Fossils, Archeology, and Giving Back

Sometimes the most powerful way to help people understand the impact of intentional damage to our public lands is to let them experience first hand all that is at stake and how difficult mitigation can be. On April 5th, 2018, 18 students from Flagstaff Montessori had the opportunity to do just that.


Rangers from the Coconino National Forest Flagstaff Ranger District showed the students a very subtle archeological site right along side the AZ Trail. Students were able to view the rock alignments, flakes, and pot sherds. Without an expert there to show us, we never would have noticed those treasures so close to underfoot. But not 100 yards away was significant damage to the forest where someone had driven their truck off road very close to the AZT and “cut cookies” in the soil. The scars were deep, completely obliterating the cryptobiotic soil and other plant life a foot down. What if that damage had landed on the ruins? It very easily could have. Seeing such a hard to identify archeological site helps bring into perspective that we don’t always know why the experts put roads and trails in the exact location they do, but chances are good they may know things that we don’t.


After an introduction to trail tool use and safety, the class set out to repair tread and install drainage along .5 mile of the Arizona Trail off the 303 road near Walnut Canyon. This joyful crew jumped full force into analysing slope and moving dirt!


After a few focused hours of trail maintenance and a lunch break, the group spread out to individual quiet spots in the forest for personal reflection time. Students at Flagstaff Montessori have this dedicated 20 minutes daily to simply sit. No phones. No homework. No distractions. Just their own thoughts and the world around them. What a wonderful way to spend some time daily and how much more wonderful to spend it outdoors along the Arizona Trail!  


It’s safe to say the learning went both ways on today’s service learning excursion.