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NCPTT contributes to educational activities locally, regionally, and nationally by helping students learn more about real world applications of science to cultural heritage. During the last year, NCPTT held student field trips and lectures for all ages, mentored high school researchers, supported preservation trades training, and donated surplus equipment to local schools. And the National Center regularly hosts visits from the region’s graduate historic preservation programs, such as those at the University of Georgia, Tulane University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Involving children in the stewardship of cultural heritage is the primary goal of heritage education. NCPTT provides hands-on activities for elementary students through field trips for fifth and eighth grade students. NCPTT hosted forty Natchitoches Elementary Magnet fifth grade students for a session on acid rain and monuments on March 24, 2010. Students reviewed the water cycle, learned the sources of acid rain, identified damage to cultural resources caused by acid rain, and conducted their own acid rain experiments. The students toured the laboratories and learned how NCPTT staff trained to become conservators and conservation scientists.

NSU Middle Laboratory School students identify monument rock types in American Cemetery.

NCPTT uses the cultural objects in cemeteries to teach eighth graders about geology and rock identification. NSU Middle Laboratory School students heard lectures on how stone has been used throughout history and how it is formed by geologic processes. They also participated in a hands-on session on rock identification and a field trip to American Cemetery to identify stone types used for grave markers.

NCPTT developed a half-day workshop, “Conservation Scientist for a Day,” on the use of science to study, understand, and conserve cultural heritage. Thirty-four Avoyelles Public Charter School high school juniors studied French colonial and Native American pottery using optical microscopy, chemical spot tests, and portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF). Students learned about iconographic symbols on Native American pottery and studied tempers used in the clay sherds. They also checked for the presence of lead in the glazes using chemical spot tests and used pXRF to identify the elements present in the artifact. A workbook and PowerPoint presentations from this activity will be available via NCPTT’s website.

NCPTT also mentors budding researchers through service learning and internships with students from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) and Northwestern State University (NSU). In this academic year, Houren Zhu from LSMSA worked closely with NCPTT’s Curtis Desselles (a former NSU intern) to create a new pocket-sized portable eddy current analyzer used to study metal artifacts.

High School Students study pottery sherd using optical microscopy.

In June 2009, NCPTT strengthened its ability to teach science regionally by hosting 32 high school teachers from Bossier, Caddo, and Webster Parishes participating in the Math and Science Partnership program (funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education). NCPTT staff demonstrated applications of science and math to the preservation of cultural heritage and provided educational materials and teaching aids. The day-long program emphasized math, physical science, earth science, and chemistry in hopes of strengthening and improving teachers’ knowledge in these areas.

NCPTT remains committed to facilitating preservation trades training. Recently, NCPTT cosponsored the International Trades Education Symposium that was held in conjunction with the International Preservation Trades Workshops in Leadville, Colo., from August 25 – 28, 2009. This symposium provided an opportunity for tradesmen, educators, preservationists, architects, students and others from the U.S. and abroad to exchange experiences and ideas to help improve preservation trades education.

NCPTT reaches out to college students through its partnership with NSU and other universities. NSU’s education majors learned how to use heritage education to teach across the curriculum through a two-hour course offered on Nov. 9. NCPTT’s Jason Church presented a lecture on the use of cemeteries as an educational tool, followed by a scavenger hunt in American Cemetery, Natchitoches, La.

NSU’s Master of Arts in Heritage Resources (MAHR) program is drawing on NCPTT’s depth of preservation knowledge through a series of lectures on materials conservation. This spring 2010, NCPTT provided lectures and laboratory activities to the MAHR students on (1) metals manufacture, identification, and conservation treatments, (2) cultural heritage created from stone, including a hands-on rock identification session, and (3) use of lasers in the conservation of cultural heritage.

In May 2009, NCPTT’s Debbie Smith and Jason Church used cemetery preservation as a tool to teach Stephen F. Austin University students about broader issues in historic preservation. Through three lectures and hands-on training in Oakdale Cemetery, the students learned about vegetation and materials issues, and monument cleaning techniques.

On July 21-22, 2009, NCPTT’s Andy Ferrell and Kirk Cordell presented a series of lectures at the University of Florida’s Preservation Institute: Nantucket on the role NCPTT plays in facilitating research and training in innovative technologies for historic preservation. Particular topics included NCPTT’s grants program, sustainable preservation, preservation trades training, and disaster response and planning for cultural resources. Ferrell also presented a lecture to architecture students at Louisiana State University on the origins of sustainable preservation, beginning with a look at Vitruvius’s De Architectura from the first century B.C. and culminating in a discussion on the relationship between historic preservation and sustainable development.

Jason Church was the keynote speaker for Grambling State University’s Founder’s week. He spoke to 120 students and faculty of the historically black university regarding cemetery care and documentation and conducted a walking tour addressing cemetery care issues. He also discussed career choices in historic preservation and the National Park Service.

More online tools are in development by NCPTT’s staff, including online tutorials on the use of thin layer chromatography for analysis of cultural objects. Future additions to the website will include information on rock identification and on calculation of the weight of a grave marker.

NCPTT donates it’s surplus computer equipment for academic use by the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, the statewide school for the gifted located across the street from the National Center. In the past year, several items have been donated for use in the school’s technology classes, including three Dell Poweredge servers that were outdated but still working and usable. Other donated equipment included an Olympus Digital camera, a Sony Data projector, a Sony Cisco Catalyst switch, two external tape drives, three Dell Optiplex computers, a Polaroid slide scanner, an IBM laptop, and a 30” flat panel Apple monitor, among other equipment. This has benefited both NCPTT and LSMSA by enabling the National Center to easily dispose of older items while providing students with the equipment they need for their studies.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119