Eight pairs of hands work together as a five-by-three foot hole is dug to plant the first fig tree into the ground at Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley. The tree marks the first archaeological camp for children at the historical site, which is being directed by Education Coordinator for the Oro Valley Historical Society, Joyce Rychener.

“We are trying to do things that help kids really understand their sense of place, the history and the heritage of where they live,” said Rychener. 

For five weeks guest speakers such as archaeologists, cowboys and artists will teach the campers at the Archaeological History Camp for Kids about Oro Valley’s history through hands-on activities. Some of these include: building a pit house, digging canals, planting crops, making clay tiles, music, making food and more. Each activity is in someway connected to how Oro Valley came to be, how people lived and how that has impacted and brought the town to where it is today.

Steam Pump Ranch, where the camp is taking place, is a large part of Oro Valley’s history. John Zellweger and George Pusch, who used the pump to provide water and rest for travelers during the 19th century, built it in 1874. The ranch is listed as part of the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the town. Rychener has spent the past couple years preserving the area and took a step forward this summer by making the historical site a place for children to learn.

Karen Palmer, from Toscana Studio and Gallery, invested her time for a day by helping campers learn how to make clay tiles and paint designs on them. Palmer sees the camp as a great source of learning for children and is glad she can be a part of the camp.

“Making tiles is something I love to do,” said Palmer. “Their (campers) creativity is endless. You can just give them an idea and they run with it. They are just excited to be here.”

Iliana Freeman, a 9-year-old camper, says that the planting of the tree was one of her favorite parts so far.

“We got to dig and planting it was fun,” said Freeman. “We got to spray each other with water too when we were done.”

Rychener encourages parents to sign up their children, as the camp will run until the last week of July. For more information: www.orovalleyaz.gov.

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