Learning about area ancients fun for teachers

Cathy Epps and Fred Shroeder enjoy archaeological ruins as part of their teacher training institute with Crow Canyon. They spent three weeks both in and out of a classroom, learning about the ancients of the Southwest. Enlargephoto

Special to the Times

Cathy Epps and Fred Shroeder enjoy archaeological ruins as part of their teacher training institute with Crow Canyon. They spent three weeks both in and out of a classroom, learning about the ancients of the Southwest.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center recently sent two teachers from Mancos school district on a learning expedition, giving them classroom training and some on-site, hands-on experience.

Cathy Epps. and Fred Schroeder, who teach 3rd and 4th grade students, were involved in a three-week learning institute for educators, called “Bridging Cultures: Diversity and Unity in the Pueblo World” from June 24 through July 14. They learned about the history of the Pueblo Indians and the places they lived, a subject that they want to continue to teach in their classrooms.

The two teachers already knew some about the history of this area, having lived here for many years and teaching that history to the kids in their classes. But, said Schroeder, this institute got them both thinking about the cultures in a bigger context.

“It’s so important for teachers to have that knowledge...that there was so much happening before us,” he said.

The funding for the institute came from a grant that Crow Canyon received from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The two Mancos teachers had to go through the application process and were joined by 23 other scholars from around the country. The scholars represented many different knowledge bases and grade levels.

“Along with these two from Mancos, there were three teachers from Cortez and two from Ouray,” said Margie Connolly, director of the program at Crow Canyon. Connolly said that it was a difficult process for Crow Canyon to get an NEH program there at the Center, making it even more special. Shirley Powell, also a part of Crow Canyon, helped raise the funds needed for the program. She worked alongside Connolly in getting the program going. Each of the teachers received a small stipend for participating, and earned six credit hours from the Colorado School of Mines.

Crow Canyon is a place of education, research and collaboration that works with teachers, archaeologists, Native Americans and the public to bring them all sorts of history and culture. Their proximity to many places in the Southwest makes it a wonderful place for groups to come and learn.

“I believe in teaching history before 1492,” said Connolly. The archaeological sites in many of the national parks and monuments in this area are where Shroeder and Epps received their hands-on training.

Epps’ favorite part of the education was the day they spent at Bandalier National Monument, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Said to have evidence of a human presence going back over 11,000 years, it was a place that made Epps understand what a treasure this area is. “I realized there is so much more here than Mesa Verde,” she said.

Shroeder particularly liked the fact that the scholars that helped them learn — the hands-on educators that were with them — were descendants of the Ancient Puebloans. That just made it even more interesting for him to learn, he said.

As part of the program Epps and Shroeder were able to begin to create a curriculum that will enable them to teach what they learned to the kids in their classrooms this year. “We’ll start teaching it next week!” Epps said.

Shroeder said, “We’ll begin with a timeline and keep a running record of where we are on the timeline...share it with the parents.”

The kids have taken field trips to Crow Canyon Center in the past, Epps said, and to Mesa Verde and the Anasazi Heritage Center. But this has given the two teachers even more ideas about where the next field trip might be.

“The quality of this program was head and shoulders above anything I’ve ever experienced,” Shroeder said.

“I agree,” said Epps. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”