What feels like months, but was actually only a matter of weeks ago, I spent two days working with Year 4 pupils at Dothill primary school in Wellington. This was great fun and started me off down the road of working with the younger generation. Inspiring kids about archaeology is not always easy, a lot of time the work of an archaeologist can seem mundane and boring to a child, who essentially wants to dig a big hole and find lots of stuff. This is not always possible, I very rarely seem to dig a big hole anywhere and find lots of stuff. Furthermore, the safety aspect of allowing children onto archaeological sites can also limit their involvement. Sometimes its the safety of the archaeology which is in question, a colleague once told me how when showing a group of children a beautiful and delicate Roman bone pin, one child asked does it bend and then proceeded to break the pin into two pieces. However just because involving children with archaeology is not always plane sailing it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, after all these are the archaeologists of the future.
Sometimes you just need to think outside the box a little. As part of the Festival of Archaeology we organised an event called ‘Can You Dig It?’ which allowed children of all ages to come and have a go at archaeology in a safe environment. We built a 8m x 2m trench and filled it full of rubber chippings (all very green as they were made from recycled shredded tyres) and then buried a selection of objects including pottery sherds, pieces of slag, keys, bone and even a massive lump of unprocessed clay. Each child was given a toolbox talk and then presented with a hard hat, a high viz vest, a pair of gloves, a bucket, a shovel and a trowel (all kiddy sized) and off they went to excavate our trench. After that they then had the opportunity to see what archaeologists do when they finish digging in the ‘finds processing’ area. Here they could have a go at washing, recording, catagorizing and even reconstructing finds. Although I have to say that I think it was the parents and grandparents that were most interested in reconstructing the broken pot, they were there well after the kids had lost interest! This event was really sucessful with what must have been over 100 people through the doors over the two days.
You don’t have to be restricted to indoor archaeology either. On Tuesday I spent the morning with the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust family nature group, the Little Acorns. Our aim for the morning was to try and find some archaeology in both Dale Coppice and Lincoln Hill, following the paths known as the Sabbath Walks. Each child had a sheet on which they could record any structures, artefacts or ecofacts that they found along the way. The enthusiasm from the group was brilliant and I think I must have heard the phrase ‘I’ve found something’ so many times I lost count. We found bits of brick, tile, pottery and slag, we found animal bones and glass bottles, and we even found a bovril jar with must have dated as far back a c.1960! It was a great day and such a simple activity to do.
Here at IGMT, we’re just about to launch our new branch of the Young Archaeologists Club. From September we’ll be holding monthly meetings where we’ll be learning all about different periods of history from the ancient egyptians to the industrial revolution. We’ll be playing games, making things and generally having fun, all whilst trying to educate and inspire kids between the ages of 8 and 16 all about archaeology. We can’t wait to get started and if any of the activities I’ve been involved with inspire just one child to go on to a career in archaeology or heritage then I can say I’ve done my job well