For my CAP project this year, I decided to do something at which I feel I’m particularly good: creating 3D models of artifacts found during CAP excavations. I have been using digital technologies to render 3D models for about three years now and have created […]
For the past several years, the Capturing Campus Cuisine project has resulted in some wonderful collaborations and outreach opportunities between CAP and other MSU programs. Our partnership with MSU Culinary Services has resulted in a successful historic luncheon reconstruction and “throwback” meals with the MSU ON-THE-GO […]
Those who follow us know that outreach is a big part of what we do in the Campus Archaeology Program. Every year, CAP participates in several public outreach events including Michigan Archaeology Day, Grandparents University, ScienceFest, and more. These events are important because it gives a chance talk to people in our community and raise awareness about what archaeologists do and why this work is important. We can also raise awareness of our program and show people that archaeology is everywhere – even in our own campus backyard.
One of the most effective ways to engage people at these events is through fun, eye-catching educational activities. In the past we have had success with an artifact memory matching game. This month, however, CAP has been working to create a new outreach activity. Here are some steps in our thought process as we developed this new activity:
Step 1: Talk to our colleagues
CAP fellow Susan Kooiman helped put us in touch with Elizabeth Reetz and Chérie Haury-Artz at the Iowa Project Archaeology Program, who gave us some great ideas about activities they’ve used at their public outreach events. This was enormously helpful because it allowed us to consider activities that have already been field-tested for success.
One activity that appealed to us involved having participants place artifacts on a simplified stratigraphic map in order from most to least recent.
Step 2: Consider our goals
When we attend public outreach events, one of our goals is to create interest in the Campus Archaeology Program. Therefore, we wanted our activity to showcase some of things CAP encounters on campus. Another goal is to educate participants about archaeology. As such, we wanted an activity that gets people thinking like archaeologists.
The stratigraphy activity meets both of these goals. For one, this activity introduces a key concept in archaeology in a simple, visual manner. We can make it relevant to CAP by choosing artifacts we have actually found on MSU’s campus and creating a stratigraphic profile reflective of what we encounter on campus.
Step 3: Think about logistics
The best way to learn is by doing. As much as we’d love to give participants a chance to do an excavation, this is obviously impractical. Therefore, we had to consider several factors to develop a reasonable activity. One factor is time. In order to reach as many people as possible, we wanted to develop an activity that can be explained and done relatively quickly. Another factor is space. We wanted to build the activity such that it can be adapted to a small space if necessary.
The stratigraphy activity fits both of these needs. Most participants should be able to place 3-5 artifacts in under a minute. This will prevent long lines and allow many people to participate. We are also designing the stratigraphic profile specifically so it fits on a standard tabletop. This will allow us to have two or more stations going at once, depending on the amount of space we are provided at an event.
Step 4: Think about design
The design of an activity is also important to consider. One factor we considered is durability. We wanted to build our activity to withstand some wear and tear. For this reason we decided to make our profile out of felt, which is less easily ripped than paper and can be folded for storage. We are also using laminated photos of real artifacts so that everyone—CAP volunteers and participants alike—can enjoy the activity without fear of breaking the physical objects.
Another factor we considered is participants’ abilities. People of all ages attend these events, so we wanted to design an activity that is suitable for young children but that can also be adapted to appeal to older attendees. As such, we tried to select a variety of items that will allow us to provide participants with an appropriate challenge.
Step 5: Build the new activity
This week we selected and photographed artifacts from the CAP Lab to use for the activity. Our next step will involve sewing the stratigraphy map together based on our hand-drawn design.
Step 6: Debut at Michigan Archaeology Day!
Come check out our new activity for yourself! We plan to debut our new activity at Michigan Archaeology Day. This event will take place from 10AM to 4PM on October 13th at the Michigan History Museum.
This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an […]
Here at CAP we think a lot about different ways of sharing our research. We can—and do—present at conferences, give public lectures, and publish site reports and journal articles. While these avenues are great for communicating our work to other experts, they are probably not […]
Like Mari Isa, for this blog post, I will be talking about the outreach event that CAP ran for Holmes Middle School in Livonia, MI on Friday, January 19th. However, I will be discussing it from a different point of view. In Mari’s blog, she discussed the activity itself: what we had the students look at, what the goals of the activity were, what the outcomes were, etc. I will be coming from a different standpoint: that of a grad student leading the activity and how it impacted us.
As academics (or in my case, an academic in training), we sometimes forget that our research and our purpose aren’t just to further our knowledge in our respective fields for ourselves or other academics. It is true that in many cases the audience of our publications are other researchers and those in research institutions. Yet where we can have the biggest impact is in the public sector through outreach activities such as these. These types of events were not common or even really practiced when I myself was in middle school or even in high school. That these outreach events are becoming more prominent and more of the norm is highly encouraging and definitely has an impact on many of the students. However, this event was not a one-way conversation with us researchers just lecturing about archaeology at the middle schoolers who passively listen. As an instructor in this exercise, I learned a few very important things/lessons.
