CAP Campus Outreach: The MSU Science Festival

Students screen for artifacts
Students screen for artifacts

CAP has several outreach events scheduled for this semester: from teaching anthropologists how to construct digital identities to Grandparents Day for alumni and their grandchildren this summer. One new exciting addition to our outreach lineup is the MSU Science Festival.

The MSU Science Festival is a 10-day on campus event that brings science, technology, and exploration out of MSU classrooms and into the public sphere through hands-on activities, demonstrations, panel discussion on the science that effects our everyday lives from April 12-21. Science Festivals are popping up across the nation and as MSU seeks to hold the first of this scale in Michigan, we knew this would be an excellent opportunity for CAP to advance its educational outreach with Mid-Michigan.

So, how will CAP participate in the MSU Science Festival? Well I have begun to peruse different online resources and touch the tip of the archaeology outreach iceberg. As archaeologists struggle with questions about the relationships between our work and “the public” these battles are often fought in the hands-on demonstrations or poster boards in local events. Choosing how CAP will combine archaeology-science-education is no small task!

Here are some ideas I pulled from the Society for Historic Archaeology’s education/ outreach blogs on how to have fun and teach archaeology to K-5th graders (SHA Blogs):

  1. Washing Station
    The washing station is aimed at demonstrating the delicate nature and care given to some of the types of artifacts we find in the ground. This activity requires the participants to use toothbrushes, cloths, and water to clean the dirt and debris off of a set of objects we place in the water bucket.
  2. Seed Sorting Station
    This activity will essentially have the participant sorting a large variety of seeds into different categories and then explaining why they chose a particular strategy. Then CAP members will explain the value of these strategies and how differences among participant’s strategies can lead to interesting archaeological interpretations.
  3. Artifact Sorting Station
    This activity is similar to the seed sorting only we would use objects that are similar to those we find in the ground. This strategy may work better for younger participants who may not be able to grasp the significance of the seeds.
  4. Archaeology in a Jar
    While this activity requires a little more preparation, reconstructing mini archaeology sites in jars can help demonstrate key concepts in archaeology such as stratigraphy and superposition.
  5. Rock Art painting
    Rock art painting is a cool activity because it allows participants to explore their own creativity and reflect on what they deem worthy of inscribing in stone. This activity may work for all ages and allows the participants to take their final works of art home.

Overall in addition to being fun, these activities help explain some of the key features of archaeology and demonstrate to a variety of ages the thoughts and ideas that go into archaeological investigations and analysis. These activities are some of the things CAP may have at our Expo Tent table this April. What are some ways you demonstrate archaeology in public outreach events?

For more information about the MSU Science Festival, please visit


Author: Blair Zaid

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