Kidd: NEH grant to Crow Canyon pays dividends

Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 4:14 PM

Earlier this month, the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has supported the valuable work of Colorado Humanities and other cultural organizations for four decades, announced a new round of grants to institutions across the country.

One to Crow Canyon Archaeological Center deserves particular mention: The grant in support of “Continuity and Change in the Pueblo World from Mesa Verde to Santa Fe” is the 12th NEH grant to support summer professional development programs for K-12 teachers at Crow Canyon. With the NEH’s support, Crow Canyon’s phenomenal education programs have brought more than $2.7 million in federal funding to the region, including grants that helped leverage an additional $2.3 million in nonfederal dollars. All of this work has brought hundreds of educators to Colorado, where they delve deeply into the past and present of the region and the Pueblo world.

Stephen Kidd

This year’s $184,844 grant to Crow Canyon, a substantial sum from the small federal agency, will support 25 school teachers as they participate in a three-week workshop. Though Crow Canyon’s summer programs have changed over time, at their core all of the programs aim to instill in participants a rich understanding of the Southwest’s ancient past and its points of continuity with the present. Teachers learn archaeological methods, participate in a dig, and visit sites like Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park. Crucially, they also spend time with local indigenous tribes – the descendants of the Pueblo-dwelling peoples.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is known for its work helping adults, college students and school-aged children engage with and understand the past through hands-on archaeological methods. Working from the belief that “everyone’s history matters,” the center ensures that indigenous peoples have the opportunity to represent their own history to a broader public. As a result, the center represents the past in a more nuanced way than your average history textbook. The teachers who participate in the center’s summer programs benefit from these new perspectives – they leave the program with a much stronger sense of the richness of both the past and present, and they pass this understanding on to the thousands of students they teach.

Importantly, the teachers who have participated in this program come from across the nation. They represent urban Baltimore, New York and Houston, as well as rural Kansas, Washington and Mississippi. They work at public, charter, independent and parochial schools, work with home-schooled children and teach a wide array of subjects. Though many of the participants are humanities instructors, many others teach biology, geography and math. Crow Canyon offers them a unique opportunity: a professional development program that exposes them to other people’s lives and introduces them to colleagues from regions very different from their own. At the same time, because archaeology incorporates both the humanities and the sciences, teachers in all fields return to their classrooms with new academic perspectives and teaching tools.

At a time when our country seems deeply divided, we need more programs like “Continuity and Change in the Pueblo World” – programs that offer people the chance to experience new regions and cultures throughout our diverse nation, opportunities to meet and learn from people they might never have come in contact with. With crucial support from the NEH, these programs do more than enrich our educational systems and our classrooms. They enrich our lives and bring us closer together.

Stephen Kidd is the executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, a coalition of organizations dedicated to advocating for the humanities.