Thursday, May 2, 2013

2012-2013 Review


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.

Strengths
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.

Weaknesses
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.

Opportunities
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.


Threats
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.

 
Cheers,
GH


Bibliography
Smardz, Karolyn
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.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Live Tweeting and Photography at the Scott Site


One challenge that I’ve encountered during field excavations out at the Scott Site has been providing the anthropological Twitter community live updates and feeds of the day to day operations and interactions from the field. At the beginning of the school year, I made a point to occasionally snap a few photos from my phone and franticly send a tweet in between coaching a group of students troweling a 1 X 2 meter unit and then supervising another group of students screening dirt. Although capturing a quick photo and typing a 140-characters-or-less caption only takes a mere 45 seconds, the process became one more objective on a long list of goals during a hectic 45 minutes of teaching high school students. After several weeks of attempting to update twitter followers on the Scott Site activities I found that I had eventually forgot all together to tweet anything at all from the field. This was also true of photo documenting the real-time work of students which had been one of my goals from the start.


After the realization of my forgetfulness I decided to create a position where each week an interested student would be solely in charge of photographing the day’s progress. This allowed me to be completely free of worrying about taking photos so that I could concentrate on site supervision. Spending 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the day to select a photo or two that the student had taken for a twitter update allowed me to breath, step back, and retrace the morning so that my tweet could convey a more concise and accurate picture of the day’s activities. This has saved me from posting the same photo or caption over and over and has also highlighted different aspects of our public archaeology project. Although I certainly don’t update my twitter as much as I should in this regard, the whole process of tweeting from the field has definitely become less daunting.


Luckily, the large majority of students that we work with on the Scott Site have contributed and participated enthusiastically every week. However, like any project that involves high school students, there will always be one or two who do not care to participate. Every morning, I usually try to scope out the students who aren’t feeling up to the task to dig, trowel, or screen. I usually try to employ these students to jobs that are relatively active and away from the larger group. This might mean that each week I’ll have a student whose only job is to fill sandbags, clean equipment, organize paperwork, or (in this case) act as our “field photographer”.


The field photographer has become an envied crew position among the students and the wide array of photographs and photography skills have shown to be interesting. However, by going through the photos from the past several weeks, I’ve found that each student photographer has had a slightly different perspective of activities at the Scott Site. While one student might focus on individual students and their interaction with the site, another might concentrate on specific methods, processes, or artifacts and will only capture glimpses of student interaction. Granted, there is always a small collection of photos that are either too poor of quality or composition but some have been incredibly artistic. This has not only led to a curious collection of site photos but it has also been a fascinating way for me to see how the students view what appears to be important or interesting enough for them to document.

Student displaying a piece of recovered glazed brick.

GH
https://twitter.com/Gregg_Harding

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Scott Site Archaeology Project Broadcast

Hello again!

To provide a brief background, this blog is essentially a product of my Presenting Anthropology graduate class taught by Dr. Kristina Killgrove at the University of West Florida. Every other week the class is asked to create a project in line with our bi-weekly topics which have so far covered presenting anthropology in social media, print, audio, video, and to kids. I wanted to include a draft of my audio project on this blog as it relates to the on-going work out at the Scott Site. For the audio project I interviewed Milton High's Anthropology/Archaeology teacher, Jeff Klug, along with students to hear their take on the hands-on public archaeology project being conducted here in Milton, Florida. A link to the MP3 file is below.


Transcribed Version

You are listening to a broadcast by the Scott Site Public Archaeology Project, brought to you by the Florida Public Archaeology Network’sNorthwest Region. I’m Gregg Harding and coming up on this program is a feature on the outdoor archaeological component of Milton High School’s Anthropology and Archaeology class here in Santa Rosa County.

Students from Milton High School’s Anthropology and Archaeology class meet once a week on the property of the Scott Site to participate in hands-on archaeological excavations as part of an on-going project under the supervision of the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s Northwest Region. The students are divided into 4 groups and are shoveling dirt onto a screen from a 1 meter by 2 meter excavation unit hoping to find artifacts that shed light on the past of a discovered brick floor structure. Jess Hendrix is a University of West Florida graduate student and one of the site managers here at the Scott Site, and is helping to lead this Phase II archaeological excavation.

Hendrix: What we are working on here is an early 19th century brick yard site. We know from the documents that the site was in operation in 1829 and we know that bricks from this site were used to make Ft. Pickens. So, the students from Milton High are currently doing excavations on what appears to be the remains of a kiln.  

The students Hendrix refers to are the 24 juniors and seniors from the local school. Jeff Klug teaches Anthropology and Archaeology at Milton High School and is a strong supporter of the importance in involving his students in their local history.

Klug: We have a very unique situation in the fact that not only can we come out to an actual dig site but it’s only about a 3 minute drive from the high school which makes it very easy to come out on a regular basis. The component of the field archaeology work is so crucial to the class itself because it keeps the kids engaged, it gives them the actual field work with it, and they’re not just sitting in the classroom the entire time. It shows them a different aspect to history.

