LAMS Students Conduct Archeological Survey On Site Adjacent To School

LAMS students participate in a recent archeological survey adjacent to the school. Photo Courtesy LAPS


Los Alamos Middle School 7th and 8th grade students in Brent Collom’s Sustainability in the 21st Century class recently went on an archaeological survey on a site adjacent to the school. Students were on the hunt for cultural artifacts such as pieces of pottery and tools. 

Working with Los Alalmos Fire Department’s Wildland Fire Division Chief Kelly Sterna and Los Alamos County Open Space Coordinator, Eric Peterson, it was deemed necessary to complete an archeological assessment before any thinning.  “I thought including the archeological survey as part of our class would help students get an introduction to project management,” said Mr. Collom.

Four archaeologists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Ali LIvesay, Joaquin Montoya, Carrie Gregory and Samantha Linford, along with Mr. Collom, led the students on the survey. They showed the students artifacts from pueblos near the school to help them understand what they were looking for before the survey.  “Dr. Livesay guided us through what is considered to be an artifact and what is not,” said one student.

“Students were told that if they found an artifact they should leave it alone and put a flag next to it,” Mr. Collom explained. “Everyone walked in a line to make the search more precise. They searched the ground for anything that looked like an artifact, like some obsidian or a piece of pottery, and then marked it with a colored flag to indicate its location.”

The students flagged historical items to identify patterns in the placement of the artifacts. One student explained, “After I found a handful of obsidian I was told to put it back and mark it.”  

Cultural artifacts, such as pottery and obsidian carved into pointy tips, were found right outside of their school, but students mostly found trash, broken glass, porcelain and charred wood. Another student observed, “We saw a couch. The couch had a mini pumpkin on it and a candle.”  

This is the first year for this course offering. Collom describes it as a “hands-on course that immerses students in a variety of projects aimed at reducing LAMS’ carbon footprint and reducing waste.”  Projects include hydroponic gardening, composting, fire mitigation and landscaping.  

 “We work with agencies throughout the community and take field trips when possible,” Mr. Collom added. The course addresses issues such as excess plastic, water quality, clean energy, and a sustainable food supply. 

After the survey, it was determined that the artifacts were too disturbed and scattered for it to be identified as a cultural site where people used to live that could be preserved. The next steps include creating a defensible space with mitigation measures in collaboration with LAFD’s wildland fire division and the county’s open space department. “We plan to work with Wildland Fire Chief Kelly Sterna to learn about and complete fire mitigation measures in the area,” said Mr. Collom. “We will help trim ladder fuels, clear brush and thin some trees.”

Many students say that they had lots of fun outside finding artifacts.  They were able to have fun in this project looking for cool objects, and learned that artifacts could be found almost anywhere. One described it as “a glimpse of what took place centuries ago.”  

“This experience was so fun to learn and try something new and see what archeologists do and how they do it,” according to one of Mr. Collom’s students.  Kids had fun and enjoyed their time but who knows?  Maybe they’ll become archeologists too.