In May of 2018, Telluride Mountain School first and second grade students explored Ancestral Puebloan life in Southwestern Colorado. The trip was based out of Kelly Place, an outdoor educational center located between the red-rock walls of McElmo Canyon. Over three days, students explored prehistoric dwellings in Canyons of the Ancients, made clay from scratch, dug in an archaeological excavation site, practiced their atlatl skills, and hiked through Hovenweep National Monument.
The first day of the trip began with a tour, lead by a local archaeologist, through several of the 25 prehistoric Native American sites located on Kelly Place property. The highlight of this tour was climbing down a ladder into a restored kiva, where students learned about the materials used to construct the kiva and how the space would have been used by Ancestral Puebloans. The group then hiked into Canyons of the Ancients National Monument to Broken Beam House. The monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, and provided several opportunities to learn about Ancestral Puebloan life.
Over the next two days, students participated in several-hands on activities. With a local ceramics artist, they made clay from scratch, by grinding natural clay into dust, mixing it with sand and water, and then kneading it into malleable clay. Students then dug in an excavation site with a local archaeologist, looking for pottery sherds, animal bones, and stone tools. Finally, they learned to throw a spear with a traditional atlatl, a common tool used before the introduction of bows and arrows.
The final day of the trip was highlighted by a beautiful hike through Hovenweep National Monument. Students saw examples of Ancestral Puebloan agriculture, such as check dams, and construction techniques including chinking stones to strengthen stone and mortar structures. This trip provided students with countless hands-on learning opportunities, team building experiences, and a safe environment in which to explore and grow.
-Elementary Art & Spanish teacher