IB Archaeology STEM Camp

IB Archaeology STEM Camp

In honor of World Teachers’ Day, we thought we would share our experiences working with students and teachers this past summer (2018). In the fall of 2017, Doctors Lynne Goldstein (former CAP Director), Stacey Camp (current CAP Director), and Leigh Graves Wolf (Clinical Associate Professor in Education at Arizona State University) received a Michigan State University Science and Society @ State grant to run an “Archaeology STEM Camp” aimed at International Baccalaureate (IB) high school students. The goal of this grant was to assess student and teacher interest in a residential archaeology camp that applies STEM principles to archaeological practice. We worked closely with two IB high school teachers – Mr. Christopher Daughtery and Mr. Ian Jones – from Michigan to create curriculum that would meet the standards of IB learning goals and provide an interactive, engaging experience for junior and senior high school students.

The program cover for our 2018 IB Archaeology STEM Camp.

One of the primary reasons we chose to align our program with IB curriculum is because it emphasizes active, experiential learning. IB high school juniors are explicitly required to complete a research project and an “extended essay” (EE) that outlines this work. Students can choose from a variety of topics that they may wish to pursue for a future career. The IB curriculum highlights anthropology as a particular discipline of emphasis for the extended essay requirement. Students working on an anthropological project are encouraged to use both primary and secondary data to investigate a research question.

Archaeology STEM Camp students conducting a pedestrian survey on MSU’s campus.

After working closely with Mr. Daughtery and Mr. Jones in early 2018, we developed programming that would allow IB high school students to explore the entire gamut of archaeological practice in 2.5 days time. Our program of events can be downloaded here. We wanted students to understand the investigative and research process from the perspective of archaeology so that interested students could potentially devise their own research project using our data.

IB high school students doing archival research on MSU’s history.

We welcomed a total of 15 IB high school students to MSU’s campus in June along with Mr. Daughtery and Mr. Jones. Using MSU’s campus as a laboratory, the IB high school student participants first learned about the history of archaeological excavations on MSU’s campus via a tour from Dr. Lynne Goldstein. They were then taught about the process of using historical documents and photographs to reconstruct what happened on a landscape and given an opportunity to construct their own timeline of events by citing historical sources. They were asked to focus on one parcel of land at the intersection of Shaw and Hagadorn on MSU’s campus. We selected this area for study because it was slated for construction in 2018 and, as such, CAP had been doing research on it to determine what archaeological deposits might be discovered during construction.

Dr. Lynne Goldstein giving a tour of archaeological and historical sites on MSU’s campus.

The IB high school students used what they discovered about the parcel of land to make inferences about what kinds of artifacts they might find beneath the surface. They then proceeded to learn how to do a pedestrian survey to locate extant features on the landscape as well as artifacts that may be related to the people who lived here prior to the land being sold to MSU. Next, they learned how to map a landscape and perform shovel test probes to further identify landscape modifications and historic artifacts. CAP employees also taught them how to use open source GIS to map where they had surveyed and shovel tested.

IB high school students using open source GIS to map artifacts and archaeological features found on MSU’s campus.

The final component of the Archaeology STEM Camp involved learning how to clean, identify, date artifacts, and interpret artifacts found during their archaeological testing work at Shaw and Hagadorn. We encouraged students to consider why certain artifacts were recovered and what those artifacts might say about the former inhabitants of MSU’s campus. What might these artifacts tell us about the class, gender, and racial identities of these families?

Archaeology STEM Camp students screening dirt excavated from an historic farmstead on MSU’s campus.

Another vital component of our Archaeology STEM Camp was examining high school students’ understandings and grasp of archaeology as a STEM discipline. We had our students complete pre-camp and post-camp surveys (with IRB permission, of course) and plan to share our analyses of these data in a peer-reviewed journal article in the coming years. We also intend to seek additional funding so that we can offer our Archaeology STEM Camp once again. Our Anthropology colleague Dr. Joseph Hefner kindly assisted in the survey data analysis. We look forward to sharing our findings with our readers and the rest of the archaeology community.



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