TROY — The social studies teachers at Troy Junior High School aren’t afraid to dig deep and get their hands dirty in order to educate their students.
“The kids all think it’s pretty cool,” Troy eight-grade social studies teacher Justin Crews said of the school’s annual archaeology project, which concluded last week. “It gives them a chance to actually touch and feel history. They can feel the weight of these items. They can feel how sharp an arrowhead is. It’s a pretty eye-opening experience for them.”
For roughly three decades, eighth graders at Troy Junior High School have been starting the year by going on archaeological “digs” behind the school building, then examining and analyzing their findings. It was a project started by the late Dennis Dyke, a beloved social studies teacher at Troy Junior High School. Dyke — also known as “New Mexico Dennis,” a play on the movie character Indiana Jones — started the project after going on actual archaeological digs in the Southwest.
The recently retired Mick Roberts made sure Dyke’s legacy lived on through the project, which he oversaw for his entire career at Troy Junior High School.
“Mr. Roberts would always tell some good stories about New Mexico Dennis,” Crews said. “A lot of them were true stories, and he did a good job of keeping them alive.”
This year, the project was carried out by Crews and fellow social studies teachers Lindsey Schenck and Maddie Ladd. While a string of rainy days prevented the students from actually digging up the artifacts, they were able to examine all of them in an attempt to determine what they were and how ancient cultures may have used them. So of the “artifacts” are authentic, while others are replicas.
“What’s really neat is when a kid says something like, ‘My grandpa told me there were things like this around here a long time ago,’” Ladd said. “Then they can actually see these things for themselves. It’s also cool because it ties in with what they are doing in science right now, which is observation and inference. They have to try to look at some of these objects and figure out what they were used for.”
Crews said that not only do the eighth graders learn about ancient cultures, but the teachers are able to learn about their students through the project.
“It’s good for us, because it allows us to see how they think,” Crews said. “It’s a good gauge for us. When they do this project, there’s not always just one answer. We want them to have the opportunity to grow as a learner.”