Wednesday, November 17, 2010
|Cover slide of NCSS presentation shows St. Augustine City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt down in the dirt.|
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the National Council of Social Studies in Denver. The session had extra meaning for me as I was trying to right a karmic wrong. Last year I attended in Atlanta and went to a session where student teachers were describing, nay, ENCOURAGING other teachers to grab a trowel and head out to dig up the school yard.
Before you grab that shovel, stop for a moment and hear me out. Digging on school property doesn't make sense legally, ethically, or most importantly pedagogically. There are far better ways to learn and experience archaeology and you run a serious risk of reducing the science of archaeology it to a tactile treasure hunt.
|Students on a supervised dig at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate (Kentucky Archaeological Survey).|
|This is what an archaeologist means by curation|
My other issue in bringing up the scientific method is to point out the diversity of components students can get experience in, beyond just data recovery. The digging is fun and what's most remembered, but students can be involved in pre-survey activities such as research and surface mapping, or in the lab washing and sorting artifacts. They can certainly help in publishing findings, particularly on-line or through presentations.
Whew- with that off my chest, let's turn to the legal reasons. Federal laws protect archaeological sites and artifacts on federal lands, or as part of federal undertakings (parking lots, highways, projects funded with federal dollars). State laws often mimic the federal laws and apply to state lands and state undertakings. Here in Florida we add two more unique layers; many counties and many cities now have their own preservation ordinances. Some, like St. Augustine, even apply to private property. If you pick up that shovel and head out to the school's softball field, you and your students may be committing a Class D felony! Not exactly the lesson you were looking to teach, right?
- Archaeologists can not give monetary amounts to artifacts and can not encourage the illegal digging and recovery of artifacts.
- Archaeologists must write up what they find, often taking months to write up just one day of fieldwork, and must ensure the preservation of the materials they recover.
- An archaeologist can not dig a site they are not train to dig on, nor can they work beyond their means if a project requires a larger field team or require large lab facilities if none are available.
Finally, pedagocially it doesn't make sense to expose students to excavation just because it gets them outside. There are plenty of ways you and your students can explore local history and learn about archaeological methods without leaving the classroom or without disturbing the ground. One of my favorite lessons is PB&J archaeology because it does what no one day in the field can do: outline how archaeologists find sites, how they record soil profiles, and what role artifacts play realistically in site survey. I will very rarely find a sprinkle (representing and artifact) in one of the shovel probes I excavate in the sandwich using a straw. But, I know they're there! Archaeology is much more about soil and context.
|Amber, our Outreach Coordinator, is always happy to meet a teacher and talk with students.|
Good luck, and drop us an email or a comment if you have any questions!