CHAPS Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools header

About Us


The CHAPS(Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools) program is designed to discover the untapped cultural and historical resources of South Texas, bring them to light through research and develop them for education, tourism, and community pride.

CHAPS will achieve its goal by building partnerships between the local communities of South Texas, The University of Texas – Pan American (UTPA), and K-12 schools in the region.  To date, we already have the support of the City of Alton and are currently working closely with several teachers from Donna ISD, Edinburg ISD, Hidalgo ISD and La Joya ISD.  UTPA-CHAPS faculty have been working closely with local school teachers and administrators from these four districts throughout this past year by conducting workshops to help them develop lesson plans and curriculum to implement in their classrooms.  

The CHAPS program is considered to be a college preparatory program, designed to increase K-12 graduation, college attendance and decrease drop outs.  Students’ academic mastery will measurably increase in math, science, language/communication skills, and social studies skills, which will then be applied to the cultural and economic development of their own communities.  The CHAPS program emphasizes teacher preparation and student academic skill development by using the powerful hands-on experience of archaeological and historical discovery and preservation.  Eventually, the students will be involved in the physical reconstruction of our representational history so that the Rio Grande Valley becomes the ‘go-to’ place for Hispanic Cultural Heritage Tourism.  The CHAPS team believes that archaeology provides the nexus for bringing the whole panoply of the human experience together into an integrated educational whole (K-16, interdisciplinary emphasizing STEM and communication, life-long learning).  Our goal is to create archaeologically and historically literate citizens who are aware of their local cultural and natural history and of its importance to the future economic development of the Rio Grande Valley.


The goal of the CHAPS is to create archaeologically and historically literate citizens who are aware of their local cultural and natural history and of its importance to the future economic development of the Rio Grande Valley. 
As archaeologically and historically literate citizens our students will learn about the natural environment of the Rio Grande Valley and about how people have adapted to and changed that environment through the centuries.
To do this we must explain the various avenues of inquiry open to us to study the recent past.  These are:

  1. the written word (history)
  2. the spoken word  (oral history)
  3. observed behavior (ethnography)
  4. preserved behavior (archaeology)

We will teach them how archaeology and history is conducted.  That is, how archaeologists and historians collect data.  Archaeological research is grounded in scientific methods (STEM).  For example, “context is important.”
We will teach them that archaeology is about people and past cultures, not simple antiquarianism.   Archaeologists deal with people NOT with dinosaurs.
We will teach them the importance of stewardship.  This will include site preservation, ethics, and laws, which affect these non-renewable resources.
This is an interdisciplinary developmental K-12 curriculum which will evolve as we learn more about the Valley and its history.  It is linked to both the humanities and the sciences and it is predicated on the premise that “the days that make us happy make us wise” when we learn about the Rio Grande Valley’s past.  That is, OUR local history, the story of OUR families.

It will contain a cross-section of the existing curriculum such as:

  • Math
  • Geography (spatial reasoning), landforms
  • Earth Science: decomposition, soils
  • Biology: flora, fauna, human remains
  • Technology: GPR, GIS, land surveying
  • Language arts: writing, collecting oral histories, public speaking
  • Literature
  • Critical thinking: interpreting the past, history, anthropology, social studies
  • Economics of preservation, tourism, and museology
  • Locally-focused research

Chaps and UTPA Nexus Document