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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center


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National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for K-12 Teachers

Exploring the Past: Archaeology in the Upper Mississippi River Valley

Dates: July 14 through August 1, 2014 (3 weeks)

Location: University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Application Deadline: March 4, 2014 (notification date: March 31, 2014)

PDF Versions of Web Site Information: Director’s ProspectusNEH Application Information and InstructionsProjected AgendaField Trips



Walking beside thousand-year-old burial mounds, flaking raw stone into usable tools, learning how archaeologists move from broken potsherds to human behavior, and understanding how humans adapt to complex, ever-changing environments—our 2014 Summer Institute features all this and more. We’ll provide three weeks of intense, guided exploration into how Native American and Euro-American cultures have adapted to the Upper Mississippi Valley over nearly fourteen millennia, and how we learn about such cultures through archaeology, the study of past human cultures from the remains they left behind.

Archaeology is an essential topic for K-12 teachers. It links the humanities and the sciences and offers an appealing way to engage students’ interest and enhance their content knowledge in a wide range of subject areas. The unglaciated area of the Upper Mississippi Valley, with its rich resources and rugged terrain, is a perfect laboratory for applying the process and concepts of archaeology to explore how human cultures have changed and adapted through time. The region’s archaeological record reveals a remarkable history of adaptation and growth. When Europeans arrived, the area was home to complex Native American cultures that had adapted to the region’s environment over thousands of years. By extending the historic record back through time, archaeology offers a window through which we can see how those cultures lived and evolved. The influx of Europeans into the region led to massive changes and new adaptations for both Native peoples and immigrants, and the resulting cultures continue to evolve today. The common thread linking these disparate cultures, from the earliest mammoth-hunters to today’s technology-dependent tablet users, is adaptation to the region’s rich but challenging environment.


Teachers excavate at the Cade site during the 2012 NEH Summer Institute.


Teachers screening dirt to recover artifacts during the 2012 excavation.


Teachers clean artifacts from their 2012 Cade site excavation.

Comparing different adaptations to the same locale is a fascinating way to study the human experience. All societies make choices about how to meet their basic survival needs, and these choices are linked to every other facet of their culture. Through inquiry-based case studies, you’ll look at the environment and technological know-how available to the region’s residents at different times, think about the choices particular groups might have made to meet their basic needs, and test your interpretations by looking at actual archaeological evidence. This real-world approach will ensure a rich, authentic experience in how archaeology works and give you new insights into the dynamic nature of all human cultures, past and present—insights you will be able to apply to your own teaching areas and geographic regions.

We’ll use a variety of learning approaches throughout the Institute, including classroom presentations and lively discussions, hands-on laboratory and workshop activities, demonstrations, field trips, and readings. The readings range from required selections that address Institute core concepts to supplemental readings that encourage and support more in-depth exploration of a topic.  Highlights include a one-day excavation experience; hands-on lab experiences where you’ll learn how artifacts are cleaned, processed, and cataloged; and a hands-on technology field day where you’ll try using a spear-thrower and learn what’s involved in fashioning stone arrowheads and wooden arrows. Field trip destinations range from an Amish farm to Effigy Mounds National Monument, a battle location from the Black Hawk War of 1832, and other sites that complement the course content. Individual projects will encourage you to create ways to bring your experiences and your new perspective on human cultures back to the classroom, no matter what your teaching area.


2012 NEH Summer Institute teacher learns how stone tools are made.

Teacher works at straightening an arrow shaft.

Teacher works at straightening an arrow shaft.


Teacher works at straightening an arrow shaft.



Click below for a pdf file with –


The Institute will be led by staff with complementary areas of expertise and extensive experience working together on education-related projects. The staff, Jim Theler, Kathy Stevenson, and Bonnie Jancik, have all been active in teacher professional development activities that focus on using archaeology as a vehicle for teaching a variety of subject areas. Theler and Stevenson’s knowledge and experiences as archaeologists are complemented by Jancik’s background in precollegiate education. Guest presenters will share their own special expertise and viewpoints. All of the staff have broad experience in conveying the excitement and fascination of archaeology to students, teachers, and the general public.

