Well, the end of the semester is here and though I intend to continue this blog through the 2013-2014 school year, I wanted to take a moment to recap and consider several areas of strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT’s) that I have observed out at the Scott Site working with the high school students. Work on site has been going great and I feel as though we have accomplished much in regards to both progress out on site and educationally. This week we’ll be finishing up the remaining units so stay tuned to my twitter later this week to see updates and photos. I am equally looking forward to next year’s crop of students and working again with Jeff Klug (Milton High School’s Anthropology/Archaeology teacher) and Jess Hendrix. Next year, Jess and I are planning to spend a bit more time in the classroom teaching field concepts which we will then have the students apply out in the field. Currently, we’re planning to incorporate lessons such as a two week segment on ground penetrating radar (GPR) and hopefully also a lesson or two on X-ray Fluorescence (XRF). More on that later though… Let’s look at some SWOTS’s.
|Students excavating a brick floor at the Scott Site.|
Obviously the partnership of archaeology in the classroom and its application in the field has the greater benefit to accurately and successfully teach students what archaeology realistically is and most importantly why it is done. In Karolyn Smardz chapter, “Digging with Kids: Teaching Students to Touch the Past” in The Archaeology Education Handbook (2000), she implores that this type of partnership offers the best environments to actually teach archaeological techniques and principles in a way that is both exciting for the students and effective to the overall goal of public archaeology. I am in complete agreement and could not have been happier with the outcomes of this year’s activities and student feedback out at the Scott Site. By teaching our students consistent archaeological methods (something that is very hard to do in a classroom setting) we are also teaching them the importance of site stewardship and preservation. Since the students have had an entire year dedicated to these processes, they have done much more than just slave away at excavation units. The students have created site maps, completed paper work, drawn plan views of units, and have seen and discussed the aftermath of archaeological excavations such as laboratory analysis. To the students, this has transcended archaeology from “the study of old things” to a very real scientific process.
|Reviewing maps, unit plan views, and notes with students.|
One of the weaknesses that we’ve been combating week after week with this type of public outreach is the simple fact that we are not able to spend an equal amount of time with each student or group as we would like. Working with the same 18-24 students over the course of a year allows one to develop a certain bond with the whole group and each student has found individual strengths that have allowed them to be an active and unique member of the research team. With only 3 supervisors (myself, Jess, and Jeff), it can be difficult to mentor individual students when overseeing several aspects of a site all at once. Although the students get to see a very real and accurate snapshot of archaeological practice, I fear that they have only seen a bird’s-eye view of it. This is why I’m looking forward to spending a little extra time in the classroom next year highlighting specific methods and techniques. This way, we’ll be able to emphasize specific topics that might pique the interest of individual students allowing us to further direct the student’s self-motivated questions and research.
Similar to the strengths resulting from the Scott Site Public Archaeology Project, are the opportunities which may stem from this project. One of the obvious opportunities we have during this project is teaching the students to become responsible stewards of their heritage. Because of this class, several students have expressed the desire to either pursue anthropology as a major in college or at least take an anthropology course. This is great and I hope they follow through! The students also have opportunities to present their findings and work to other community members and themselves. In the fall of 2013, we are planning an annual Media Day where the local press, school board, parents, and the general public will be invited to come and see what the students have been working on over the past semester. Using this positive example will expose and hopefully encourage positive engagement between the county’s educational representatives and anthropology within education.
Some of the threats expressed at the beginning of the project considered having students involved in a real-time archaeological research site. Since there are only 3 supervisors, we cannot watch every single trowel sweep or bucket of dirt being screened. How do we know we are not losing any evidence? We do it very, very, very carefully (See below for the blog post “Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More”). This is a real threat and a fear involved in any type of public participant project. Fortunately, this year we spent the entire fall semester reviewing and practicing archaeological methods. This is something that Jess and I will have to recreate, emphasize, and build upon when the new class comes in during this fall. Again, we will have to meticulously and constantly train, review, and practice archaeological techniques before even sticking a shovel or trowel in the ground.
|Scott Site Archaeology Project 2012-2013|
Throughout the next 2013-2014 school year I plan to continue blogging about our work at the Scott Site. During the fall semester, we will be mostly in the classroom in the beginning with Scott Site visits and a possible Phase I survey later in the semester. I’ll be sure to attempt constant updates on this blog to anyone interested in public archaeology or anthropology within a high school setting. Please feel free to leave any comments/suggestions or better yet, feel free to send me an email. I’ve enjoyed working with the students this past year and am looking forward to working with a new batch during the next school year. I’m also excited about continuing my SWOT analysis as these first few blogs were mostly for testing the blogosphere waters.
2000 Digging with Kids: Teaching Students to Touch the Past. In The Archaeology Education Handbook: Sharing the Past with Kids, Karolyn Smardz and Shelley J. Smith, editors. Pp. 234-248. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.