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Parkland Students Excavate at Allerton Park!

Authored by Erin Riggs, PhD student and Parkland Field Archaeology instructor

Parkland Students who participated in the archeological field dig.

Exotic settings, buried secrets, treks through the jungle—these are all things you (and the typical undergraduate student) might associate with archaeology. We make this association because that is how archaeology is portrayed by such pop culture icons as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. As Parkland’s field school students would be quick to tell you, there are usually snakes and spiders involved. Otherwise, this portrayal is not very accurate.

Actually, the majority of professional archaeologists in the United States are employed in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) and work domestically (Malloy 2017). CRM archaeologists survey areas that are about to be developed for construction. In these areas, they collect information on existing material heritage and steer development away from sites protected by law. Archaeology in America is primarily this: protecting and contributing to what we know about the the historic landscapes that surround us every day, under our streets, lawns, and public parks.

Students rarely learn about CRM archaeology when they attend a traditional archaeological field school. More often than not, field schools are located overseas and are marketed as study-abroad experiences (Boytner 2012). They also can be prohibitively expensive, ranging in cost from $1,000 to $6,000 (Perry 2006).  While these experiences can be incredible opportunities, they often leave students with little knowledge of the archaeological job opportunities and infrastructures here at home.

At Parkland College this summer, we wanted students to work on an archaeological project within their own community. We wanted our course  to be accessible to students who might not have the funds or time required to attend a field school abroad. We achieved these goals through collaboration with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), the primary CRM group in Illinois. ISAS had recently surveyed Allerton Park in conjunction with a trail improvement project. Their survey work rekindled interest in a mound cluster existent on the property, Samuel’s Mounds. Allerton is a unique space within Illinois—an island of relatively undisturbed, unplowed forest land in the midst of a sea of agricultural fields.

Through our Parkland College/ISAS collaboration, students were able to assist professional archaeologists in excavating at this site in late July. They opened 1×1 meter square units around the mounds (leaving the mounds themselves undisturbed) to search for artifacts and features. We hoped to find something diagnostic that could help ISAS associate the mound group with a culture and time period. The materials are still being washed and inventoried. However, our first guess based on observations in the field point towards Middle to Late Woodland—meaning this site is likely 1,000 to 2,000 years old!

Parkland students worked hard and had a great time! In the process, they grew familiar with some of the quintessential features of CRM work—shovel testing, eating packed lunches in the field, the necessity of redundancy and precision in CRM paperwork, the tedium of a day without many artifacts, and the sheer joy of finally finding something of interest!

Here is what students had to say after completing the course:

“Although there were bugs buzzing around my ear every second, intense heat, and labor intensive digging, this field school allowed me to experience real fieldwork and gave me the satisfaction of unearthing an artifact which may help give context to these ancient mounds. I’m a bit sore, but I have greatly enjoyed this experience.” -Josh Boone (Senior, Anthropology)

“I never once thought I would be a part of an archaeological field school. But here I am, 5 days after leaving the field, and I am still thinking about the great experience I had! From our individual projects, to digging hand units, to shovel testing, I had a blast! It was tedious, and quite a few times I thought about backing down, but there is no quitting in archaeology! I learned so much over the past six weeks, and I’d do it all over again if I had the chance.” -Evyjo Compton (Senior, Animal Science)

“The experience I have gained from this field school has been excellent, and I plan to use what I have learned in my future. I have gained many valuable skills while also having a lot of fun. I am so very thankful that the Illinois State Archaeological Survey allowed us to assist them.” -Kaleb Cotter (Junior, Anthropology)

 

Cited

Boytner, Ran. 2012. “The Changing Nature of Archaeological Field Schools.” The SAA Archaeological Record 12 (1): 29-32.

Malloy, Maureen. ” Questions About: Archaeology As A Career.” Questions About: Archaeology As A Career. Accessed August 04, 2017. http://www.saa.org/ForthePublic/FAQs/ForAdults/QuestionsAboutArchaeologyAsACareer/tabid/975/Default.aspx.

