By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 15, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker youth were given the chance to take an archaeological trip back to biblical times to learn about the history of their faith during an event that had them digging for knowledge.
The Fort Rucker Religious Support Office held its Vacation Bible School June 5-9 where children were able to take part in music, crafts and even an archaeological dig, which was perfectly aligned with this year's theme -- come fly with us to a VBS archaeology adventure, according to Nancy Jankowski, Fort Rucker Religious Support Office director of religious education.
"We chose the biblical archaeology theme because we could pull material from any historical era, including after biblical times into modern times," said Jankowski.
Children were divided into groups representing the 12 tribes of Israel, and each tribe rotated through different stations to take part in different activities, ranging from games meant to teach about Jesus, to crafts like building wooden airplanes or creating a work belt to take with them on an archaeological dig.
Each day of the program featured a different lesson in archaeology of significant figures throughout biblical history that would take children through the ages from biblical to modern times, said the director, and was meant to educate the children on the history of their faith.
Throughout the days, children were able to sift through the sands of the "dig site" to find various treasures, some of which they were allowed to keep.
For Joshua Evans, military family member, the dig site was one of his favorite parts of the experience.
"I really liked to get to go through the sand and find the gold coins," he said. "I thought that was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about history and how archaeology works."
The first day focused on evidence of Abraham, who is the father of all three of the monotheistic religions in the area surrounding Israel, said Jankowski, so the children were set to look for archaeological evidence of Abraham.
The second day featured the people of Israel coming in under Joshua and conquering Jericho to begin taking care of their lands.
On the third day, the children were learning about David, who was not only a shepherd boy tending his father's sheep, but a servant in Saul's army who later became king, so it featured some archaeological finds around the city of Jerusalem and the temple mound, said the religious education director.
The fourth day brought the children into more recent times when a boat, aptly named the Jesus Boat, was discovered in the Sea of Galilee in 1986.
"During that time, the sea levels in the Sea of Galilee had dropped down significantly and two fisherman brothers were washing along the shore and spotted something in the water," explained Jankowski. "They called the Israeli archaeology authorities and they discovered it was a first-century fishing boat that was still underwater, so they had to come up with this special method to keep it intact as they raised it out of the water and eventually built a museum around it."
Learning about the boat taught the children about special methods developed and adapted to new situations when coming across a find, she said.
The final day focused on the Judea wilderness and the Dead Sea caves, but no matter where the children traveled throughout the program, the lessons of archaeology and history were clear. "Each day's themes had something to do with archaeology and how the people lived," said the religious education director. "Not only the Israelites, but the Philistines and other groups that were in the area during that period of history.
"They learned a lot about the history of the world and how different people of various times were either friends or enemies, and how they determined where to live depending on where there was water or good pasture lands," she added. "They were learning a lot of information that will help make them better students."
Because VBS is a chapel program, Jankowski said it's important for the children to learn and understand where the history of their faith comes from, but that they should also know how that history relates to modern times because many of the peoples who settled the land in ancient times still reside there today.
"We need to learn how ancient people lived and how they managed to get along or not get along, and how problems were solved," she said. "[The children] got to learn about how every one of the three major monotheistic religions has holy sites in the area, and sometimes those sites are in very close proximity or maybe even overlap. So they had to learn how to be respectful of everybody's customs, and how to appreciate and respect everybody's heritage."