Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Day at the Pioneer's Museum in Colorado Springs

TODAY I HAD A GREAT DAY AT the Colorado Springs Pioneer’s Museum working with over 90 fourth grade students on the wonders of rocks, minerals, and Indian artifacts from the museum’s collections. I worked with the students on how to keep a lab book and how to do scientific photography and photography or specimens as they might appear in a popular magazine. The following are some selected images the students made during our time at the museum.

This is an image of a calcite sand crystal from South Dakota that one of the students made. These interesting specimens are thought to have been formed by the action of ground water or by spring deposition and are composed of calcite (CaCO3) and coarse wind-blown sand from an ancient dune deposit field. The absence of mud and silt and the well-rounded sand grains, along with wind-etched surfaces, indicates dune origin. The crystals are composed of about 37 % calcite and the rest is mainly sand inclusions.

Figure 1. Calcite sand crystals from South Dakota
Image by Patrick Henry Elementary School third grade student

A NUMBER OF THE ELEMENTRY STUDENTS knew that his material was an igneous rock—a lava flow that was filled with small holes of various sizes from escaping gas. When I pointed out how the object had been fashioned into a bowl; the rock went immediately from the ordinary to the realm of the extraordinary. In addition to a lava rock, the students now had an archaeological artifact with many stories that had to now be discovered by the students such as: who made the object; what was it used for; how old it is; and why was it shaped just that way and with that material?

Figure 2. Indian artifact made of basaltic lava flow,
Image by Patrick Henry Elementary School third grade student

ONE OF THE THIRD GRADE STUDENTS from Patrick Henry Elementary I worked with today took this image of a spectacular spear point found in the Pikes Peak region and stored in the collections of the Pioneer’s Museum. This lithic shows superior workmanship, which suggests it was perhaps an object used in ceremonies centuries ago. Each student’s imagination was stirred to find out more about the archaeological object. It was pure joy for me to watch these kids work with this perhaps sacred object with the care and curiosity of budding scientists.

Figure 3. A beautiful spear point was positioned for photography
by a small amount of "silly putty." The students
thought this was very cool. A scale is always
kept in the picture so scientists will know size.
Image by Patrick Henry Elementary School third grade student.