Crow Canyon

Daytime Activities

  • Hands-on Learning
    Hands-on Learning

Authentic. Exciting. Relevant. Fun!

These are words that teachers and students use to describe what it’s like to learn at Crow Canyon.

And that makes our staff very happy. We’ve developed our experiential education programs to engage students and encourage them to actively participate in the learning process. Through hands-on activities and group discussion, our educators convey key information and concepts about history, culture, science, and archaeology.

In our Simulated Excavation activity, for instance, students (grade 4 and older) learn the practical skills of field archaeology as they work together to excavate and map replicas of archaeological sites. The “sim dig” is not only a great lesson in the scientific method, it also prepares students (middle school and older) for Field Excavation and Lab—activities in which students work alongside professional archaeologists at our current excavation site. For 30 years, involving students in our research in this way has been at the heart of Crow Canyon's mission. We're grateful to the student groups (and the teachers who've brought them here) for their hard work and contributions to our understanding of the archaeology of the Mesa Verde region.

For descriptions of Simulated Excavation and other activities, see below. The specific activities in which your group participates will depend on grade level, program length, group size, weather conditions, campus capacity, and other factors. Activities can be modified to accommodate the cultural concerns of American Indian students.

Our Campus

View of the Crow Canyon campus and Ute Mountain

The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is located on a beautiful 170-acre campus in southwest Colorado, close to Mesa Verde National Park and the town of Cortez. Read more.

Daytime Activities

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Windows into the Past

Inquiries Into the Past

Students explore the concepts of cultural continuity and change by examining artifact replicas and other archaeological evidence representing different periods in Pueblo history. Through group discussion of their observations and inferences, students construct a chronology spanning thousands of years.

(Windows: elementary students; Inquiries: middle and high school students)

jk 2013 PleasantView atlatl 07

Basketmaker Lifestyles

At the Pithouse Learning Center, students explore a replica of a seventh-century Basketmaker pithouse and engage in a variety of hands-on activities, including firestarting (with a bow drill), making fiber cordage, and "hunting" with spears and atlatls.

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Pueblo Lifestyles

At the Pueblo Learning Center, students investigate a replica of a masonry pueblo, including rooms and a two-story tower. They discuss natural resources and farming practices, learn Pueblo games, and weave on an upright loom, to get a feel for Pueblo life in the twelfth century.

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Simulated Excavation

Students get "hands-on" with the practical skills of field archaeology as they excavate and map site replicas representing different Pueblo time periods. Using the scientific method, students develop their own research questions and draw conclusions on the basis of their observations. (Required for students who will excavate in the field.)

jk 2013 UCLab BCP 03

Field Excavation

Under the careful supervision of staff archaeologists and educators, students excavate at Crow Canyon's current site, contributing to the Center's ongoing research into ancestral Pueblo culture. (Note: In accordance with Crow Canyon policy, we do not seek human remains as objects of study.)

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Site Tour

Emphasizing proper site etiquette, the educator leads students on a tour of a current or recent Crow Canyon excavation site. Students learn about ongoing fieldwork and the results of previous excavations at other sites in the area. (Required for students who will excavate in the field.)

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Students wash, analyze, and catalog real artifacts from recent excavations. They also visit the curation room to see and discuss artifacts from earlier excavations. (Required for students who will excavate in the field.)

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Students discuss the importance of pottery to archaeologists as well as to the ancestral Pueblo people, and they use ancient techniques to make their own pottery vessels.

pw 2009 OldOrchard AHC03

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum Tour

At the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum, interactive exhibits on artifacts, analyses, and modern Pueblo perspectives enhance students' understanding of local archaeology. A short hike behind the museum to Escalante Pueblo affords a panoramic view of the landscape that was home to...

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Mesa Verde National Park Tour

Students typically visit Mesa Verde National Park, a World Heritage site, at the culmination of their program. They tour several excavated sites (including the famous cliff dwellings), visit the museum, and review the concepts they learned throughout the week.