Message #405: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Archaeology is at best seen as having little practical utility? Date: Wed, 11 Dec 96 09:01:00 MST Encoding: 543 TEXT http://www.usd.edu/anth/msadays/listen.html Listening to the Teachers: Warnings about the use of archaeological agendas in classrooms in the United States Larry J. Zimmerman, Steve Dasovich, Mary Engstrom and Lawrence E. Bradley In the United States, archaeology is at best seen as having little practical utility. For most who pay any attention to archeology, it is simply an exotic hobby, a branch of history that provides little more than interesting perspective and perhaps a bit of intrigue. Although some might see it differently, this view of archaeology is arguably the dominant view of the American public. Still, the exotic has appeal, and many elementary school children fantasize a future as an archaeologist as one of their first career choices. In spite of this appeal, if archaeology appears anywhere in formal school curriculum, it is usually presented as a quaint diversion for students (cf. Selig 1991:3). Essentially, archaeology becomes entertainment, "a treasure-hunting, collecting, object oriented entertainment" (Blanchard 1991:1). Teachers can use the "romance" of archaeology to teach some lessons, but few have done more with it. Those who carefully have studied classroom archaeology, however, have recognized a greater potential: it can be a motivator of behavioral change in approaches to learning (cf Blanchard 1991:3). As an interdisciplinary field, archaeology can provide a linkage for teaching other fields of knowledge. Students can be lured into the "exotic" but shown how their science, mathematics, writing and other courses like music and art have application in the "real" world. This approach is sometimes called "co-curricular" study, whereby several aspects of education are linked by some outside activity. Co-curricular study led to the development of a long term project for the University of South Dakota and the local middle school. For the past six years, the University of South Dakota has sponsored Archaeology Days for Sixth Grade (age 11) students in the Vermillion, South Dakota, Middle School. The fundamental concern for Archaeology Days was to promote a more realistic understanding of archaeology beyond that presented in the media. At the same time, it unintentionally became an effort to develop a co-curricular program. Archaeology Days, including the history of the project, activities we chose and executed with the students, and some of our observations about its success and failures will be discussed in this paper, but within a particular context. There is already a plethora of quality case studies documenting archaeology in the classroom. On one level this paper is simply another case study of what can be done. At the same time, we hope it will be more than that. Frankly, those who developed Archaeology Days did so in something of a contextual, theoretical, and philosophical vacuum. Case studies abound in the literature, but document almost no effort to examine broader questions of effectiveness and interface with broader educational concerns, strategies and goals. Archaeology Days, like many similar projects in the United States, developed and grew haphazardly. ARCHAEOLOGY DAYS: ACCIDENTAL BEGINNINGS Archaeology Days had its origins in 1980 with a grant provided by the South Dakota Historical Preservation Center. The grant was intended to provide teaching materials for Junior High School teachers in the state for use in their required units on South Dakota history. The concern of archaeologists in the University of South Dakota Archaeology Laboratory (USDAL) was to provide audiovisual and printed materials at a level both students and teachers could understand. The materials had to be nearly jargon-free and easy to use. With this in mind, USDAL developed a series of four filmstrips and audio cassettes about the prehistory of South Dakota and surrounding regions, with two of the strips concentrating on two important archaeological sites in the state. An illustrated a pamphlet-length Young Peoples' Guide to South Dakota Archaeology (K. Zimmerman 1982) and several teachers guides accompanied the package Ancient Peoples and Places of South Dakota. The package was distributed free of charge to elementary schools and public libraries across the state. We discovered that distribution of the series placed the USDAL staff and other archaeologists in the state in high demand as grade school speakers around the state. The pamphlet was very successful, with over 7,000 distributed, and comments on the audiovisual materials were quite good. Teachers continually asked what more they could do, specifically if the students could actually visit and perhaps dig at an archaeological site. For most, we realized this would be an impossibility because of time, distance and costs, but for Vermillion students it proved to be feasible when an archaeological site, the Bliss Hill Site (39CL9) was discovered at the edge of the city. Archaeology Days grew from this and became a project for members of the University of South Dakota's Anthropology Program Enthusiast's Society (APES) student club members in 1988. APES wanted to conduct test excavations at the newly discovered site so university students could get extra field experience. Some suggested that opening the excavation to the public might be a good promotional scheme for the Anthropology department, the club and the University. If the public could actually dig at the site under close supervision, the public would be even more interested. APES began the excavations on weekends during the early Fall but never involved the general public due to time constraints. At that time, USDAL was asked about the possibility of giving a talk on archaeology to the local sixth grade. The sixth grade teachers also asked taking students to see any nearby archaeological sites. APES had just finished working on the Bliss Hill Site (39CL9) and thought that this site was well suited for a tour. They arranged for more than 100 students and their teachers to visit our archaeology laboratory and the Bliss Hill site. Laboratory The laboratory tour showed the students most of what it is that archaeologists do in the lab. APES built displays of topographical maps, aerial photos (normal, infra-red), site maps, a hand-made example of stratigraphy, and artifacts. They showed a film-strip on South Dakota archaeology from the Ancient Peoples and Places series as well giving a tour of the artifact storage room. Finally, there was a demonstration of on-going cataloging and a hands-on demonstration of pottery making and decorating. Bliss Hill The tour of Bliss Hill was the sixth graders favorite part. First, the students were walked around the perimeter of the site and were told reasons why the site was located at this particular place. After short discussion about safety and proper on-site behavior, they had a short "field school" on proper excavation techniques. Finally, each had a chance to excavate under the supervision of APES members and university faculty. Contrary to what many thought would happen, the sixth graders did an excellent job and for the most part were patient and well behaved. An extra bonus that made this portion of the day so popular were hands-on demonstration of an atl- atl (spearthrower) and fire making. The project was an overwhelming success. The whole sixth grade (about 120 students) wrote thank-you letters. Not one had a negative comment. One reason for such success was that all the students actually got to use, with their own hands, the atl-atl, or try to make a fire or a pottery vessel, or had a chance to actually dig in a real excavation. Teachers were also receptive. They got a reprieve from the daily classroom activity and had others take charge of their students for a day. The teachers felt both they and their students had learned a great deal. They invited us to do the same program the next year. For USDAL and APES, the day was successful in other ways, with regional media attention and consequent requests from other areas schools for us to conduct the same activity for their students. There was an unexpected amount of media coverage. Four local newspapers and four local television stations did news stories on the project. More coverage than we had hoped for, there were newspaper articles in three towns and television coverage in the four states area around us. We managed to also include one other school from nearby Volin, South Dakota, on the site before cold weather came. ARCHAEOLOGY DAYS 1989 >From the successes of our 1988 Archaeology Day, we realized that the potential for our project was nearly unlimited. As the start of the academic year came, we decided that we should try the project again but to demonstrate as many aspects of archaeology as was possible and in a more integrated way than in 1988. The sixth grade teachers recently had attended a conference which discussed co-curricular approaches to teaching. They decided that archaeology fit perfectly as co-curricular teaching because it involves so many different areas. A major problem was to decide just what areas to cover and how to do it. USDAL staff, APES and the teachers met in both USDAL and the Middle School to plan the project. Eventually, these meetings also included representatives from the university's School of Education, the State Historic Preservation Center, the W.H. Over Museum, and the Shrine to Music Museum. Together we decided on a general approach to the week and on specific activities for the students, seeking a blend of in-school and out-of-school projects. Pre-tests and Post-tests Early in our meetings, we all realized that one thing we did not know was exactly what the students had learned the year before. They seemed to have a fun time, if their exuberant letters of thanks were any indication, but what did they actually learn about archaeology? Were they just happy to be out of the regular classroom for a day or did they really absorb something about archaeology? We decided that we should develop a test structure that would measure pre-existing knowledge about archaeology and what students learned from the sessions--a pre-test and post-test structure. Pre-and post-tests contained the same questions, with seventeen of them multiple-choice and thirteen as True or False with all