Last Wednesday (18th September 2013) IGMT was holding an event called ‘Mine it, Make it, Move it’ at Blist’s Hill Victorian Town for primary school children. The were 400 children in attendance throughout the day from schools as local as Dawley and as far away as Grantham (Derbyshire). For our part, the archaeology team decided to do a bit of surveying. But with us being at Blist’s Hill we couldn’t just get the kit out of the stores and go from there, no we had to have a Victorian element to our activities. So not only did we have the modern archaeologist (played by yours truely) measuring and plotting find spots from an ultra modern metal detector survey on to a grid, we also had Victorian archaeologist, Mr Bapty, helped by his trust assistant Mr Smith, surveying the landscape around us. Thanks must also go to Jane and Emily, volunteneers at IGMT for their help on the day as well. It was all alot of fun and I think the children enjoyed it just as much as we did.
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
Yesterday I spent the day with a group of Year 4 pupils from Dothill Primary School in Wellington. I’d been asked to go in and spend a day with the group, teaching them about archaeology and even giving them some practical experience. Luckily I wasn’t on my own, one of the Ironbridge Archaeology Volunteers, came along with me to help with the day. We started off with a presentation of what archaeology is and what our role as archaeologists is all about. It was great to see so many of the kinds interested, and both answering and asking questions. My favourite question of the day was from a little boy who asked ‘what qualifications do you need to become an archaeologist?’ I would say he might one day be challenging me for my job! They were obviously prepared with questions as we were also asked things like, why we became archaeologists, what was our most interesting and expensive find, what sites did we work on, and even why we were called archaeologists? That one stumped me!
Following on from this we did a timeline activity with them where they had to match different sites and artfacts with the different periods of history from the Palaeolithic right up to modern day. I was amazed just how many of them recognised sites like Stonehenge, Hampton Court Palace, and Ludlow Castle, there was even one girl who recognised the Mold Gold Cape, which was completely unexpected. They might not have been able to identify them all, and struggled with some to match them to their date, but on the whole it was great to see such a good understanding of history and archaeology at such a young age.
After that it was time for the class to become members of the Ironbridge Archaeology UNIT. Everybody doned their high viz Ironbridge Archaeology jackets, and settled down to some work. There were four work stations and we did a 15 minute round robin so everyone got a chance to have a go at the activities. The first station was the all important finds washing. As we all know when finds come out of the ground they tend to be a bit dirty, so here the kids learnt how to wash finds, and they did such a good job I had to make them all dirty again so we had enough to clean for everybody. From there the kids went on to finds recording. I had put together a variety of artefacts from which they could choose to record and draw. Then they had to have a go at catagorizing different artefacts depending on their function. Finally everybody had a go at trying to reconstuct a pot. Only one mini-group managed to get it finished in the alloted time, and the end result was beautiful, although I’d guess it was more masking tape than pot by the end of it.
The final activity of the day was to get the group to think about the informative side of archaeology and heritage and so I set them off on the task of creating a heritage trail of their school playground. Working in pairs, they had to think about where they wanted the trail to go, who the intended audience was, did they want it to be educational or entertaining and how they wanted to present it. There were such a range of ideas with some wanting to use PowerPoint, others using Publisher, and some making a comic book style trail. We had themed trails too, one pair decided to do a pirate themed trail and another decided on a ghostly theme. I can’t wait to see the finished articles.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day and I hope the kids did too. I’m just about recovered, ready to do it all again on Thursday. I can’t wait!