Walker Elementary Pit Fire Event
Grade 4 Walker Elementary School Pit Fire Event at Catalina State Park March 2020
Jane Peterson, Walker Elementary School Art Specialist
This field trip is a real highlight in the 4th-grade year and a tradition that our school and Art department want to keep alive for as long as possible. The learning that takes place by taking students out of the classroom and into the world around them is so valuable and leaves a lasting impression on these young minds. Until now, what they knew were only stories in books. After their visit to Catalina State Park, and their participation in all the activities, those stories have become a reality. Students walk away with a real respect for the land, the people, and the history of how people used to live in our state.
The entire 4th grade at Walker Elementary, 3 teachers and 90 students, participated in a field trip to Catalina State Park as a culminating activity wrapping up their Arizona State Social Studies unit on Native American history and Art history of traditional Pueblo Pottery. Their State Social Studies unit begins in class and each student does an in-depth study of an Arizona Native American tribe, including a final 3D project. In Art, the students study Pueblo Pottery: traditional hand-building techniques, and ancient pottery firing techniques. They construct a coil pot, smooth and polish it with traditional clay slip and polishing stones. These pots are fired at Catalina State Park on the day of our field trip using the ancient pit firing process. Students also choose a personal totem animal and create a clay bead to be added to one of the crafts they will participate in during the field trip to Catalina State Park.
Students ride in school district buses to Catalina State Park. Once they arrive, the students gather around to hear opening remarks and a brief history of the Hohokam people (from Jesse Navarro, Program Coordinator, Senior Tribal Relations, Government & Community Relations from The University of Arizona). Once the opening ceremony concludes, the students break up into groups to rotate between 4 activity stations:
Activities at Catalina State Park they participated in included:
- Constructing a medicine bag and talking stick. Students have made a clay totem bead to add to their medicine bag at the park.
- Hiking an archeological trail; guest archaeology docents guided groups of students through the Romero Ruins, explaining the history and what they were used for, and artifacts from that time period to share. (snacks and water provided)
- Students worked in groups to complete a S.T.E.M. challenge by building a sweat lodge. Once complete, parents shared Native American Folk Tales as the students rotated though the structures.
- After all the rotations are completed and lunches consumed, students gathered around the Pit Fire to see their pots emerge from the ashes.
- As the students watch us remove their pots from the pit fire, we review what we have learned about the pottery making process and share any new things we learned from our day at the park. For many of our students, this will be the first time they have come to this beautiful park, completely unaware of the rich history that literally exists right in their back yards.