Many archeologists, as part of their public outreach efforts, see the recent movement to bring science and math based curriculum into classrooms as an opportunity to introduce both teachers and students to archaeology and anthropology. This trend has also caused schools and programs to reach out to archaeologists and other scientists to present to their students. However you end up standing in front of thirty 5th graders, there are some things that will help you achieve your goals and survive to see another invitation extended to you.
I would argue that archaeology is uniquely suited to classroom presentations in that it covers every subject being taught in today’s schools, especially when 3D modeling is included, and is an inherently hands on and accessible science. In order build an easy to use guide for people interested in bringing 3D modeling and archaeology to public education I have drawn on my knowledge of the public education standards and how to best cooperate with public school teachers, gained by five years experience in a classroom. Though I will focus mostly on archaeological modeling and K-12 education in this post, all of the material covered here is applicable to all fields of anthropology, all subfields of archaeology, and really any field of science.
Getting into the classroom
The two biggest things to remember when presenting in a kindergarten through 12th grade education setting is time and flexibility. Time is everything to a teacher, and even more important to the students. Frustrations about time are not necessarily exclusive to the time you are taking out of their day by presenting. Sometimes it is the time of day you want to come into the class, and sometimes it is the time of year. This is where flexibility comes in. Here are my quick and easy tips to getting a teacher to say yes, and to have them ask you back:
- Contact schools you work with and get a school calendar, or join their Facebook page. If you know what is going on at school a teacher will not turn you down because you asked to come and present on field day.
- Know or ask what topic/subject they are covering and explicitly tell the teacher how the material you are presenting matches that. My other suggestion to this is do not concentrate only on science. See the next section for more details on this.
- Bring ALL necessary supplies (including pencils and paper) and make sure to communicate this with the teacher. Also, if you will be using computers, arrive early and make sure everything is in order for the kids to log on.
All topics taught by a teacher must meet what they call a standard. These standards can include things like teaching a kindergartener that a book has a front cover and a back cover (standard “LAFS.K.RI.2.5”). Before you freak out I’m not proposing that anyone learn the standards, though they are available for your reading pleasure on every state’s education website. Here are the Florida standards for language arts and math by grade level.
The chart below connects the four main subjects to 3D modeling and printing in archaeology. The great thing about many topics covered within each subject is that they can be taught at almost every grade level, with varying degrees of difficulty of course. Elementary schools, for example, may only have the students classify according to shape, size, and color whereas middle schoolers are capable of predicting the use of an object and classifying based on those observations. Seeing these parallels will save you some time in writing lessons and will increase the variety of grade levels you can present in.
Archaeological 3D Modeling
Archaeology (all subfields)
|– Scale and ratio
– Conversion of standard to metric
– Fractional measurements
– Coordinate grids
|– Laying out a unit (Pythagorean Theorem)
– Positive/Negative numbers
|– Building experimental models
– Documenting results
– Weather Cycles
– Chemistry (Carbon 14)
|– Photography for preservation
– Interpreting sites and items
– Understanding context
|– Academic research
– Preserving historic items
– Validating sources
|– Creative writing prompts
– Argumentative writing about interpretations
– Academic writing prompts
|– Report writing
– Critical dissent
– Concise writing through abstracts
This table is only a sampling of the topics that can be taught per subject, I stuck with general ideas because each school district and each state has their own standards that need to be met.
To help clarify, I will expand upon one topic within each subject and choose a grade level to give a better perspective of how they connect to classroom instruction.
Math: Scale and Ratio
In Florida, most 6th grade students are beginning to learn how to work with ratios and scale modeling. A possible lesson connection could be scaling a building within modeling software so that it could be displayed and explored in a museum by smaller kids. This is a hands-on math intense topic that helps others and has real world applications.
Elementary students begin to classify objects very early on, by shape and size, as early as kindergarten. Using 3D printed lithic points and pottery students could work on their classifying skills while also handling what would otherwise be fragile artifacts.
History: Understanding Context
Holding an object only seen in pictures before can often be revolutionary. Changing a person’s perspective and understanding of an item. High Schoolers begin writing research papers early on in their freshmen year, and often write about things they have only seen in books. Physically touching a cannonball that shattered on a tree, like the one printed by UWF students Janene Johnston and Mariana Zechini, can add context to the tree, the cannon ball, and the person who surely escaped death.
Language Arts: Writing
Amazingly, this is often forgotten by archaeologists and yet comprises a large percentage of what we do. Academic writing and writing an opposing critique are skills they will need as they move into college, something we as archaeologists and scientist are painfully aware of. Archaeologist have a unique relationship with journaling and note taking, a skill that many take for granted.
By providing some general examples and simple tips, I have given those that desire to bring 3D modeling into a classroom some tools to access the world of education standards. Because this is only a starting point, if you are an archaeologist hoping to do some public outreach or a teacher looking to give some of your standards a new spin with real world applications, please share if you have ideas of your own.
Elizabeth Chance Campbell is a Master’s student at the University of Central Florida and will be defending her thesis, on an 1866 watermill, in the spring. She worked in a low income middle school for five years where she taught students with learning disabilities before moving to Georgia, where her wife is stationed in the Air Force. She hopes to take her experience as an educator and as an archaeologist to the next level by creating lessons that can be incorporated into classroom settings with students of all levels.