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NYS Commissioner of Education visits Blue Creek

| December 18, 2015
NYS Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia, listens with students during an archaeologist's presentation.

NYS Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia, listens with students during an archaeologist’s presentation. Click here for a photo gallery of the event.

For the past several months, archaeological excavations have been conducted by the State Museum’s Cultural Resource Survey Program, in advance of airport access improvements at exit 4 of I-87. The project will include replacement and renovation of bridges and airport access just south of Albany-Shaker Road. During the excavations so far, pre-historic artifacts have been found in the construction area dating back to 6,000 B.C. According to the museum, the location of the site within the Pine Bush suggests these geologic features have been important settings for Native settlement going back as early as 12,000 B.C.

“Our goal is to go out and preserve and excavate as much of that knowledge as possible,” said State Archaeologist, Christina Rieth.

Students work with archaeologists.To share their findings, which coincide with the fourth grade science and social studies curriculum, Rieth and nine of her fellow archaeologists from the NYS Museum spent two hours with Blue Creek students using hands-on activities to present the artifacts. NYS Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia, attended as well.

“This is a great example of how we make learning come alive for kids and make it exciting and fun,” she said. “I think it’s an exciting opportunity for kids to have exponential learning and do it with the resources that are available in the state of New York.”

“I look around and I believe we’ll have an archaeologist someday out of this visit,” added Mark Schaming, the Director of the NYS Museum. “There’s nothing like holding an object that relates to history. I hope the students take away that they live in a place that has ancient stories and it’s a tangible thing.”

Students rotated between six different stations in small groups, where they were able to pass around artifacts, participate in mock “digs” using sand and objects, and listen to why archaeologists can learn from garbage. In addition, students participated in an “Artifacts in Your Home” station, which encouraged them to think about what artifacts might survive if their home was destroyed and what those artifacts might say about their family as a household.

Students work with archaeologists.“They’re asking questions themselves, and then searching for the answers themselves,” said Elia. “They might think, this is a job I might want to do.”

There is still a significant portion of the dig left to do which will continue through 2016. Upon completion, the artifacts will be analyzed and curated, and eventually available for exhibition and used by researchers for educational programming.

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