Distance learning: Berg students take virtual reality trip to Knife River Indian Villages earth lodgeThe sixth graders of Dickinson’s Berg Elementary School students recently studied archaeology during a virtual reality tour of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site at Stanton.
The sixth graders of Dickinson’s Berg Elementary School students recently studied archaeology during a virtual reality tour of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site at Stanton.
“Our students absolutely loved it,” said social studies teacher Sandra Schobinger. “They can’t wait to go on the next field trip — our work is cut out for us.”
The lesson was offered through the interactive TV network from inside an earth lodge at Knife River into a classroom at Berg.
Using a camera and video screen, Craig Hansen, Knife River education specialist, spoke to the students and answered their questions.
“I can see myself and I see the students,” he said. “With a remote control, I can zoom in on items and explain parts of the earth lodge.”
Distance learning is a way to reach a lot more students, he said.
“What’s nice about it, is you can’t fit 300 students in an earth lodge,” he said. “This way, they all get a chance to see — it’s totally interactive.”
Hansen said interactive television has been with the National Park Service for a while, but it’s new to Knife River.
“Now, we can get away from the visitor center,” he said. “Earlier this week, we did schools in Anamoose, Strasburg and Garrison. Berg is the first in Dickinson.”
For the archaeology lesson, he showed the students primary and secondary pieces of artifacts. He discussed how archaeologists use the artifacts to interpret culture and time periods.
“For example, if you find a lot of pottery and flint, it came from a village from the 1500s, 1600s or 1700s,” he said. “By the 1800s, you barely find any pottery because of contact with European traders.”
Hansen introduced archaeology to the students, but he is open to a variety of lessons — The culture of the Plains Indians, the bison and its uses, prescribed burns or gardening by the Hidatsa.
“It’s something we’re starting to offer and it keeps expanding all the time on how we can get into the classrooms of western North Dakota,” he said. “Students will realize Knife River is a special place and may want to come and see first hand.”
Berg’s social studies teachers searched for an innovative way to bring the Knife River villages into the school rather than going by field trip this year, said Principal Tammy Praus.
“Having eight six grade classrooms is quite an expensive journey for a trip of that caliber,” she said.
The social studies team of Rosie Perdaems, Sandra Schobinger, Diana Stroud and Sue Jacobsen organized the virtual reality trip for approximately 205 students.
For a follow-up assignment, they created archaeology dig containers, complete with box sifters, brushes, measurements and paper for documentation.
“I don’t believe it will ever take the place of a first-hand experience, however, it’s definitely a great alternative,” said Praus.
The Knife River discussion was the first time that Schobinger has used it for an ITV lesson.
“One of the things I love, was students were able to see what the presenter was holding — they really had a close-up view,” she said. “Before when they were at Knife River, some students would have to stand in the back.”
The students spent approximately an hour with the park ranger in the virtual reality setting, said Perdaems.
“After looking at everything, we had a strong minute question and answer time,” said Perdaems. “We could see him and he could see us.”
After the students completed their “dig” in the archaeology boxes, students were asked to analyze what it could reveal about the civilization.
Perdaems helped bury the artifacts such as parts of tools, jewels and pottery shards.
“Their job was to very carefully brush away the sand, lift out the artifacts, identify and draw conclusions about what this artifact might tell us about this culture,” she said.
“The possibilities are endless,” added Schobinger. “We’re moving into ancient Egypt in a couple of weeks. We’ll be meeting to see how we can expand this.”