Dr. James Theler has over thirty years of research and teaching experience in archaeology and is known for his dynamic teaching style and his extensive knowledge of human cultures. His specialties include reconstructing and studying past environments, analyzing animal remains, and understanding pre-European cultures of the Midwest. Jim is currently studying the archaeology of the Bad Axe Valley, a scenic valley in southwestern Wisconsin that will be a focus for Institute case studies and field experiences. Jim will take the lead with the Institute’s core content and classroom presentations.

Dr. Katherine Stevenson has been active in regional research for over thirty years. Her specialties include the history of regional archaeology, the study of animal remains, archival research, mound and burial sites, and regional caves and rock art. She’s also an author and editor of K-6 educational nonfiction, with an interest in how archaeology and Native cultures are portrayed in children’s books.  Kathy will work with Jim on content presentation and take the lead with lab activities, case studies, and archaeology-related aspects of participant projects.

Ms. Bonnie Jancik has been involved in formal elementary education and informal K-12 education for over thirty years. She’s widely known for her work in archaeology education and professional development for practicing teachers, including teaching numerous undergraduate and graduate classes and workshops for K-12 teachers. She’s particularly interested in exploring how archaeology can be used as a vehicle for teaching a wide range of subjects. Bonnie will take the lead on administration and education-related aspects of the Institute, including participant projects.

Mr. Loren Cade is a lifelong resident of the Bad Axe Valley, and his farmland includes important archaeological sites. Loren has a long-term interest in regional archaeology and ancient technology, and he’s an expert at making wooden arrows and hunting with traditional bows. He’ll host an excavation experience at his farm, lead activities involving ancient technology, discuss the ethics of artifact collecting, and provide insights on evolving adaptations for local farmers.

Mr. Robert Keiper has been a flintknapper for over forty years. He has taught people of all ages the art of making stone tools. Robert has been involved with MVAC for many years, participating in archaeological activities and presenting at public events. In 2009 Keiper received MVAC’s Regional Archaeology Award to acknowledge his long-term commitment to sharing his knowledge of ancient technologies. Robert will provide flintknapping workshops at the Institute’s technology day.


Teachers provide scale as they stand around the perimeter of a bear shaped effigy mound.


2012 NEH Summer Institute teachers at Effigy Mounds National Monument.


Institute participants view the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers from Pikes Peak State Park.



NEH Summer Scholars will receive a stipend of $2,700 for attending all meetings (Monday–Friday, July 14–August 1, 2014) and engaging fully in the work of the project. Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, books and other research expenses, and living expenses for the duration of the period spent in residence. Stipends are taxable. Applicants should note that supplements will not be given in cases where the stipend is insufficient to cover all expenses. NEH Summer Scholars will receive a check for 1/2 of the stipend ($1,350) when they arrive. Participants will receive the remaining 1/2 of the stipend ($1,350) on the final day of the Institute. Payments for the dorms will be due at the end of the Institute. NEH Summer Scholars who, for any reason, do not complete the full tenure of the Institute must refund a pro-rata portion of the stipend.


Ten Continuing Education Units (CEU) are available for those participating fully in the work of the Institute. Those interested in receiving CEUs must sign the daily sign-in sheet and provide a check for $15.00. The certificate will be sent (by the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse Continuing Education and Extension) to NEH Summer Scholars approximately two weeks after completion of the Institute.  Check in advance with your district to make sure they will accept these CEUs.


Three graduate credits are available for participants in the Institute, although participants are responsible for their own registration and all payments. NEH Summer Scholars seeking credit will design and complete an appropriate project as part of the course. These projects will be developed in conjunction with Institute staff and will depend on the interests and needs of the participants but might include curriculum development, a research paper, or other projects.

The University will allow registration as a “special non-degree seeking student”  Institute staff will then enroll NEH Summer Scholars in ARC 598 – Seminar in Archaeology.  For fee information visit:  Questions regarding fees can be directed to the UW-L Cashiers Office at: 608-785-8719 or  Check in advance with your district to make sure they will accept these credits.


Participants will have the status of “visiting scholars” at UW-L, entitling them to access the library, ability to log-on to campus computers, and other campus-based services. A classroom library of resources (books, teacher guides, DVDs, videos) will provide convenient access to relevant materials to assist NEH Summer Scholars in their individual research.


Portions of the Institute will be offered through Desire2Learn (D2L), an online, Web-based course framework that provides a secure location for posting and downloading class information, conducting discussions, and contacting classmates and instructors. Access is through a standard Web browser.