Perry, E. Jennifer. 2006. From Students to Professionals: Archaeological Field Schools as Authentic Research Communities. The SAA Archaeological Record 6(1):25–29.

PRECS Summer Research “Invaluable” to Students

Ten science-focused students from community colleges across Illinois and two other states came to Champaign recently to participate in the inaugural summer of PRECS (Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students), a research experience for undergraduates program (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation. PRECS provides community college students with authentic research experiences in the area of phenotypic plasticity, the phenomenon in which a single genotype produces multiple phenotypes depending on environment.

Our summer program started with a two-week boot camp at Parkland College on May 24. The boot camp prepared participants for the eight-week research immersion portion of the program, where students became integrated into research laboratories at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The immersion portion ran through July 26.

PRECS is different from the NSF’s other REU programs in two ways. First, although most programs include research immersion experience, it is less common to have a boot camp. Second, many REU programs are designed for undergraduates in their junior and senior years, while PRECS is specially designed to meet the needs of community college students, who may not have had any research experience and relatively few college-level science courses. In fact, as far as we can tell, PRECS is the first NSF REU in the field of biology to be open exclusively to community college students and to have a community college faculty member as one of the creators and administrators of the program.

As our program wraps up, two PRECS participants,  Elliot Ping and Aaron West, share a bit about their experiences and what they are taking away from this excellent summer opportunity (below).

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“PRECS provided a platform for growth and learning, both academically and professionally, while also providing a candid look at what it’s like to be a part of a research lab. The program has been a whirlwind of learning opportunities (including the mistakes and frustrations that often come paired with them) from start to finish. These experiences, from the outright failures to the great successes, are all good preparation for what it means to be a person in research.

An average workday for me was 9 am to 5 pm, sometimes earlier or later depending on what we were doing. If we could only get a timeslot on the confocal microscope at 8 am or at 6 pm, for example, then the day would be adjusted differently. The specific project I was working on involved a lot of downtime between steps while things ran their course, so I had the opportunity to learn other skills (like R programming and other software skills), read papers, and shadow other members of the lab.

My favorite moment was when we finally got our antibodies to work. We were at the confocal microscope doing a continuous scan to get a look at the brain tissue, and we found real colocalized staining on the sample. It felt good to see my efforts come together and to get good images of something, especially after something like two weeks of repeated failure.

This summer, I have gained more perspective about science as an institution than I gathered through the entire course of my associate’s degree. Research is not the simple, straightforward thing many people think it to be. It is failing and trying again, or trying something else, until you get it right, and, like with most other things worth doing, it takes practice, patience, and outright stubbornness to gain the skills necessary to make success a possibility.

I will hold close to my heart for a very long time the relationships I have built and the education I have received, both formal and informal, from working and studying in the PRECS program. The opportunity to work, learn, and present, especially when coupled with the guidance of so many knowledgeable, experienced people, has been, and will likely continue to prove itself to be, utterly invaluable to my development as a student and as a professional-in-the-making in the sciences. I am so grateful to Parkland College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for working to make this opportunity for community college students possible. It has been a privilege to be involved with PRECS, and I would encourage any community college student who thinks research may be for them to look into this or other opportunities as something that can both broaden their horizons for the future and deepen their understanding and appreciation of the things they are learning in the classroom.”   — Elliot Ping

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“I am honored to have been picked to participate in PRECS (Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students). Coming from a community college located in the south suburbs of Chicago, I only had a vague sense of what being in a lab entailed. What PRECS would go on to teach me this summer is the community a lab has. Every lab is different, specializing in different fields, participating in different research.

PRECS has been a great program to participate in over the past 10 weeks. It has prepared a mindset geared toward graduate school. PRECS has exposed me to real-world scientific practices, and stresses. PRECS gave me a true experience, exposing me to what my life would be like after graduating with my bachelor’s degree. I feel more prepared moving forward with my education. Whether I go on to continue scientific research or not is not foreseen, but I know that it is a viable option.” — Aaron West

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For more information about PRECS, visit precs.igb.illinois.edu.