Austin Walker is a high school senior that has participated in the excavations since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

Walker: I think it’s pretty important to have an outside aspect, as well as an in-the-class aspect, because when you actually get outside you can actually get your hands on the subject and it’s a really good way of learning some local history about your area.


Jessica Thompson: Hi, I’m Jessica Thompson and I’m in tenth grade. The class is great and it is important to have the book work in understanding archaeology, but to have hands-on experiences outside is very, very important. It’s good because you have people instructing you and it’s more hands-on and it’s a good experience to learn.

Ronnie Whitaker: My name is Ronnie Whitaker and I am a senior at Milton High School. What I find important about having a field aspect as well as a classroom aspect is you really get a hands-on experience. And for people like me who are looking at going into the archaeological field, you understand how everything works before you get out there. So, you already have an understanding of what you need to do without being completely lost when you get out in the field.

Jeff Klug’s class will continue to conduct archaeological excavations out at the Scott Site for the remainder of this school year. Currently, the students are also working to create a museum display for their school on the past year’s findings and research.

Klug: It definitely adds a different and unique perspective to history that they’ll never get anywhere else. I don’t know of anywhere else in the state of Florida that does anything like this. So, it’s very unique and it’s a very cool experience. I know of other places that have anthropology or archaeology classes, but none of them get to come out to a site, especially on a regular basis, to see progress and to actually get to examine artifacts and things on a regular basis. So, this is very cool for the school and for the kids.

You have been listening to an audio broadcast on the Scott Site Public Archaeology Project brought to you by the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s Northwest Region. For more information or for a transcribed version of this audio broadcast, please visit our blog at scottsitearchaeology.blogspot.com.
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GH

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Public Archaeology Step #1: Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More...


Unfortunately, over the past month we’ve had to cancel several field days out at the Scott Site due to rainy weather.  March 7th was our last site visit before UWF’s spring break and it turned out to be a successful and relatively dry day! Just like every Thursday (weather permitting!), Jess Hendrix and I met with Jeff Klug’s Anthropology/Archaeology class a little after 10:00am at the Scott Site in Milton, Florida. The students usually consist of anywhere from 18 to 24 juniors and seniors from Milton High School. Fortunately, the location of the site is only about 3 minutes away from the school which makes weekly field visits easy. Since we have to meet during the allotted class time, the students are only able to spend about 45 minutes in the field before loading back onto the bus. As you can imagine, briefing and updating the students on the day’s goals, excavating and screening, as well as completing paperwork in a mere 45 minutes can be a bit of a challenge. So, how do we make the best of our time?

First things first; our (FPAN Northwest Region) main concern with this project is to provide an atmosphere (or outdoor classroom if you will) to foster hands-on educational experiences which coordinate with Milton High’s Anthropology/Archaeology course curriculum. With this in mind, the Scott Site is also being academically investigated as Jess Hendrix’s thesis project. So while the students are gaining real archaeological skills, they are also contributing to on-going research. So, why might this be viewed as a threat? Well, on a busy day on site there might be 24 high school students and only 3 supervisors (me, Jess, and Jeff Klug). Proactive planning during this project (and any public archaeology project) has definitely saved our field days from being overwhelmingly chaotic.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked in public archaeology since 2009 when I was hired with FPAN’s East Central Region. When I was at that office, one of my main job concentrations was to place an emphasis on K-12 education outreach throughout our region’s 8 counties. If I have learned anything from working with students in any capacity, it has been to “plan, plan, and plan some more”. Milton High’s Anthropology/Archaeology class is a yearlong course which means the students began visiting the Scott Site in August of 2012 and will continue to come out until May, 2013. Obviously I want the students to receive as much instruction as possible during site visits so they are not merely “moving dirt”; but are actively engaged in real archaeological processes. To do this effectively, I spent the entire fall semester teaching and emphasizing field methodology and techniques to the students (how to work a compass, setting up a unit, mapping, note taking, and even how to hold and use a trowel). Before we sunk a shovel into the ground the students were well versed in basic field methods. This, in my opinion, has worked wonderfully. By the beginning of the spring 2013 semester, the students had already spent close to 15 days out in the field at the Scott Site. This allowed a smooth transition from learning about field work to actually excavating. Since then, the students know exactly where to go, what to do, and how to properly carry through the week to week operations out at the Scott Site. 

Jess Hendrix working with students after our morning briefing.

But it hasn’t stopped there. Besides spending time on the drive over carefully planning out our day, Jess and I emphasize spending the first 5 minutes each Thursday morning carefully outlining the day’s goals with the students. I’ve noticed that including the students in the larger thought process prescribes to them a sense of ownership and pride over “their” site and excavation units. Likewise, we always try to end the day by spending the last 5 minutes summarizing what we have accomplished. This is all a part of the planning process too as we are able to highlight areas to concentrate on for the next week.

The importance of pre-planning for public archaeology projects might seem an obvious approach to successful outreach and education, but I’ve found that it is unfortunately one that is often overlooked. At the Scott Site, we’ve had the benefit of being able to spend an entire semester with our work force fine tuning and reemphasizing archaeological techniques and methods. I am confident that our proactive approach has saved Jess and I many potentially hectic work days. 

GH