The dirt on THE best community service experience ever
August 1, 2018

I recently had the best Community Service experience ever! I was able to go to Camp Amache near Granada Colorado, and volunteer as an archeologist for a day. This was by far the best volunteer experience I’ve ever had. The very first thing I did in my day as an archaeologist was, screen dirt. Basically what this means is pouring a bucket of dirt into a plastic stand with a screen, that kind of looks like a window screen. Then all you do is shake the stand back and forth so that all the loose dirt is sifted out, then I crushed the bigger dirt clumps to see if there was an artifact stuck in the clump. All of the dirt comes from the dig site. All the dirt I screened was from one of the plots. Archaeologists call these 1X1 meter plots, units. When I was screening I only found two nails and a lot of dirt.

After I was done screening, I moved on to helping the two other people in my unit, Kimberly and Greg, take soil chemistry samples. We did this by measuring a small square and digging down 3cm. We then put all the dirt from inside the square into a small canvas bag, that would then be mailed to a soil chemist to figure out whether or not the Amache people were altering the soil in order to grow plants better, and if so with what. The last thing we did out in the field was gathered all the topsoil in our unit and bagging it for later flotation testing, and hard scraping the inside of the units to make the floor nice and clean. We then took pictures and closed the site by covering the units with boards.

After I was done in the field, I went to the Amache Preservation Society Building to help with the flotation testing. Flotation testing helps identify the different plants and other flora that were being planted and were commonly around when the Amache internees were present. Archaeologists do this by first emptying the contents of the previously bagged materials and topsoil into a bucket, then they add water to the dirt and mix it around until all the dirt has turned to mud. Next, they pour the dirt into the flotation device that basically runs water through the mud and causes all the seed pods, pollen, bits of grass and any other flora type things to float to the top. This is then collected, bagged and set out to dry, this is called “light fraction”. The other bigger objects such as coal, rocks, nails, or glass are also filtered out and later returned to the unit they came out of, if they are no longer needed for study purposes, this is called “heavy fraction”. I helped with all aspects of this process. My favorite part was, helping take samples and networking with new people. The most challenging part was sifting all the dirt from my unit because the dirt was constantly blowing in my eyes. I definitely learned a lot, and this experience had a big impact on me. Volunteering at Amache has not only allowed me to explore and experience possible job options, but it has also allowed me to serve others by being able to tell a story about something that means a lot to them. Many people who were children at Amache are still alive and come to visit Amache even though they are eighty years old or older. Amache is a place that has impacted their lives, and I am glad I’ve been given an opportunity to help preserve their story and inform future generations.