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University of Iowa News Release

June 27, 2005

Middle School Students Explore Archaeology Through UI Program

Two University of Iowa-based research centers are partnering this summer to provide middle school students a unique experience in archaeological education.

Today (Monday, June 27) through Friday, the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) will teach 18 students in the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development's Junior Scholars Academy (JSA) about Iowa's archaeological past.

OSA Director Beth Pauls and education assistant Sarah Horgen will take students to local historical sites, show them how to make pottery and rock art, prepare ancient-style snacks, show students the thrill of Ice Age target practice using mock versions of ancient spear-like weapons called "atlatls" and provide them with hands-on experience in the field at the Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Area in Cedar Rapids. Additionally, guest speakers will demonstrate the tool-making techniques of the past and some of the high-tech tools archaeologists use today in site stewardship and predictive modeling.

The session is one of many one-week residential summer academic programs offered this summer through the Belin-Blank Center. Programs provide students with an opportunity to live and work with other highly able students. By studying a single advanced-level course for one week, students are engaged in intensive exploration and application of content and skills not traditionally taught in school.

Running concurrently with the archaeology program this week is a JSA class on topics in geometry. In that class, students will begin with Euclidian geometry - covering deductive proof, logic, and constructions using a compass and straight edge - as well as discuss such other geometries as transformation, coordinate, hyperbolic, elliptic, and fractal geometry. The students will also discuss geometry's applications in the fields of astronomy, aviation, navigation and GPS technology.

The Belin-Blank Center's Catherine Blando, Ed.S., says what sets the archaeology class apart is the fact that it marks the first partnership between the JSA and the OSA. It's also the first time the center is bringing together in one summer class students from five Iowa middle schools that are participants in the Belin-Blank Center's Iowa Excellence Program.

Created in 2003, the Iowa Excellence Program is an enrichment program in mathematics and science for middle school students that has been implemented in five rural districts -- Williamsburg, Mediapolis, Winterset, Shenandoah and St. Ansgar middle schools -- with the primary goal of engaging students in challenging curriculum so that their interest is sustained through high school, where they will be able to take advanced placement classes. Prospective student participants are identified through the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS), using above-level testing for talented students in grades four through nine in an effort to discover students who need further educational challenges to fully realize their academic abilities.

"This is a great opportunity for these students to meet and learn together," said Blando, administrator of the Iowa Excellence Program.

Students in the archaeology class will learn how early people hunted mammoths, invented agriculture and first farmed Iowa's once-vast prairies. They'll learn what people ate before the advent of cheeseburgers and French fries and get a glimpse into what daily life was like for prehistoric and pioneer-era Iowans.

More information about the Belin-Blank Center's Junior Scholars Academy is available at More information about the Office of the State Archaeologist may be found at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, Program: Catherine Blando, 319-335-6148, toll-free at 800-336-6463,