[C. Britt Carlson, PhD, is an associate professor of chemistry in the  Natural Sciences department at Parkland College.]

Personal Safety Reminders

Our campus and local community continue to feel the impact of missing UIUC visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and loved ones.

This week’s post serves as a reminder of personal safety tips and habits that can help keep you from becoming a victim. We would like to note that you are not to blame if someone commits a crime against you; however, there are several steps you can take to safeguard against being victimized. Today’s set of tips is broken into two categories, communication and awareness. Both are important elements that work together to keep you safe.

Communication

Make sure someone knows where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and when you’re supposed to get there. This is particularly important if you’re going out to a bar or a party for the night, but can also be a good practice to generally incorporate. This person can be a roommate, friend, significant other, or relative.

Call the police. Police officers get paid to investigate suspicious circumstances. If something happens to you, or you see something that seems out of the ordinary or suspicious, pick up the phone and call. You’re not inconveniencing anyone. It’s our job, and it’s what we get paid to do.

Awareness

Recognize when you’re in a situation where someone is more likely to target you. This can be when you’re standing at an ATM, walking alone on a dark sidewalk/path at night, or fumbling with your keys before you get into your vehicle or enter your apartment. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and if something doesn’t look or feel right, consider choosing a different route, finding a public area, or possibly calling the police.

It’s also important to think critically about situations you’re presented with. When you’re at a party or a bar, be cautious about accepting drinks that you haven’t seen prepared. If someone asks you for help that requires you to get into a vehicle or enter a house or apartment, that should definitely set off some red flags in your mind.

No one wants to live their lives dominated by fear, and that’s not what we’re suggesting. Despite the sense that social media and the daily headlines may give you, it’s ultimately not very likely that you’re going to be the victim of a serious crime. Nevertheless, there are simple, relatively unobtrusive steps you can take to further drive those odds down. If we all work together to take a little better care of ourselves and each other, hopefully we can avoid the next tragedy.

 

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Ford ASSET Student Earns Gold at SkillsUSA

**UPDATE! Jacob won gold at the national competition!**

Parkland College Ford ASSET program‘s Jacob Greene will soon represent the state of Illinois in automotive service technology excellence after winning gold at the SkillsUSA Illinois Championship in Springfield late last month.

The freshman and 2016 Litchfield High School graduate is ready to compete with about 6,000 other state contest winners at the SkillsUSA National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, June 19-23. More than 16,000 people are expected to attend this exciting week of competition in career and technical education.

Upon graduation from Parkland College, Jacob has the opportunity to become fully certified as a Ford technician with an associate’s degree in automotive technology. As part of his program at Parkland, Jacob will have had over 32 weeks of hands-on training at his sponsoring Ford dealership, Victory Lane Ford in Litchfield.

Jacob’s high school automotive instructor, Eric Gray, and his Parkland Ford ASSET instructor, Thomas Fischer, are both 2008 graduates of Parkland’s Ford ASSET program! Fischer, a Mahomet resident, serves as Jacob’s SkillsUSA advisor.

Congratulations, Jacob! Parkland is proud of your accomplishments and wishes you great success at Nationals!

Parkland, Lewis U.: New Flight Transfer Accord

Parkland College Aviation graduates have gained a new bachelor’s degree opportunity through Lewis University.

Representatives of Lewis University and the Institute of Aviation at Parkland College signed an articulation agreement Feb. 3 at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to continue their studies and complement their flight training in other aviation fields.

The agreement allows Parkland graduates the opportunity to transfer into one of Lewis University’s seven aviation undergraduate programs to complete a bachelor’s degree. These programs include Aviation Administration, Aviation and Aerospace technology, Aviation Maintenance Management, Air Traffic Control Management, Aviation Flight Management, Transportation Administration, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Dr. Stephany Schlachter, provost of Lewis University, said his school “welcomes graduates of Parkland College as they continue on their flight path to success.”

Lewis University has the oldest aviation program among universities in Illinois. It is the only aviation program in the state that has an airport on campus. The university also offers a graduate degree in Aviation and Transportation on campus and online.