Digging deep

Kiwanians help kids preserve the future by studying the past.

By Cindy Dashnaw

While Dearborn County in southern Indiana was officially organized in 1803, people lived in this fertile area along the Ohio River long before it had borders. While most Indiana fourth graders get to pass around an arrowhead or clay pot fragment to help envision these early residents, kids ages 10-13 can now dig much deeper, thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Lawrenceburg. 

Like many Kiwanis projects, this one started with a speech.

“We invited Liz Sedler from the Archaeological Research Institute to tell us about her organization, and she talked about a Youth Archaeology Club they wanted to start,” says club member Mike Perleberg. “It was clear the program aligned well with Kiwanis’ mission to improve the lives and experiences of local kids.”

The Kiwanians decided to cover ARI’s startup costs with a US$1,600 donation in December 2021.

“Far beyond those startup funds, the Kiwanis club also has supported us as an organization,” says Sedler. “They see how important our mission is — to preserve local archaeological sites and educate the public about our region’s rich cultural history and how it impacts our community.” 

Kiwanians sponsor students who want to join the YAC but can’t pay membership fees, which cover staffing, materials and field-trip costs.

Kids get to scientifically explore real archaeological sites alongside professional archaeologists. Locations include Fort Ancient, a village of maybe 500 people between AD 1000 and AD 1250. 

Samy Norris, public education and outreach coordinator, says the programs’ authenticity sets YAC apart.

“While we cover some of the same information in our weeklong camps, YAC takes a deeper dive into subjects,” Norris explains. “Just this month, we learned about Native American games and then played one: chunkey, where players throw darts with an atlatl (a type of spear) to see who can get closest to a moving target.”

Sedler said YAC attendees (who she refers to as “YACs”) gain an appreciation for local sites and the information that scientific study can unearth and begin to understand the importance of preserving and stewarding cultural resources.

“I also want our YACs to understand that Native Americans are a people with a past, not a people of the past. They have a rich culture we can learn so much from.”

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