soil color and then put the soil through a screening processes to help them look for anything out of the ordinary.

“This is our way of making sure we don’t lose any artifacts,” said Dowiasch.

It’s a process that has helped these students uncover the secrets buried in their own school yard.

“We have found some pieces of historic artifacts,” said Dwiasch. “We found glass and charcoal.”

And while students uncover pieces of history, teachers incorporate lessons from every subject into this outdoor learning experience.

“They’ve been measuring already,” said Klaeser. “They have to read. They have to write. They have to report about it.”

It’s hard work that will forever be recorded in state history because these spots at Summit Environmental school are official archaeological sites.

“It’s very exciting,” said Klaeser. “I love it! I love this stuff and I love to see the kids doing it. It just thrills me.”

The archaeological dig lasted five days.

By the end of the week, students found many historic artifacts, including glass, pottery, charcoal and prehistoric flakes, which can occur during tool making.

This project was funded by a grant provided by the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.