Digging Into The Past: Girl Scout Badge

Digging Into The Past: Girl Scout Badge

The Campus Archaeology Program has been hard at work this semester prepping for our collaborative event with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. The goal of this event is to teach young women about a career path in archaeology and award them with an archaeology badge upon completion. The badge program is entitled Digging Into the Past and is offered to scouts between ages 7 and 10 years. We aim to demonstrate the scope of archaeology and that there is more to archaeology than just excavation. We also want to teach them that professional archaeologists represent all genders, from various backgrounds, young and old.

The event has changed from its initial conceptualization. We initially planned for attendees to rotate through stations focusing on different aspects of field work: excavation methods, screening, field photography, map drawing, etc. However, we realized that most archaeologists spend approximately one to three months in the field (as much as they can get in during the summer) and the rest of the year is spent analyzing what they collected from the field or researching and on publishing on specific research questions. We want this to be accurately represented in out outreach events. So, we redesigned the event to reflect a typical day as an archaeologist as well as meet the Girl Scout guidelines for the badge.

To earn an archaeology badge, scouts must attend one of the two half day sessions and complete five activities (schedule below). These activities include:

  1. Creating a time capsule: Scouts will be asked to provide a list of items they would include in their time capsule. They are also asked to describe the container they would use and how well they think it will preserve. Finally, we ask them what they think someone will think of their items in 100 years when they capsule is recovered.
  2. Artifact identification: Scouts will have to identify and date artifacts using common archaeology lab reference materials.
  3. Museum curation: A presentation will be given to the scouts demonstrating how we curate different materials and artifacts in the laboratory setting.
  4. Ceramic reconstruction: Scouts will be provided with fragmented ceramic pots (clay planters) and asked to reconstruct the vessels.
  5. Learn a song from Michigan history: The scouts will end the day by learning a historic song that will portray the culture during historic Michigan.

We have included an interesting component to this event. There will be two longitudinal studies conducted to examine how outreach events can influence the perception of archaeologists and the understanding of our discipline. First, for the icebreaker activity, scouts will draw what they think an archaeologist looks like and to describe their archaeologists. These drawings are completed before the scouts are even introduced to the staff or any of the event content. We will then send out the same worksheets 30 days after the events and ask participants will be asked to redraw their archaeologists. We are particularly interested in if the demographics are skewed in any one direction, whether the artist’s drawing reflects their own identity, if fieldwork is more reflected, and if media influences their perspective (e.g. recent Jumanji movies and Indiana Jones).

This same process will be completed with the time capsule activity. Scouts will be asked to create a new time capsule worksheet 30 days after the event and being exposed to different aspect of archaeology and the types of research question in which we are interested. Here, we are interested to see if/how the scouts will change the narrative of their capsules after learning how well items preserve and what can be learned for them. We hope to see that the participants think more about what they would like people of the future to know about life and culture today after learning more about archaeology. Approval for both studies is currently being awaited from IRB. Upon approval, Campus Archaeology will publish the findings of these studies.

The Girl Scout event was scheduled for March 14, 2020 in East Lansing. However, given developments of COVID-19, we are postponing until a later date.

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