This year Tom and I got to help with Archaeology Education Field Trips at Fort Frederica National Monument (FOFR). After two years without field trips, it was nice to work with school groups again. The last time we had field trips at FOFR was in 2019 and Ranger Ellen Strojan was in charge of them. They were mostly kindergarten groups because Ranger Ellen liked working with that age group. With kindergarteners, you just try to keep them in a group – you don’t try to really teach them anything.
This year Ellen Provenzano is in charge of field trips. Ellen is a retired teacher and prefers children who are slightly older so you can teach them something. She put together a short but intense Archaeology Education Field Trip that is aimed at 3rd and 4th graders. It is easier to teach those ages because they are better at listening. They also know how to stand in a line, a skill kindergarteners haven’t mastered yet.
A couple of weeks ago we had five classes of third graders come to FOFR for an Archaeology Education Field Trip and Tom and I got to help. Tom dressed as a soldier and gave his gun talk. Because we now have a black powder officer who is also an interpretive ranger, Tom was even able to fire the musket. When Tom wasn’t talking to school groups, he gave musket talks to other visitors to the fort.
My job was the easiest with the school groups. All I had to do was get them into the movie and show it to them. The third graders were very respectful of other people also watching the movie and quiet while the movie was running. Moving them in and out of the theater simple.
Each of the groups also had an Archaeology Education portion of their trip. They got to dig in the Arch Ed site and then learn how to do some simple lab tasks. Our two curator interns worked with Ellen on the Arch Ed portion. Ranger Michael, whose first love is archaeology, also assisted. The two interpretive rangers, Bob and Phil, gave town tours and helped the groups get from one area to another.
Our two Archaeology Education Field Trip days were lots of fun and not nearly as tiring as working with the kindergartners used to be. Of course, the bulk of the work fell on Ellen Provenzano as she prepared, led, and then cleaned up after the groups. Ellen gets paid as our bookstore manager, and she works 15 hours a week on that. She doesn’t get paid to lead field trips and she does that as a volunteer. Ellen is a joy to work with. She always makes me laugh as she throws herself wholeheartedly into anything she does. Ellen will also be in charge of the Arch Ed summer camp program at FOFR this summer.
Both days with the field trips groups we had over 400 visitors at the park. We have seen record attendance on a regular basis this year at the park. No more days under 100 visitors. A normal day now is close to 200 and often well over 300. It seems that everyone wants to get out and experience the parks.
We were glad the kids had good field trip days and enjoyed helping out with them. We are also glad that so many people are enjoying FOFR and discovering the national park site on St. Simons Island.