Campus Archaeology and Public Outreach

Co-written by Lisa Bright and Nicole Geske

Campus Archaeology participates in community education and outreach when possible, especially when we are specifically asked. But, with limited resources and time, we can often only accommodate large educational or MSU sponsored events. Therefore we find ourselves debating what is the best use of our time in terms of our educational programs and outreach. In other words, how can we get the most “bang for our buck”, while still providing quality education to the community?

Lately we have been weighing the relative advantages and disadvantages of working one on one with groups of children, versus supplying teachers with educational material that allows them to conduct educational programs. Participating in larger class room, or school wide, events requires the scheduling of several campus archaeology fellows to lead the activity, as well as transportation and travel time. Although we are happy to personally conduct educational workshops, creating educational packets for teachers to use (and re-use) may allow campus archaeology to have a bigger impact, while getting across many important concepts.

Other archaeological programs and institutions that offer educational and outreach opportunities to children have developed the use of “toolboxes.” These boxes contain materials that can be loaned out to interested individuals, teachers, or other educational programs. They also revolve around specific themes and contain information for teachers and students, lesson plans and activities, and actual artifact materials. Through researching this type of community engagement, we believe that CAP and our neighboring community would benefit from us creating toolboxes such as these.

Our goal is to develop material and resources for specific age groups, or grade levels, that revolve around Michigan’s past. We plan to have multiple boxes that focus on specific archaeological cultures, such as Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland. We will also have boxes that will demonstrate how archaeologists excavate and analyze artifacts.

Also, because of Campus Archaeology’s mission for archaeology at Michigan State, we will have a box that focuses on the University, its history, and what it means to be a Spartan! The connection the community has to MSU goes deep, and creating easily usable educational material that connects something so well known in the community with archaeological concepts provides a unique educational opportunity.

As we work on creating these toolboxes, we would love to hear your suggestions!  Additionally, in a few weeks campus archaeology is participating in a local elementary school’s science fair, and we will be testing some new interactive activities that could be scaled down for the teacher’s toolbox.  We will also be posting follow up blogs throughout the semester to document the creation and implementation process.

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