LOWER MANHATTAN — Second graders at P.S. 276 took a field trip behind a Fulton Street construction fence Monday morning to see the site where thousands of historical artifacts were unearthed last fall.
The Battery Park City students donned plastic hard hats and miniature safety vests, then trekked down a ramp leading into the construction pit, where they peered wide-eyed at a tangle of pipes and machinery.
There were no artifacts to see on Monday — aside from rust-coated water mains dating back more than 100 years — but last fall, workers digging nearby found a treasure trove of pottery, along with a bone toothbrush and a copper half-penny, all from the turn of the 19th century.
"It was really cool and really big," said Jack Farber, 7,who lives in Battery Park City. "It was cool to see where the objects came from."
Emily Schottland, the students' teacher, organized the trip to the Department of Design and Construction site after archaeologist Alyssa Loorya visited P.S. 276 last month to show the kids some of the objects she found.
"They will never walk by a dig site again without thinking about all the complexity and ingenuity behind it," Schottland said. "It's a way of changing their perspective about what they see, and that's incredible. [The students learned] things aren't always what they seem, and they have to dig deep — literally."
The students' first stop on Monday was the water main construction at Peck Slip and Water Street, where Peter Roloff, the resident engineer, taught them safety rules. Students learned to always wear a hardhat, vest and goggles on a dig site, keep a fire extinguisher nearby and use protective headphones when working with noisy equipment.
The students caught on quickly. When they got to their next stop, on Fulton Street near Pearl Street, they greeted Joe Lione, another resident engineer, with a few questions: Where was the fire extinguisher? And why was he wearing sunglasses instead of safety goggles?
Lione laughed, then replied that the fire extinguisher was in a safe place nearby and that he wore safety goggles while doing construction, but not while giving presentations to students.
Standing in front of an excavated stretch of the street, Lione explained the role of each of the exposed pipes. One was for water, one for sewage, one for steam and one for gas.
Aurelia Black, 7, who lives in Battery Park City, said her favorite part of the tour was seeing all the different pipes that run beneath the street.
"It's fun because we got to learn things about all the pipes and what you do in construction," she said.
Loorya was on hand as well to describe how she dug up the 5,000 artifacts that were found just to the west on Fulton Street, along with those found last year at the Peck Slip site.
The steam pipes make the work site so hot that the archaeologists have to use fans and drink lots of water to stay cool, Loorya said.
The students wanted to know what Loorya's favorite artifact was.
"A whole series of chamber pots we found on Peck Slip," Loorya started to say, before the students interrupted her with a round of, "Ew!"
"I know, gross," Loorya said, "but they're very pretty."