Miano students dig archaeology lesson

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 5, 2012 

Mummies are often synonymous with Egypt, but can be found all over the world -- including Los Banos.

The mummies R.M. Miano Elementary sixth-graders excavated Tuesday in one of the school's many gardens weren't quite like their counterparts in Egypt, though. They were Barbie dolls wrapped in athletic tape or yarn. But that didn't mean the students took the lesson less seriously.

"Mummies are bodies that are preserved," said 11-year-old Giselle Ramirez. "We're learning about them in class right now."

Some of the amateur archaeologists' classmates buried 25 mummies in the

Oasis Garden's 50,000 pounds of sand, which is about two- to four-feet deep. Dozens of students carefully dug and brushed away sand in their own space marked off by a grid of string, like a real dig site.

A body can be mummified naturally, by the sun or extreme cold, or through an embalming process. The ancient Egyptians believed that mummifying a person's body after death was essential to ensure a safe passage to the afterlife.

Teacher Sergio de Alba said the Oasis Garden is surrounded by plants native to Egypt, like papyrus, roses and fig trees. The exercise connects to sixth-grade curriculum.

"If a child enjoys the lesson, they tend to learn more," de Alba said. "When it's hands-on, they tend to enjoy the lesson."

Some of the students learned a lesson in persistence when they gave up on a square, only to have another student swoop in behind them and snag a mummy.

De Alba said donations from Synopsys Outreach Foundation, a nonprofit that supports science education, and The Home Depot paid for the garden. Later this year, the garden will also be a dinosaur bone site for first-graders.

Fernando Ramirez, 11, said he used salt to begin the mummification of a Cornish hen, another hands-on part of the lesson. He said Egyptian mummies, unlike game hens, were usually pharaohs or otherwise wealthy.

Fernando was impressed by the whole experience.

"I think it's pretty awesome," Fernando said. "Seeing as it wasn't made professionally, it looks awesome."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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