A closer look at the enrichment classes at Aucilla Research Institute

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

The Aucilla Research Institute (ARI) is expanding its outreach efforts with introductory classes on archeology and geographic mapping systems to high schoolers.
The pilot program, which began on March 4 and continues through April 22, aims to familiarize students with the tools of archaeology and geography, along with increasing awareness of the two disciplines.
Being held at the ARI's headquarters at the historic Gerry building in Monticello, the seven-week course consists of three-hour segments and includes both classroom lectures and field activities “for maximum stimulation of student interest in the subject matter.”
“This is a multi-discipline course designed to introduce the student to two academic areas—
geography and archeology, including an introduction to geographic information systems GIS technology,” said Dr. George Cole, who developed the program.
He described the program as beginning with introductory classroom discussions on the local archaeological history, field methods, site mapping and GIS, and then moving into hands-on field and lab activities.
Among the latter activities are surveying a stakeout of a sampling grid and digging for artifacts at each grid point of a Native American archaeological site, classifying found objects, using a GIS system for plotting of the geospatial coordinates of field data, and creating topographic maps of the study area.
The instructors for the courses are Dr. Willet Boyer, an archaeologist; Catherine Dietrick, whose background includes a Master of Science degree in GIS; Dr. Cole, whose expertise is mapping and geography; and David Ward, who is well versed in the local history.
Eight students are participating in the pilot class, six of them from Jefferson Somerset and two who are homeschooled.
The idea is to offer other enrichment classes in the future to public and private school students as well as to homeschooled students.
ARI Executive Director Jana Grubbs said the program is being funded by contributions from the Williams Stamps Farish Fund, the Leigh Perkins Foundation and the Jefferson County Youth Council.
“ARI is also looking into the possibility of the courses providing dual-enrollment credit,” Grubbs said.
A nonprofit founded in 2014, the ARI aims to build on the findings of the various scientific explorations conducted in the Big Bend area. The organization focuses on four basic goals.
The four are to attract and promote original research in the archeology, hydrography, geography, natural science and the cultural history of the Jefferson County and northwest Florida; provide facilities and equipment to support field research, laboratory analysis and communicate the research findings; enhance the educational opportunities of students of all ages in the region; and act as a center of innovative thinking and activity relative to the region's prehistoric and historic past.