1.) This type of outreach matters. Despite what many students say, they do actually love to learn, especially in a hands-on capacity. Education can be highly effective by taking a tactile route. Reading information out of books is highly informative, but actively engaging in the research with tangible objects routes that knowledge in reality and makes that knowledge real. With every class, there was at least one student or group of students that guessed their “mystery site” dated “to the Neolithic, like Çatal Höyük” (seriously, multiple students said this exact phrase). The students are learning about ancient cultures and time periods and it is through these types of activities that they get to practice their knowledge and use critical thinking skills.
2.) The students taught me how to interact with them. As a graduate student, I interact mostly with my professors and other graduate students, so our topics of conversation sometimes go in directions and use certain jargon that the majority of people don’t understand or don’t care about. By spending an entire school day with middle schoolers, we all had to reorient how we interact with others when talking about topics that we are all very well-versed in. We sometimes forget that our research benefits the public and that we therefore need to approach these topics in a way that is meaningful and interesting for the public. We work for them, so we need to make sure that we include them in our conversations and that our research isn’t just for our own sake.
3.) Building off my second point, it helped me think about how I can make my own research meaningful and pertinent in today’s society. The biggest and most important question that archaeologists gets asked, and one that can be the most difficult to answer, is: So what? Why does this matter? Research for its own sake does nothing for society. In doing this event, I saw students that were highly engaged, had great theories about their kits/sites, and were generally hungry for knowledge. I learned that if one aspect of my personal research (which is how childhood was experienced for the ancient Maya) interested them, then I would have succeeded in part of my research goals. By watching them interact with each other, I took note of how they interacted with the world around them, how they addressed each other, adults, teachers, and us. How did they experience their world and how can I use that to look at ancient childhood and adolescence? Additionally, what similarities can I draw from ancient Maya childhood that I see today?
By teaching these middle schoolers about archaeology, they taught me that I don’t give enough credit to middle schoolers. We sometimes get trapped in our own ivory tower and forget that there is a world below us where most people live and interact. Participating in outreach programs such as this not only benefits the students, but also teaches us as the experts that our expertise is meaningless and useless if we only discuss things amongst ourselves. I hope that we continue to conduct these types of events as I think it is imperative in today’s educational climate. The world needs more bright students to shape our future and it is our job to help make that happen.
Given one hour, how do you teach 300 7th graders to think like archaeologists? This was the challenge presented to us when a group of teachers contacted CAP about doing an interactive event to introduce their 7th grade social studies students to archaeology. Although CAP […]
Outreach isn’t something out of the ordinary for CAP to do. We routinely participate in a wide variety of outreach events ranging from small groups to hundreds of people at large events like Sciencefest. CAP was recently contacted by a group of Middle School teachers […]
Happy Halloween! This past week the Campus Archaeology Program and the MSU Paranormal Society hosted their fourth annual Apparitions and Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour! While it was a little chilly out, we had a record number of attendees, with over 200 people touring!
Similar to previous years, there were stops at several of the important landmarks on campus. Everyone started their tour at Beaumont Tower where Dr. Lynne Goldstein, the director of the Campus Archaeology Program gave an introduction to the event and a history of the tower area. After this introduction, everyone was welcome to take the tour in any order they preferred, with additional stops at Saint’s Rest, Sleepy Hallow, the fountain, Morrill Hall, and Mary Mayo Hall.
At each stop, a Campus Archaeology Fellow gave a brief history of their area as well information about what has been found archaeologically, both prehistoric and historic. We also explain how this archaeological data can be used to learn more about the experiences of past MSU students, faculty, and staff, as well as earlier inhabitants of the region. In addition to learning about the archaeology conducted throughout MSU’s campus, the MSU Paranormal Society told stories of the MSU’s haunted past, and showed some of their equipment that they use while conducting paranormal investigations including EMF meters and a spirit box.
One of our favorite parts of this event is interacting with the public about our archaeological investigations of MSU’s campus. We love to hear questions and stories from past and present MSU students, faculty, and staff, the greater MSU Community, and from our future Spartan visitors!
One fun story we heard from a future Spartan was at the Saint’s Rest stop, the location of the first dormitory on campus. Lisa Bright, the current campus archaeologist talked to the visitors about the privy associated with this dorm, where excavations several years ago recovered a lot of artifacts, including a ceramic doll! The reason archaeologists like excavating privy’s so much is because when someone drops something down in a privy, they are probably not going to go after it, leaving an exciting archaeological record! One boy mentioned how that makes sense because his brother once dropped a pencil down the toilet and they didn’t want to go after it!
Another great question from a future Spartan was from a girl who asked the MSU Paranormal Society if they have ever gotten responses from ghost animals through the spirit box! While they haven’t gotten any yet, they said that they wouldn’t be surprised to get a woof or meow response someday!
For those of you who weren’t able to make it to the tour check out the YouTube video the State News made from the tour! And stay on the lookout for the tour next year!
Do you have any questions about MSU’s past? Ask them in the comment section!
Many thanks to undergrad volunteer Courtney Rae Pasek for taking the photos.
The 2017-18 academic year will be a momentous one for MSU Campus Archaeology. We are now an established entity in the University with our own budget and clear goals, but as of May 2018, I (Lynne Goldstein) will be retiring from MSU, and the MSU […]