Students dig into Janesville's first history camp

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

JANESVILLE--Tanner Thayer, 10, logged each of the 10 artifacts from the Tallman Two Site archeological "dig" while his partner, Ben Smith, 11, carefully mapped their locations on graph paper.

As the two "unearthed" their finds from three time periods beneath layers of brown craft paper that represented dirt, they answered questions about what materials each item was made from, how it was used and why and where it was in their excavation area.

Each "dig" tells a story, said Shannon Fie, Beloit College professor of anthropology.

"They're looking to find patterns in their maps that can tell a story about the lives of the people to explain what was going on in this residential yard," she said.

Ben and Tanner were among 30 middle school-aged Janesville School District summer school students who registered to participate in Janesville's first history camp on the Rock County Historical Society campus on North Jackson Street.  Teachers Angie Denewellis and Gee Gee Jannene co-instruct the history camp.

The new, free offering is the result of a historical society and school district partnership to promote the value of local history to children, said Michael Reuter, historical society executive director.

By the time camp ends, Reuter said, students will learn about:

-- Archaeology by "digging" for buried treasure.

-- Genealogy by creating a family tree.

-- Museology by building an exhibit.

-- Architecture by taking pictures and touring the historic Lincoln Tallman House.

Ben said his teacher thought he would enjoy camp, his mom wanted him to attend, but he also wanted to learn more about history.

"I like history and am good at it in school," he said.

What he found most interesting about his archaeological "dig" was the two different types of “soil” on one site.

"We thought the dark soil had more rainfall than the other side," he said of his 30-by-30-inch excavation area.

Kathy Boguszewski, educational liaison on the historical society board and a former Janesville School District employee, said the camp's online registration filled immediately.

Reuter said that indicates an interest and demand for history programming “and it is the Rock County Historical Society's job to provide that," he said.

Because camp was such a big hit, it will be offered again next year and possibly expanded, Boguszewski said.

"Everything learned from this year will be discussed to determine where we go. We're limited by space so may need to offer camp more than one week. Our vision is to have a meeting with all the curriculum people in the Rock County school districts," she said.

The older Boguszewski gets the more important history and family are to her.

“To be able to carry on our heritage, I want children to be a part of that," she said.

Ben said he was glad he attended.

"I thought it would be different, but we've been doing a lot more hands-on than book projects," he said.

If camp is offered again next year?

"I would probably come."

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