When I first tell people that as part of my job I sometimes meet with school groups, they automatically assume that I simply show slides from excavations that I have worked on. However, what I do is something that I feel is much more meaningful and has a greater impact than just simply showing pictures. Instead of showing children what I do, I use hands-on lessons that allow them to become the archaeologist and learn about the past. Archaeology is a multidisciplinary science and can be used in the classroom to teach a variety of skills. Not only can children learn about the past, but they can learn about the scientific method, classification, geography, observation, inference and evidence, as well as other valuable skills. Most educators do not know about the many resources available to them that t hey can use to incorporate archaeology lessons into the curricula that they already use throughout the school year. You can find some of these avaliable resources on FPAN’s website, http://www.flpublicarchaeology.org/resources/. Additionally, FPAN regularly conducts Teacher Workshops in order to help familiarize teachers with these lessons so that they will feel more comfortable using them in their classrooms (check with your local FPAN office for details and scheduled workshops).
Now, once they realize that I do more than just show pictures of sites, they then automatically assume that I do “mock excavations” with the children. However, that is not
the case either. The children do not have to get down on their hands and knees in an excavation unit to learn about archaeology. In fact, I have found that children prefer food over dirt any day! And what better way to learn about excavation techniques than excavating a chocolate chip cookie. Or what about learning about stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition with peanut butter and jelly? This also allows the students to expand their horizons and look at every day and familiar objects in a very different way. What about using the contents of the classroom trash can (the clean trash, of course!) to teach them how archaeologists use items to learn about past activities at a site. There are a variety of ways to create a unique archaeological experiment in the classroom without every getting dirty.
These lessons can be used throughout the year and are great for summer camps as well! Not only does it expose children to the reality of archaeology, not the Hollywood idea of what an archaeologist does. No offense to Laura Croft and Indian Jones of course. I have fond memories of going to the movie theater to see these action packed movies. However, it is important that children learn the science of archaeology. These lessons not only teach about scientific inquiry, they also have the potential to teach the enduring lesson of stewardship. After all, archaeological sites are the only glimpse we have into our shared past and if these sites are destroyed they are gone forever. In the future it will be up to our children to ensure that these sites are preserved for their children and so on.
So, take a moment and look over the many lessons available on our website! We are always available to answer questions that educators might have regarding incorporating archaeology in the classroom.