|Secretary Sally Jewell with Julius E. Sprauve Elementary School fourth graders at Cinnamon Bay © Ken Wild|
Friday, August 26, 2016
Hi! My name is Anne Finney and through my work with Virgin Islands National Park’s Cultural Resource Division, I have had the pleasure of learning about the history of St. John and sharing my knowledge of preservation with others. The work has also given me plenty of wonderful opportunities to interact with visitors, volunteers, dignitaries and my personal favorite, local students.
This past March, a group of very intelligent and energetic fourth graders from the Julius E. Sprauve elementary school made a lasting impression on one of those visiting dignitaries, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. The students met the Secretary outside of the archaeology lab at Cinnamon Bay and were given Nation Park Passes as part of the “Every Kid in a Park” program. The goal of the program, implemented by President Obama, is to get fourth graders and their families out exploring the nation’s public lands.
Virgin Islands National Park Ranger Laurel Brannick led the school group on a hike through the Cinnamon Bay ruins before heading to the beach. Park archaeologist Ken Wild took over from there and spoke to the students about the important role the National Park plays in studying and protecting the archaeological sites that dot the Island. Our trusty volunteers, Anne and Jeff held down the fort in the lab, while the archaeology interns set up field stations for the kids to get their hands dirty. At each station, we showed the students how to dig for artifacts and guided them through the process of unearthing and researching the past.
After excavating, sifting, washing and analyzing their newly discovered artifacts, the students had to very patiently wait for the Secretary, whose packed schedule was planned down to the minute. The importance of the occasion was not lost on the kids, who ran back to their archaeology field stations as the motorcade pulled up shouting, “She’s coming! Look busy!”. Secretary Jewell made her way to an artifact sifting station where she asked the local students what they were working on. One excited boy responded for everyone when he shouted, “Archaeology! Like archaeologist Ken Wild!”
The fourth graders were eager to speak to the Secretary, asking questions that they had each prepared and answering hers in turn. Jewell asked the students what types of artifacts they were finding and what they were made of. The kids responded with all of the correct answers and made an obvious impression on the Secretary. They pointed out burn marks on pottery sherds and explained that those particular pieces may have been part of a pot for cooking. They also pointed out burn marks on a tobacco pipe and reported that it was made of clay when asked by the Secretary. Through the artifacts that they were holding, the students shared their knowledge of the Cinnamon Bay site and the people who occupied the land there years ago.
The kids were eager to find out about Jewell as well, asking how she became Secretary of the Interior and if she knew President Obama. Jewell replied that she had just had a meeting with the President (who nominated her for her position) a few days earlier. The children asked Jewell about her family, how many employees she had in the Department of the Interior, and about her mountain climbing expedition in Antarctica. Secretary Jewell answered the question with humor and thoughtfulness, addressing each child individually. She also spoke to the kids about the importance of public service and handed out the park passes, which allow every fourth grader and their family free entry into all federal public land that charges a fee. Jewell later spoke about the program saying, “Using our public lands as living classrooms is one of the ways the Obama Administration is working to ensure all students – including USVI students – have the tools they need to understand the importance of the natural and cultural resources in their own backyard and beyond.”
Speaking at a reception hosted by the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, Jewell thanked the staff of the Park and the Friends and reported that her favorite part of her visit was her meeting the fourth graders led by Rangers Laurel and Ken at Cinnamon Bay!