questions geared toward selected activities from the Archaeology Week. Lecture Activities The one day site/lab tour was extended to one full week to accommodate all the new plans. Nearly all academic areas involved in archaeology played a role in our plans. These areas were divided into talks and presentations which had minimal amounts of hands-on activity and ones that had heavy amounts of student participation. Archaeology Days actually began about two weeks ahead of the intensive week in order to build interest and anticipation. Teachers assigned students to read four brief narratives in a unit titled "Understanding the Past" from their readings book Celebrations (Durr 1989). One narrative is a story about a Stone Age boy who learns to make stone tools and helps his tribe survive. Another is a short poem, "Who Am I?," that looks at a child as an integral part of their environment. The third is an article directly discussing archaeological methods, and the fourth describes what a necklace found in a site can tell. All are well written, enticing in style and reasonably accurate in archaeological content. These provided the initial contact with archaeology for all the students. After these readings were completed, the sixth grade teachers discussed them with their students, administered the pre-test and announced the activities of Archaeology Week. At the start of the next week students had a presentation by the Shrine to Music Museum on what ancient music might have sounded like and about early musical instruments. APES placed a colorful exhibit about archaeology in exhibit cases in the school commons area. Archaeology Days was under way the next week with a photographic slide program given by the South Dakota Historical Preservation Center about what it is that archaeologists actually do. This talk was a good general introduction to the week's activities. Following the talk, the first group of presentations, those with minimal student participation, began with students rotating through them. We selected five different areas for these presentations: bones, stratigraphy and dating, ecology, artifact classification, and a slide show on different archaeological sites from around the world. The students were divided into groups moving from one station to the next so that each group could see each station. This session was split into two days, Monday and Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, all students toured to the W.H. Over State Museum for an in depth look at the museum exhibits, exhibit preparation, curation and the history of South Dakota archaeology. The bones presentation showed the students different bones from many kinds of animals, including human. We explained how peoples' diets and the environment of the sites could be ascertained from bones. The students were also shown some bone tools and asked the function of each. The stratigraphy and dating presentation described many methods for dating sites or artifacts using both relative and absolute methods. We discussed the use of artifact styles as time markers, but we also introduced students to more complex techniques such as radiocarbon, dendrochronology, and stratigraphic interpretation. The ecology section focussed on food chains and what things would be people would find important about their surroundings so they would want to settle in a particular location. Students participated in a role-playing simulation where they "became" different parts of the environment. In our artifact classification unit, we used two groups of "artifacts," one a series of items taken from a faculty member's desk and the other, a series of wooden board game pieces. Divided into two groups, students sorted the "artifacts." After they had finished, the students switched places and tried to figure out how the other group classified their "artifacts". We hoped this activity would show the sixth graders the processes involved when an archaeologist must classify real artifacts found in an excavation. The slide presentation showed the varying types of archaeological sites to be found around the world. Some slides pictured the locale where certain sites were found. The students were then asked why, just by looking at the slide, the site was located where it was. Several slides also documented the process of finding and excavating sites showing aerial photographs, maps, walking surveys, shovel tests, excavation equipment and excavation techniques. Technology and Hands-on Activities Tuesday was technology day, with "experimental" archaeology demonstrations. We set up five stations: ceramics, structures, prehistoric art methods, flint-knapping, and the atl-atl/fire making. Each of these demonstrations explained how prehistoric peoples used the technologies. Again, the students were in five groups moving in turn through each station. The structures and flint-knapping presentations were not hands-on projects. In the structures presentation, slides showed real or reconstructed shelters or buildings. We incorporated as much variety in both dwelling type and geographical area as possible. A local knapping expert did The flint-knapping demonstration. He used thick glass rather than stone to show the knapping