Closer Readings Commentary

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center—A “Living Classroom”

Native American History Month Brought To Life!

November 2014 marks the 24th anniversary of Native American Heritage Month, designated to honor and recognize the diverse cultures, histories, and contributions of the more than 5.2 million Alaska Native and American Indian people in the United States. Dedicated 99 years ago as a federally recognized day to celebrate American Indian people and culture, the celebration continues to expand in its reach, resources, and activities. 

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, a 170-acre research center and "living classroom" is located in Cortez, Colorado. Crow Canyon is situated close to the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, and 40 miles northeast of the Four Corners Monument, the quadripoint where the boundaries of four states meet. The Center offers experiential education programs for students and adults that are dedicated to advancing and sharing knowledge of the human experience through archaeological research, education programs, and partnerships with American Indians.NEH teachers at Mesa Verde

We provide a wealth of resources and experiential opportunities for educators and learners interested in delving more deeply into themes related to Native American Heritage Month — not just in the month of November, but throughout the calendar year. Connect with Native American cultures of the present and past. Tap into our educational programs, field expeditions, cultural exploration program, and archaeological research to supplement your classroom teaching and learning.

We work closely with Native American partners and scholars on a variety of projects. This fall we began the “Inspiring Students Project” in partnership with Pueblo communities in the Southwest. The center develops student programs for grades pre-K through post-college on issues that Pueblo people have identified as priorities: native language preservation and continuance; economic development; and inspiring student academic and professional success.

Join us in 2015

In summer 2014 we hosted droves of adult learners, college students, and school children, all of whom participated in multi-day to multi-week residency programs to learn about archaeology and cultures of the Southwest. Our center brought in 79 educators from all over the country as part of two one-week NEH Landmark Workshops, “Mesa Verde National Park: Convergences and Crossroads in the American Southwest.”

This wonderful group of teachers worked on site with our Crow Canyon educators, in the field with archaeologists, and traveled to regional locations like Mesa Verde National Park to meet with Native American scholars and consultants. As part of the workshop, teachers created Common Core-aligned lessons exploring the cultures and histories of the Southwest. These lessons will be brought online in upcoming months to make them more broadly available to teachers and students across the globe.

Our team is looking forward to summer 2015 when 25 educators will be traveling and researching with us as part of a three-week NEH Summer Institute: “From Mesa Verde to Santa Fe: Pueblo Identity in the Pre- and Post-Colonial Southwest.” To find out more and learn if this program is a professional development opportunity you would be interested in, visit our Institute website.

What’s happening?

As our archaeological team closes down field sites for the 2014 season, research continues with Native American partners, visiting scholars, and visiting school groups on site and in our laboratories. Data is analyzed, catalogued, and incorporated into long-term research projects exploring the history of the region. Researchers update online databases and share new information throughout the fall and winter on our website. Current research is linked to our homepage.MS students working in field

Our education team is busy hosting school groups from across the country who join us on 1–5 day residency programs at our campus in Cortez and at nearby sites like Mesa Verde National Park and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. The alignment of our residential program curriculum with Common Core standards allows students and teachers hands-on, experiential explorations of themes like humans and the environment, people and places, and the history and cultures of the American Southwest.

Classroom resources

Inspiring Students Project is an educational alliance between Pueblo Indian Communities and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Crow Canyon Classroom Resources reflect our partnerships with Native American people, archaeologists and scholars of Native American culture, as well as teachers:

  • Pueblo History for Kids (grades 4–8) focuses on the history and culture of the Pueblo people of the Southwestern United States
  • Peoples of the Mesa Verde Region (grades 6–12) offers a multi-vocal history of the cultural groups who have inhabited and continue to inhabit the region. 

Each website includes blended learning classroom lesson plans aligned to Common Core standards in English Language Arts literacy for reading and writing as well as speaking and listening. Additional lessons explore key social studies concepts like people, place and the environment; migration; natural resource use; archaeology; cultural continuity and change; cause and effect; unity and diversity.

The lessons on each website are great springboards for Native American Heritage Month with lots of ideas for linking the rich history of Native American people with the present. Have students navigate the interactive timelines, witness the history of Pueblo people in the Southwest and the many cultures who have inhabited the Mesa Verde Region and hear their stories told through visuals maps, artifacts, and photographs. Then broaden student investigations with multidimensional research and exploration projects.