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Decatur school science project creates an Eagle

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, January 18, 2014

Students at Decatur’s Young Elementary can now dig deep into learning thanks to a Scout who has reached new heights as an Eagle.

Boy Scout Ben Lunday, a member of Troop 121 in Decatur, recently led the construction of an archaeological dig pit in the Outdoor Learning Center at the elementary for his Eagle project. The 16-by-12-foot pit with a grid system includes 200 cubic feet of sand and provides a unique opportunity for students in science classes.

Dig In

DIG IN – Students at Young Elementary in Decatur enjoy the archaeological dig pit at the school’s Outdoor Learning Center. Ben Lunday, shown in the foreground, chose the project to complete his requirements for Eagle Scout. He is the son of David and Kristi Lunday of Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We use a grid system to really emulate the site of an archaeological dig,” Lunday said. “When I first got the idea for this pit, I wanted to give students a way to experience what an archaeologist does and really get them interested in their own backyard.”

The dig site is designed for multiple uses, Lunday explained. It can be used for both archeology and paleontology. He didn’t place any permanent items inside the dig site in order to allow maximum flexibility for teachers to use the space.

During their first lesson last November, students used the pit to study Native American culture.

“The first lesson that was taught out here, (teachers) took certain relics from different American Indian tribes and put them down in here, and kids could dig them up and say, ‘Oh, this is a such-and-such, and it’s from this tribe,’” he said.

A self-described “science guy,” Lunday said he wanted to encourage an interest in the subject among younger students.

While Lunday designed the pit himself with the help of his dad, who has designed homes, the rules of the Eagle Scout project prohibited Lunday from actually building the pit. The goal was for the Scout to provide leadership for the project.

With the help of volunteers – other troop members and friends – the work was completed in about five hours. In addition to the pit, the project also included constructing two log benches at the site. The pit includes a cover that keeps the area free from debris when not in use.

The dig site is just one of several planned stations at the school’s Outdoor Learning Center, which is located directly behind the school. Trails wind through prairie land and a wooded area that includes at least 12 different native species of trees, all of which cover an approximately 7-acre area. Animals that call the area home include deer, wild turkey and armadillos. The school has also constructed several bat houses in the center.

Planned features include a bone yard, outdoor classroom areas, a pond for aquatics, a tree-ring station and even an amphitheater cut into a hill on the western edge of the Outdoor Learning Center.

“We have a very long wish list,” said fifth-grade science teacher Tammy Rainey.

The area has also been used for Easter egg hunts, scavenger hunts and free play as a student reward.

The reward for Lunday is the satisfaction of completing a worthwhile project.

“From the get-go it was my project, and I wanted to see it through,” he said.

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