Avoyelles student looks at the temper of a Woodland period Caddo pottery sherd.

In an ongoing commitment to promote heritage education in historic preservation, the Materials Research Program at NCPTT recently hosted two school groups. On Friday, March 12, thirty-four Avoyelles Public Charter School high school juniors took part in the “Conservation Scientist for a Day” lesson.

For this the students studied French colonial and Native American pottery using optical microscopy, chemical spot tests, and portable x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. Students learned about iconographic symbols of Native American pottery, studied tempers used in the clay body, and identified the presence or absence of lead in glaze using chemical spot tests. They also used portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to identify elements present in the sherds.

In groups of two the eleventh graders wrote a report on each of their pottery sherds, starting with documentation (including measurements, sketches, and photographs) and finally studying their sherds with the three featured analytical techniques.

On Wednesday, March 24, forty Natchitoches Magnet School fifth graders came to NCPTT in two groups. They came for a session on the formation of acid rain and it’s effects on stone monuments and buildings. Students reviewed the water cycle, learned the sources of acid rain, identified damage to cultural heritage caused by acid rain, and conducted their own acid rain experiments. The experiment involved exposing a limestone sculpture (Tums) to acid (vinegar) and observing the effects the acid has on the calcium based sculpture. The students also toured the laboratories and learned how NCPTT staff trained to become conservators and conservation scientists.

Natchitoches Magnet students work together in pairs for an acid rain experiment.

The “Conservation Scientist for a Day” workbook and all PowerPoint presentations from these activities will be available on NCPTT’s website in the near future.

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