Friday, June 23, 2017, was our last day of archaeology exploration for 2017. The kids came into the Museum and Heritage Center at 9 AM and got right to work on their projects without adult prompting. Our volunteers and staff were there to support them, supplying photos, research assistance, materials, and direction.
As they finished with their displays, students helped sort, pack and store all of the tools and supplies we had used during the dig. The adults were all so pleased with their willingness to help out.
All projects were finished and set up in the back room by noon, so we celebrated with a pizza lunch provided by the Museum and Heritage Center. EVERYONE enjoyed that!
After cleaning up the room to get ready for our guests, several types of maps were explored. Beginning with Newaygo County maps, students found Grant Township, the location of our dig sites. We moved on to plat maps of that township, finding Sections 11 and 14, the original location of the majority of Rice Lake, in each. Plat maps have a wealth of information to share when you look at the land over time.
By studying the size of land parcels from 1880 to 2011, it was apparent that, when the lake was first drained and the land sold, parcels were small. We could see so many little squares and rectangles and lots of names of all the people who owned them. Then, after WW I, when the depression occurred, property-owners sold off their small parcels and the plat maps indicated fewer owners. There was a slight increase in the number of owners just before WW II. After that war, cars were common and people drove to higher paying factory work in Grand Rapids, selling off their farm land. Today, the muck land is owned by a few farmers who have large corporate businesses. We saw lots of large squares and rectangles, but very few names, on the 2010-2011 plat map.
Kate Russell, archaeologist and director of the Terry Wantz Historical Research Center, also shared information with the kids about the Native American Boarding Schools and her archaeology experience at the boarding school in Mt. Pleasant.
Many guests arrived early and we were in full presentation mode by 2:00 PM. Over 60 parents, grandparents, and friends examined our finds and learned from our junior archaeologists. The high praise and support received were a big boost to the kids as well as adults who made it all happen…truly a Celebration of Learning!