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Students dig into history

A musket ball, an old glass bottle, pottery shards, a clay marble, bones and teeth are among the finds uncovered by New Windsor Middle School students and teacher Lisa Lardieri during Dig Week, Aug. 6-10, in New Windsor.

The New Windsor Heritage Committee sponsors an archaeological dig site at the historic Sulphur Springhouse on Geer Lane.

"We had 18 people here yesterday," Lardieri, on her knees at the muddy dig site, said last Wednesday. About a dozen youths helped each day of Dig Week.

Besides the artifacts she and her students have unearthed near the small brick structure, Lardieri said, "I believe what we're finding here is the foundation of something."

"The springhouse was built as-is about 1840-50. We do not know if the spring located in its present position was covered by something else in the beginning, perhaps a wood springhouse," Doris Pierce, Heritage Committee president, wrote in an email.

The spring was originally developed by the town's founder, Isaac Atlee, whose nearby manor house built in 1800 is now a bed and breakfast owned and operated by Pierce and her husband Sam. The springhouse was once part of the Atlee homestead, but is now owned by the Town of New Windsor.

With tools in hand, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade New Windsor Middle School students methodically dug, picked, sifted and washed at spots designated by a grid marked by twine. "When you find something, it's like 'Yeah! I found something,'" said eighth-grader Drew Cooke.

"We're looking for human-made items," said sixth-grader Emma Hughes.

Sixth-grader Jenny Leister said, "I wanted to see what was here - the fact that it's old and the springhouse was used a lot." She said the early building that shelters the cool spring water was "where people stored food to stay cold."

"Sulphur is supposed to be in the water," said eighth-grader Tommy Mahoney. "It's supposed to heal things like arthritis," when used for bathing.

Tommy said he enjoys participating in the dig. "It's fun because a lot of my friends are here. We socialize while excavating."

Tommy noted that "New Windsor is a small town... there's history and it's fun to discover."

Later in the day, Tommy uncovered teeth at the site. He surmised that they were perhaps from a deer.

"Yesterday I found a big piece of pottery," said eighth-grader Amber Shaut. She made the observation that "the deeper you go in the water, the older the artifacts."

Amber worked with other students and assisted Lardieri with constructing a mud "dam" to temporarily divert water running from the springhouse away from the excavation areas. Sixth-graders Kyle Hoeflich and Kyle Snook formed a bucket brigade, while Lardieri employed the battery-operated bilge pump provided by the Heritage Committee.

"A perfect example of problem-solving," said Lardieri.

The sixth-grade social studies teacher said she believes the archaeological dig project, which she runs through the school's archaeology club, would make a great STEM project.

Students who participate are incorporating the skills and knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. She said important skills students use at the site are "analyzing, observation, the ability to see relationships, perseverance, patience, teamwork, measuring, understanding process, and history appreciation."

The project is sporadic during the school year. Students who participate can earn service-learning hours, which are required for graduation from Carroll County Public Schools.

Lardieri, who has been digging at the site since 2007, said she instituted "an intensive Dig Week to move the project along."

Lardieri teaches all sixth-graders at New Windsor Middle School. "I'm meeting students I'll teach," she said.

"I really like that I get to know her," said sixth-grader Kayla Cox. "I think she's really nice."

"It was my favorite class," said seventh-grader Lily Boldosser. "I think it's cool to find all these old things."

The New Windsor Heritage Committee benefits from the dig as artifacts are unearthed. "We get an idea of the time period things were left in the area and visual pieces to display," wrote Pierce. "The artifacts are catalogued ... documented according to date, where found, strata depth, etc., and then stored. Some of the more interesting artifacts are placed in display cases at the New Windsor Museum."

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