The best sport.
"Could you repeat that, please?" Ms. Brady asked.
"Arrowhead hunting," Dean said again.
The teacher smiled. "I'm not sure that's a sport, Dean. A sport is an activity in which you compete against another person or team, matching your skills with a goal in mind. Does that sound like arrowhead hunting?"
"Yep!" Dean said. "When I'm hunting arrowheads, I'm sometimes competing against another person, but I'm always competing against Mother Nature. It takes great skill to locate an artifact that might only be partly exposed after being buried for hundreds of years. And my goal is to find the nicest and oldest arrowheads I can."
"Sounds like a sport to me," Abbie agreed.
"How can you tell how old the arrowheads are?" Marcel asked.
"I have books to help me identify them," Dean explained. "I've found some that are about 8,000 years old!"
Eyebrows raised all around the room.
"Whether arrowhead hunting is a sport or a hobby," Ms. Brady said, "it certainly seems to have interested you all. Can I see hands for those who'd like to take a field trip to look for arrowheads?"
Twenty-four hands shot into the air. Abbie put up both her arms.
"Very good," Ms. Brady said. "Do you know the proper name for your 'sport,' Dean?"
"Archaeology," he replied.
"Correct." She walked to the board at the front of the classroom. "You can actually spell the word two different ways: archaeology or archeology." She wrote out both. "But 'a' or no 'a,' it means the study of ancient humans. I'll contact a farmer friend of mine to see if we can pay his field a visit to look for arrowheads."
Cheers filled the room.
That next Friday, a school bus carried the class into the countryside an hour's drive from the school. Ms. Brady's friend had given permission for the students to use his farm as their archaeological dig site. Three days of rain had washed the freshly tilled earth, which meant that the arrowheads would be free of soil and easier to find.
As they traveled, Dean explained that nearly all arrowheads are made of flint. He described how to spot them shining in the mud and even passed around a box of his own arrowheads so they could see what they were looking for.
All morning long, the kids walked up and down the field. But Dean didn't join his friends in the hunt. Instead, he stood at the edge of the dig site, a book in his hands, helping his classmates identify their finds.
"Is this anything?" Abbie asked, holding out her hand.
Dean took a close look. "That's a leave-erite."
"What's that mean?"
"It means 'leave 'er right' where you found it. It's just a rock."
"Oh," Abbie said, grinning.
They weren't all "leave-erites," though. By the time Ms. Brady served lunch, both Ben and Nancy had found arrowheads about 1,000 years old! And Marcel had found a scraper, a blade-like stone tool.
While they ate their boxed meals, Dean told how the farmer's field was only a few miles from a large flint deposit. Ancient tribes, he said, had traveled long distances to dig the flint from the ground. Even the tribes that were unfriendly to one another had worked the area in peace because they all needed the flint for their arrowheads so they could hunt animals for food.
As the afternoon passed, Ms. Brady discovered the base of a large arrowhead made from an orange, clear piece of flint. She said she planned to hang it as a suncatcher in her classroom window.
By the time they left for school, each kid had his or her pockets full of flint chips. When the bus pulled up to the school, all the students roared their approval to Dean. There was even some applause and a few cries of "Speech! Speech!"
Dean was too embarrassed to speak so Ms. Brady stood. "I'm not sure if we've decided if arrowhead hunting is a sport or not," she said, "but I think we can all agree that it was a lot of fun. And we can also all agree to thank Dean for his patience and skill. He's the best sport of all!"