processes because of its uniform quality and ready availability. He explained how glass was like the stone used in prehistory, how glass/stone is worked and different kinds of chipped artifacts. He also demonstrated how ground stone tools like axes were made. The ceramics, art, atl-atl and fire making presentations were hands-on. The ceramics presentation began with a short talk and demonstration about several methods of making and decorating pottery. Students then used modeling clay (plasticine) to try some of the techniques. Plasticine is easier than potter's clay for unskilled hands to use (and is less expensive!). Cord wrapped hand-paddles and bone and wood instruments were used to show various methods of decorating and shaping pottery common from the prehistoric sites from this region. The prehistoric art presentation talked about cave art. Poster board was taped up on the outside wall of the school building, then covered with a thin coating of shortening to hold the colors on the paper. Cow hooves and mollusk shells were used to hold the charcoal sticks and finely crushed colored pigments. Small hide-covered rocks and a large blow-pipe were used to demonstrate some of the ways pictures might have been made on cave walls. For the atl-atl and fire making presentation, spears, one atl-atl and a bowdrill for fire making already had been made by APES. A mammoth silhouette made of styrofoam was the target for the spears. Each student had one or two chances to throw the spear using the atl- atl. Several had a try at using the bowdrill to make a fire. Laboratory and Field Activities Thursday and Friday were reserved for the Archaeology Lab, an archaeology computer simulation game, and activities at the Bliss Hill Site. All these activities required more careful supervision than the others. They also presented greater logistical difficulties because they were at three separate locations in the city. The computer game, Adventures in Fugawiland (Price and Gebauer 1989), simulates an ongoing archaeological study of an actual archaeological zone near the Great Lakes of the United States. In the game, the user can choose many sites to excavate. The results of the excavation are shown for each site. The user analyzes the data and forms conclusions about the culture they have been studying. A self quiz about the culture whose sites have been excavated concludes the program. As an aside, Fugawiland was written for college students and is an excellent program. We discovered that the 6th graders were adept at using the program, excited by it, and almost as good as the college students who used it in University courses. The field and laboratory exercises were conducted in much the same way as in 1988 but with a few changes. On the site, we had several more excavation squares open and had fewer students on the site. This allowed each student to receive better instruction, to have more time at the site and to both excavate and use the shaker screen. The lab tour was structured in such a way as to allow students more hands-on experiences than in 1988. We used teaching collection artifacts and old equipment to allow them to use stereozoom microscopes, calipers, and balances much as an archaeologist might use for analysis. ANALYSIS OF ARCHAEOLOGY DAYS ACTIVITIES In 1989 we more carefully examined how students responded to the activities in which they became involved. We knew ahead of time that they liked the active, hands on activities best. Favorite Presentations After Archaeology Days, some of the sixth graders wrote thank-you notes to their favorite presenter and others were asked to write down five things they learned, their three favorite presentations and two things that they did not like. For the most part, the students did not like lectures. On the other hand, none said that they disliked the hands-on atl-atl presentation. Those few who said they did not like the excavation at the Bliss Hill site noted that it was only because "digging was too dirty." Nothing stands out about the other activities, with many of the same activities liked best or least by many students. Test Results The pretest and post-test results give an indication of what the students learned. Students showed improvement on 27 of 30 questions. Of these, 16 improved 10% or more. Of the 16 presentations covered in the test (Table 1), students showed an increase in knowledge in all of them. Seven areas showed major change (10% or more). Also interesting is that not only the intensive hands-on areas showed improvement; students answered more questions correctly about the slide and lecture presentations on the post-test as well. Problems Many of the weaknesses in our program were apparent at the time we tried to implement each activity. Some of the presentation group sizes were simply too large to manage. When we had more than 25 sixth graders in a lecture, there was a great deal of talking and whispering. Too, large group size prevented easy question asking by students. Having their questions their questions answered, we discovered quite by accident, proved to be extremely important to students. In one case a group got out of their rotation and we filled in the time by allowing them to ask