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Page view:Some Issues of Practice
Timing of fieldwork
Fieldwork within community archaeology projects tends to take place most usually in the summer months, for obvious reasons. If schools are to be involved, consideration needs to be given to when the fieldwork will occur. Where fieldwork takes place during the school holidays, any significant involvement from schools will be greatly hindered. Otherwise, the option facing projects will be whether to conduct the fieldwork during the Summer Term or the Autumn Term. Most projects have tended to conduct fieldwork in the Summer Term but this can make it harder for schools to situate the visit within a wider programme of study, particularly if the fieldwork is taking place towards the end of the term. Projects which have conducted their fieldwork during September have found that schools have been more able to exploit the project in terms of situating it within the wider curriculum.
Target Age Group
Consideration will need to be given as to which age groups of school children should be invited to attend. At the broad level of primary or secondary, it may be possible to include both primary and secondary schools. In general, I have observed that primary schools tend to be more responsive to overtures to be included in projects, perhaps because their curriculum tends to be more flexible. Also, primary aged children tend to be more enthusiastic, less self-conscious and more willing to ask questions. This however, needs to be viewed as a very broad generalisation, and secondary schools are frequently enthusiastic and innovative project partners.
It may be worth considering asking schools to involve a particular year group of school children. In this way, activities on site can best be designed to match the age group of those who visit. For example, if all schools were to send Year Five children then activities could be designed with that age group in mind. Moreover, an established curriculum working group across local schools will be able to work more effectively and share ideas and resources if there is uniformity of age range. It is possible to accommodate a wide age range amongst site visitors but it is important to understand that activities planned for a six year old may not be appropriate for a ten year old.
The nature of fieldwork
School children and teachers invariably cite excavation as being their favoured activity on a site visit. Excavation of artefacts is the outward face of archaeology to the general public. A community archaeology project that concerns itself solely with survey work will have to work hard to ‘sell’ itself to schools and design activities that can accommodate significant numbers of school visitor groups.
Excavation – real or simulated?
The organisers of community archaeology projects that involve school children in excavation work will need to make a decision as to whether they are going to allow school groups to excavate elements of the site itself or are going to be provided with a simulated excavation within the confines of the site. On sites where the archaeology is especially tricky and where features may be quite subtle to the untrained eye, the solution of providing a simulated trench for children which is ‘seeded’ with finds is sometimes taken. This can be an effective approach and one which requires a lesser degree of supervision. Often project organisers are keen to include school children in the ‘real’ excavation of the site. In such cases, careful decisions need to be made as to which areas of the site would best be suited for the involvement of children. Also, careful consideration needs to be given to appropriate supervision levels and the number of children that can adequately be catered for within the trenches at any one time. If simulated trenches are to be used, consideration needs to be given as to how these are explained to the children. Is it appropriate for them to believe they are performing ‘real’ archaeology when it is merely a simulation?
Health and safety / child protection
Issues of health and safety and child protection are clearly of paramount importance and need to be properly addressed through risk assessments and practices designed to addressed the identified risks. Such issues, however, should not be seen as prohibitive. Most problems that are identified can be addressed through creative planning if there is a will. Child protection issues can be solved by a variety of means. For example, it is possible to organise a separate school’s week when only school groups are invited on to the site. In this way, children will not be coming into contact with ‘unknown’ members of the public. Alternatively, it may be possible to fence a separate area of the site only to be accessed by school children. Again, this would keep school children out of areas used by the general public. Such an area could also be focussed upon easier aspects of the site’s archaeology.
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