La Crosse is a great place to spend the summer.  Located on the Great River Road, which winds north and south through 10 states, La Crosse (http://explorelacrosse.com,_Wisconsin) is the hub of the geographic area known as the 7 Rivers Region. The area offers densely wooded valleys, scenic bluffs, the famous Mississippi River and its tributaries, lush marshes, and native prairies. La Crosse is known for its historic downtown district.


UW-L is a residential campus with dormitories, classrooms, and support for over 10,000 students and adult learners. The project staff is encouraging NEH Summer Scholars to stay in the UW-L dorms for a number of reasons, including easy access, opportunity for informal interactions, and fostering a sense of community. Arrangements have been made for NEH Summer Scholars to stay in Reuter Hall, a modern residence hall that opened in September 2006 and has a convenient campus location. Reuter Hall provides comfortable suites that meet the demands of students. Each suite has four private bedrooms, a semi-private bathroom, a kitchen area, and a living room. General-use spaces in Reuter Hall include a group kitchen facility, a lounge/game room area, a small-group study area, a mailroom, a recycling room, and multipurpose areas. This relatively new hall provides ADA-compliant living accommodations.

  • Reuter Hall rate:  Motel style (includes once each week: 2 sheets, pillowcase, blanket, towel, washcloth, pillow): $588 for the entire Institute – arrival July 13, departure August 2.


We realize that some NEH Summer Scholars may decide to stay elsewhere. Numerous off-campus housing opportunities are available in the La Crosse area.


A variety of meal options are available. For those staying in Reuter Hall, the kitchens in the individual suites allow convenient meal preparation in the dorm. Campus Food Services and area restaurants are also available.


In alignment with the selection criteria outlined by NEH, the selection committee will be looking for evidence of the following qualities as they select the 25 Institute participants:

  1. More important than the subject or grade level the applicant teaches is that the applicant is a lifelong learner who is enthusiastic about learning and eager to experience new things.
  2. We will be looking for a personal interest or a passion for the topic because this translates to excitement and motivation in the classroom.
  3. Applicants do not need to teach lessons on the process of archaeology or the region’s earliest people; however, they do need to show creativity in adapting the Institute’s content to their unique teaching situations. The process of archaeology and the results of archaeological research can be an effective vehicle for hands-on activities that employ an interdisciplinary (science, social studies, language arts, math, visual arts, etc.) approach that engages students in higher-level thinking.



In addition to this document, you must also read the NEH Application Information and Instructions document included with this letter. A checklist for application materials is included in that document. Your completed application packet should be postmarked no later than March 4, 2014, and should be addressed as follows: Bonnie Jancik, MVAC UW-L, 1725 State St., La Crosse, WI 54601. Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Monday, March 31 and will have until Friday, April 4 to accept or decline the offer. Applicants who will not be home during the notification period should provide an address and phone number where they can be reached.

The most important part of your application to “Exploring the Past” is the essay of no more than four double spaced pages.  This essay should include your reasons for applying to the specific project; your relevant personal and academic information; your qualifications to do the work of the project and make a contribution to it; what you hope to accomplish; and the relationship of the study to your teaching.


Bad Axe Valley.


Amish farm.



Please review the eligibility criteria for participation in Summer Seminars and Institutes at:

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers are offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide teachers an opportunity for substantive study of significant humanities ideas and texts. These study opportunities are especially designed for this program and are not intended to duplicate courses normally offered by graduate programs. On completion of an NEH Summer Seminar or Institute, NEH Summer Scholars will receive a certificate indicating their participation.

Prior to completing an application to a specific seminar or institute, please review the project website and consider carefully what is expected in terms of residence and attendance, reading and writing requirements, and general participation in the work of the project.

seminar for school teachers enables 16 NEH Summer Scholars to explore a topic or set of readings with a scholar having special interest and expertise in the field. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

An institute for school teachers, typically led by a team of core faculty and visiting scholars, is designed to present the best available scholarship on important humanities issues and works taught in the nation’s schools. The 25 to 30 NEH Summer Scholars compare and synthesize the various perspectives offered by the faculty, make connections between the institute content and classroom applications, and often develop improved teaching materials for their classrooms.

The use of the words “seminar” or “institute” in this document is precise and is intended to convey differences between the two project types.