questions of an archaeologist. That session turned out to be one of that group's favorite units. We discovered that they wanted answers from the "authorities" and were not always satisfied with answers from their regular teachers. Another problem was that a whole week was simply too long. Teachers felt that it was a bit disruptive to their regular teaching schedule and to the other Middle School grades. From our own perspective, we felt that all our time that week was devoted to the Middle School and that our own university classes suffered because of it. The sixth grade teachers also expressed a feeling that they wanted to be more involved as instructors and do more in their own classes instead of depending on us. The teachers were very diplomatic about this and we suspected there were deeper, unspoken issues. Finally, we realized after we gave the pre-test that the students had a great deal of existing knowledge about archaeology. We had no idea where this came from until we studied their Celebrations readings carefully. The article on excavation techniques is excellent and gave them a great deal of information that was tested on the pretest. Although the improvement on the pre/post-tests was impressive, we felt it would have be moreso had we given the pre-test before the readings. To deal with these problems, we resolved to move to 3 instead of 5 days. To teach the same amount of material, we planned to develop units that the teachers can do in their regular classes. For instance, the art section would be made a part of the regular art instruction for the sixth grade and the industrial arts/woodworking teacher will help students make spearthrowers and bowdrills. We can do little to reduce group size in some cases, but the in-class instruction should help. We also planned to allow more time for questions by the students in every unit. We planned to give the pre-test before the readings. CONCLUSIONS FROM 1989 >From our perspective and that of the sixth grade teachers, the 1989 Archaeology Days was a huge success except for the relatively minor problems. The sixth graders learned a great deal about archaeology and for the most part, they had fun doing it. The material presented to them was not "dumbed down"; rather it was presented to them in a manner they could understand and enjoy. This is an important idea when it comes to teaching difficult scientific ideas to younger students. Choosing the proper presentation level is critical if they are not to lose interest. Popularizing science is no new idea, but it is rarely done to allow elementary students to see how virtually all fields of knowledge are related within their education. Archaeology makes an excellent mechanism for co-curricular instruction. Frankly, we were skeptical about the impact Archaeology Days would have until we saw the test results. We have also recognized that there is carryover past the school year. In the summer a student who had been in the class found a number of bison bones eroding from the banks of the Missouri River, contacted us and came to USDAL to find out what she should do. We can think of no better demonstration of the effectiveness of Archaeology Days. EPILOGUE AND LESSONS FROM 1990-92: SOME WARNINGS When this paper was initially presented as part of World Archaeological Congress 2, we had not yet done Archaeology Days for 1990. We were full of enthusiasm from what we assumed to be a very successful program. But, we simply had not heeded some warning signs. The three following years saw a decline in the program, the reasons not entirely apparent immediately. In 1990, the Middle School teachers seemed relatively enthused, but the bulk of the work to organize the structure fell to two teachers. The program was reduced to two days with some in-class teaching. The highlight of the years was a videotape of the program made by some of the students. No testing was done at all. The 1991 program remained at two days, but very much curtailed from earlier years. The technology segment was reduced to a technology "fair" with an afternoon spent in the school with student groups rotating around 8 stations with art, bones, and some of the other popular presentations. Student groups had about 15 minutes at each station. The day at the site was reduced to half a day with the students spending about a half hour at the site in several groups. Groups not at the site went to the W.H. Over Museum. The 1992 program was essentially that of the prior year. A new principal at the school came to the excavation, and was enthusiastic, giving hope that Archaeology Days will continue at some level. We did not understand the reasons for the pull-back from the initial enthusiasm for the program by the Middle School. By the time the 1992 program was done, only one of the teachers was still enthusiastic about it. One of the teachers who strongly supported the program in its early years now has only desultory participation. WHOSE EDUCATIONAL AGENDA? The archaeological community in South Dakota did not lose its interest in archaeological education. One of the Archaeology Days participants began a major program of lectures to elementary schools around the state, lecturing to nearly 15,000 students in three