Summer eSmart Camp makes girls ‘detectives of the past,’ exploring archaeology

ST. GEORGE — Exploring science, math and related technology or eSMART, summer camp for girls at Dixie State University held July 9-11, 16-18  gave the girls a glimpse into 11,000 years of stories and human history told by the forest and the artifacts found within it.

The eSMART camp mission is to encourage these girls to explore science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, related subjects and to reach high in pursuit of their academic aspirations so they can be anything they want to be.

As part of the camp curriculum, Kaibab National Forest archaeologists Connie Reid Zweifel and Britt Betenson conducted a workshop titled “Detectives of the Past” aimed at helping give the girls a basic understanding of the role that archaeology plays in the world of Forest Service science.

“Archaeology has a story to tell,” said Betenson. “Generally, the deeper you dig the older the artifacts are, and when artifacts are disturbed it is difficult to tell the story. Artifacts are like words jumbled in a book and when they are disturbed it is difficult to understand the story.”

During the workshop, additional Kaibab National Forest heritage staff Tanner Whetsone, Chad Hoing and Arizona Site Steward Coordinator and 11-year Kaibab National Forest volunteer veteran, Brad Heap, helped Zweifel and Betenson spark the girl’s inquisitive and interpretive minds as they dug together through time in makeshift boxes layered with artifacts. The participants actively engaged in two-way dialogue as they looked at select artifacts under the microscope donated for the workshop by the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

“I think eSMART has the potential to make a real difference in a lot of girl’s lives by showing them that studying science is not too hard or unrealistic of a goal. eSMART helped me realize that I can succeed in any field if I put my mind to it,” said Gabrielle Zweifel, previous camp attendee and now a senior at Kanab High School. “ESMART really tries to show girls that a career in science is a very real option for them and one that would be both beneficial and fun.”

Currently, Zweifel aspires to pursue a degree in the field of astrophysics or exobiology, and most recently she attended this year’s Utah State Engineering Sumer Camp at USU.

In addition to the archaeology workshop, the girls also took part in many other STEM related workshops, which included classes ranging from statistics, to crime scene investigation, chemistry, creative computing, the study of DNA, and even comets.

“We hope to inspire these girls to find and embrace their love for science and math,” said camp director Gloria Prahl. “We are not graduating girls from college in the Utah and are currently ranked 50th in the nation. Our goal is to encourage them to go to college, to stay in college and to graduate from college. In the STEM subjects, women may earn higher salaries. It’s the best we can get paid. Utah has a great need for that sort of thing as does our nation.”

The eSMART camp is sponsored by the local St. George branch of the American Association of University Women, also known as the AAUW.

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