Students Unearth Artifacts, Begin Weeklong Learning Adventure

The Giving Coast

Pictured: Dr. Mitch Ruzek, USF professor, works with students at the Big Dig site at Glenallen Elementary School

On Monday morning, students at Glenallen Elementary School, in North Port, returned from the weekend to a surprise. Part of the field next to their school had been dug up and was surrounded by caution tape. School officials, the students learned, had discovered artifacts and called in scientists to explore. Thus began The Big Dig, a weeklong, inquiry-based, cross-curricular learning scenario that involves all Glenallen students, including pre-K. Funded by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and developed in coordination with University of South Florida (USF) professors, this immersive grant simulates an archeological dig site.

Acting as on-site scientists, USF professors Mitch Ruzek and Dana Zeidler will lead the students through a week of hands-on learning that connects the dig to the material students are learning in the classroom. Monday was the day of discovery, and classes walked to the dig site with their teachers and engaged in question-and-answer sessions with professors Ruzek and Zeidler. They had their first chance to see and handle the unearthed artifacts, including a megalodon tooth and dinosaur bones, and they began to make inferences about them. As the week progresses, students will connect archeological discoveries with trade routes indigenous peoples and colonists took through Florida. They will measure the dig site to determine area and perimeter, applying and growing their math skills. They will study dinosaurs and musical instruments, even sound waves, all of it connected to the artifacts that students discover, process, and investigate. Students will write about their discoveries and share what they have learned to all students through Glenallen’s media center. Glenallen Elementary School is a Title I school, with 77% of its students identified as economically disadvantaged. Hands-on, innovative experiences such as The Big Dig spark curiosity that can inspire these students for years to come.

Pictured: Dr. Mitch Ruzek, USF professor, works with students at the Big Dig site at Glenallen Elementary School

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