A Story from Mr. Mann and our Junior Kindergarteners

We Dig the Past

By: Gary Mann and Dr. Gerald Cole


Chapter One – A Trip Leads to a Discovery

Once upon a time, actually a sunny day in October 2021, a group of students took a walk from outside their art class.

Their teacher was Mr. Mann. He was the lower school art teacher at Quest Academy, who had a bristling brown mustache. His mustache was mysterious but friendly, and some of the students decided that it was where Mr. Mann kept his best ideas. And he always had best ideas.

The outside was actually a parking lot, Veer one of Mr. Mann’s  art students tripped over something that was sticking out of the blacktop. Since he was already on the ground, Veer decided to look at what made him fall. It looked like a stone, but there was some strange symbol that seemed to be written on it.

“This must be the La Brea Tar Pits,” said Amyre, proud that she had remembered Mr. Mann’s lesson about the ancient tar pits that trapped animals like the saber tooth tiger and the woolly mammoth.

“No, those are called asphalt pits,” said Raafi. “Remember that Mr. Mann told us they were formed when oil mixes with decayed organic material and is put under great pressure?” Even though his art students were only in pre kindergarten, Mr. Mann loved to teach them big words and even bigger ideas. For they loved to learn.

“But the La Brea Tar pits are in California,” said Sonia, “Is this a different asphalt pit? Is that a piece of mammoth bone?”

“Why would someone draw a strange symbol on a mammoth bone?” wondered Shivohum.

“This is man-made asphalt,” said Mr. Mann with a wise, knowing smile.

“Of course,” said Cadance. “This asphalt has compounds of hydrogen and carbon, with minor proportions of nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen in it.” Mr. Mann had taught them all about different kinds of asphalts used for making parking lots and roads earlier in the year. When your outdoors area is a parking lot, then this is sometimes what you teach.

“Then what is this?” asked Violet, pointing at the strange object that had tripped Veer. “Mr. Mann, can we tear up the parking lot and see?”

Mr. Mann rubbed his mustache with his fore-finger and his thumb. The students all knew he was getting one of his best ideas.

“First, let’s see who traveled in this area,” said Mr. Mann, “and maybe that will give us some clues.”

Your Title Goes Here

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Chapter 2 – The Mann Expedition is Born

The door to the library opened and all of Mr. Mann’s art students burst inside, but quietly, since Mr. Mann had taught them the proper ways to respect the library. They fanned out and began to look for clues.

Miss Jenny saw a book titled, PALATINE. Since the school, the parking lot, the art students, and Mr. Mann were all in Palatine, she decided this was a good place to start. She pulled the book off the shelf, but something strange happened.

“Look,” said Rishav, “something strange just happened.” All the students noticed that a second book came off the shelf with the PALATINE book. “That book seemed to jump out, like the two books were best friends.”

The book was titled ENGLAND, and it had opened to a page about King Arthur Pendragon. Miss. Jenny picked up the book and began to read. “In 450 AD, King Arthur Pendragon led his knights on a mission. He decided they needed symbols to represent goodness and kindness, things that knights stood for. The symbols were drawn onto stones. They represented Honesty, Respect, and Trustworthiness…”

“Look at that symbol!” exclaimed Violet. She pointed to the symbol for kindness. “It’s the same as the one in the parking lot.”

“Why would a symbol from one thousand and six years, or five, plus eight… well from a long time ago be in our parking lot in Palatine?” asked Amyre, who was a good reader but not so good with math.

“Let’s find out,” suggested Mr. Mann. Miss Jenny, proceeded to read the story.

“A legend tells of King Arthur Pendragon leading his knights on a mission from Cornwall, a county in Southern England, but somehow he took a wrong turn at Wales, and the story tells that he and his knights landed in Palatine, far across the ocean.”

“Why would whales make him go the wrong way?” wondered Shivohum. “They are such peaceful animals and would never make someone go the wrong way.”

“No,” said Cadance. “Wales is a county in Eastern England.” All the students nodded, happy to know that actual whales did not do something so sneaky like making a king and his knights go the wrong way.

“Maybe this is a major archeological find,” said Veer, proud that his accidental fall might lead to something important. “Can we dig up the parking lot, Mr. Mann, and see if there are more stones?”

Mr. Mann rubbed his mustache with his fore-finger and his thumb. The students all knew he was getting one of his best ideas.

“Yes,” said Mr. Mann.

Chapter 3 – When Art Students Become Archeological Students

Amyre, who loved making lists, decided to make a list. It was a list of all the things archeologists would need to dig up the past. Her list included shovels, a pick, some rope, and brushes.

Fortunately, all these items were right there in Mr. Mann’s art room. That might seem a strange list of items for an art teacher, but Mr. Mann is not your usual art teacher. He is a holistic art teacher, and that means whatever needs to be done, can always be done as art.

Just a few weeks earlier, there was a busted pipe sticking out of the art room wall. Any other art teacher would simply call for a plumber, but Mr. Mann chose to bring in supplies to his students so they could turn the pipe into art. Now there was a piece of art making the wall look awesome instead of a broken pipe making the wall look sad and drippy.

It just so happened that the supplies he gave the students to work with included shovels, a pick, some rope, and brushes.

The students went out to the parking lot. They knew, from past experience of course, that they had to be careful and work slowly to safely excavate the missing rocks. “Excavate means to remove something by digging,” said Rishav. He was afraid anyone reading this story might not know the word excavate, and he always loved to help.

One week, followed by another week, followed by a few days of rain, and finally followed by another week went by.

The students ended up with a total of 8 symbols. Some were on complete stones, and some of the stones had to be carefully put back together, like a puzzle.

“Let’s look at these stones,” suggested Mr. Mann. “ Then, perhaps we can create  a new versions of them. They did this and hung the finished piece on the principal’s wall.

The principal was happy with the new art for his wall, but he did have one question. “What happened to our beautiful parking lot?” he asked.

Mr. Mann rubbed his mustache with his fore-finger and his thumb. The students all knew he was getting one of his best ideas.

“Looks like we have a new art project,” he said with a wink.