years. He is now in charge of a funded program to develop an archaeology education initiative for the state. As part of that program, he suggested an archaeological field school geared to elementary and secondary teachers. We agreed to participate in using the University of South Dakota as a focal point for the project. In the process of developing the program the reasons for the decline in Archaeology Days started to become clear. The reasons provide a limited critique of many archaeology education programs. We discovered that a significant part of the problem was that we failed in Archaeology Days to consider that there might be more than one agenda for archaeology education. As we began to plan the teacher education course, we followed usual approach of outlining our objectives for the course and our strategies for teaching teachers. Each of the professional archaeologists selected an objective and outlined methods to accomplish it. We then met several times to clarify our goals. Finally, we met the Middle School teacher who had maintained her enthusiasm to show her the proposed class. Though she was interested, she seemed overwhelmed and our impression was that she was lukewarm about it. As we probed the reasons, we discovered that the agenda of archaeologists for archaeological education is not necessarily that of teachers for it. We began to examine what sorts of things had been written about why archaeology education should be done. By doing so we discovered that archaeologists have paid little attention to the needs or concerns of teachers. Archaeological goals are many. A handout from a 1990 workshop for teachers entitled "Everything We Know About Archaeology for You to Use in the Classroom" sponsored by the Archaeology Assistance Division of the United States National Park Service says the following: "Recognition of the need for more, and better, public education about archaeology is dawning throughout the United States. Many American Archaeologists believe that better public understanding about archaeology will lead to more preservation of sites and data, less site looting and vandalism, greater support for the curation of archaeological collections and records, and a demand for yet more archaeological interpretation and participation for the public. Public outreach was identified in a survey by of Society for American Archaeology members as one of the highest priorities for the Society. The importance of public education has been further emphasized by the results of the Society's 'Save the Past for the Future' project." Others archaeologists or agencies have professed similar goals (see Brook and Tisdale 1992; several papers in Butler 1992 for examples). Though many of us pay lip service to broader educational goals, few of us look beyond the goals of professional archaeology goals: preserving sites, preventing looting, more public support for our efforts. Though we also espouse goals about understanding environment, culture change and the like, our primary goals seem oriented toward our view of what archaeology should be and for what it should be used. On one level it is very self-protective. At the risk of seeming overly critical, advancement of our on goals is not unreasonable. At the same time, imposing them on students and their teachers might be unreasonable. Are we attempting through our educational endeavors to bring the public into line with our goals? Is this reasonable? On one level, it certainly is, but on another, it absolutely is not. Teachers have different goals from archaeologists. They are concerned with a variety of issues ranging from entertaining students to maintaining discipline; from teaching critical thinking or mathematical skills to teaching factual content in subject areas. Few archaeologists go beyond simply mentioning the broader educational goals or issues (see McNutt, n.d. 3-6; Higgins and Holm 1986 for examples of those who do so). Teachers are forced to filter our goals through their own. We do little to help them achieve their own goals. For example, our goals for both Archaeology Days and for our planned teacher course are so specifically archaeological that teachers had, and will have, a difficult time implementing what they learn from us. Certainly we teach teachers how to teach stratigraphy, lithic technology, and settlement pattern analysis, but do we teach them how this is significant to their goals for the classroom? Certainly we teach them the importance of site preservation, but do we give them a rationale for teaching this to students in a framework of their own classroom agendas? We discovered in talking to the Middle School teachers that it took them some time to realize the problem themselves. They and their students are interested in archaeology. Teachers do see the potential for co-curricular and other approaches to education. But, they have a difficult time translating our agendas to theirs. We have determined that in our teacher course, we will be engaging the teachers as professional equals and that the first goal of our program must be to set an agenda that is mutual and negotiated. That done, the separate agendas for archaeology education may actually be more easily accomplished.