Please note: An individual may apply to up to two projects (NEH Summer Seminars, Institutes or Landmarks Workshops), but may participate in only one.


A selection committee will read and evaluate all properly completed applications in order to select the most promising applicants and to identify a number of alternates. Seminar selection committees typically consist of the seminar director, a school teacher who is usually a participant in a previous NEH seminar, and a colleague of the director. Institute selection committees typically consist of three to five members, usually all drawn from the institute faculty and staff members.

The most important consideration in the selection of participants is the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally and personally. Committee members consider several factors, each of which should be addressed in the application essay. These factors include:

1. effectiveness and commitment as a teacher/educator;
2. intellectual interests, in general and as they relate to the work of the project;
3. special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the seminar or institute;
4. commitment to participate fully in the formal and informal collegial life of the project; and
5. the likelihood that the experience will enhance the applicant’s teaching.

Recent participants are eligible to apply, but project selection committees are charged to give first consideration to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-supported Seminar, Institute or Landmarks Workshop in the last three years (2011, 2012, 2013). When choices must be made among equally qualified candidates, several additional factors are considered. Preference is given to applicants who have not previously participated in an NEH Summer Seminar, Institute, or Landmarks Workshop, or who significantly contribute to the diversity of the seminar or institute.


Teachers selected to participate as NEH Summer Scholars in five-week projects will receive stipend of $3,900; those in four-week projects will receive $3,300; those in three-week projects will receive $2,700; and those in two-week projects will receive $2,100. Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, books and other research expenses, and ordinary living expenses. Stipends are taxable. Applicants to all projects, especially those held abroad, should note that supplements will not be given in cases where the stipend is insufficient to cover all expenses.

Seminar and institute participants are required to attend all meetings and to engage fully as professionals in the work of the project. During the project’s tenure, they may not undertake teaching assignments or any other professional activities unrelated to their participation in the project.   Participants who, for any reason, do not complete the full tenure of the project must refund a pro-rata portion of the stipend.

At the end of the project’s residential period, NEH Summer Scholars will be asked to submit online evaluations in which they review their work during the summer and assess its value to their personal and professional development. These evaluations will become part of the project’s grant file.


Before you attempt to complete an application, please study the project website, which contains detailed information about the topic under study, project requirements and expectations of the participants, the academic and institutional setting, and specific provisions for lodging and subsistence. All application materials must be sent to the project director at the address listed on the project website. Application materials sent to the Endowment will not be reviewed.


A complete application consists of three copies of the following collated items:

  • the completed application cover sheet,
  • a résumé or brief biography with contact information for two professional references, and
  • an application essay as outlined below.

The Application Cover Sheet

The application cover sheet must be filled out online at this address:

Please follow the prompts. Before you click the “submit” button, print out the cover sheet and add it to your application package. Then click “submit.” At this point you will be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for another project. If you do, follow the prompts to select the other project and repeat the process.

Note that filling out a cover sheet is not the same as applying, so there is no penalty for changing your mind and filling out a cover sheet for several projects. A full application consists of the items listed above, as sent to the project director.

You must submit a separate cover sheet online for each project to which you are applying in order to generate a unique tracking number for each application. Do not copy and paste a new cover sheet.

Résumé and References

Please include a résumé or brief biography detailing your educational qualifications and professional experience. Be sure the résumé provides the name, title, phone number, and e-mail address of two professional references.

The Application Essay

The application essay should be no more than four double-spaced pages. It should address reasons for applying; the applicant’s interest, both academic and personal, in the subject to be studied; qualifications and experiences that equip the applicant to do the work of the seminar or institute and to make a contribution to a learning community; a statement of what the applicant wants to accomplish by participating; and the relation of the project to the applicant’s professional responsibilities.


Completed applications should be submitted to the project director, not the NEH, and should be postmarked no later than March 4, 2014.

Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Monday, March 31, 2014, and they will have until Friday, April 4 to accept or decline the offer.

Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Summer Seminar, Institute or Landmarks Workshop), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY STATEMENT:  Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. For further information, write to NEH Equal Opportunity Officer, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20506. TDD: 202/606-8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).


City of La Crosse, Wisconsin


For Additional Information Contact:

TShirt LogoBonnie Jancik
Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
1725 State St.
La Crosse, WI 54601


woodland potsThis Summer Institute is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Institute do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.