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Community Archaeology cba logo
The CBA's Community Archaeology Resource
Effective Practice – Tried and Tested Approaches

The practices described below have been designed to maximise the potential of school participation in community archaeology projects and as a means to avoid the potential pitfalls described above.

1) Most importantly, aim to get activities associated with the project included within the planned curricula of schools. Projects themselves have a limited period of activity and a limited lifespan, but projects themselves can leave a lasting legacy for schools in terms of a developed curriculum. Learning materials developed in the course of a project can be utilised after a project is completed. Components of the site archive including finds can be utilised as long term teaching materials. The archive will hold tremendous potential if utilised creatively. Also, heritage trails have been developed within projects and these have the potential for long term use.

2) The establishment of a curriculum working group with teacher representatives from the local schools is a most effective way of sharing and developing teaching materials. This needs to be proactively driven if it is to be established and can effectively be initiated and led by a single project member. Typically schools might be invited to send a teacher representative for a single half day session funded out of the school’s training budget. Individual schools may have developed activities and learning materials that other schools are unaware of. A curriculum working group provides the opportunity for the sharing of ideas and resources as a means to enhance practices across the catchment area of a project. Moreover, once established, such a working party may be self-maintaining as a result of developed sets of relations.

3) A school visit by an archaeologist in advance of site visits is a most effective way of maximising the potential of a site visit. Key concepts need to be explained. For example – the idea that archaeologists learn about the past through study of the material remains of the past. This can be compared and contrasted with the approaches used by historians. The archaeologist will be able to describe and contextualise the site and explain the purpose of the fieldwork and the practices and techniques involved. Tools and equipment may be exhibited as well as finds from the site. Children can be told about the activities that they will be involved in during their site visit and about issues such as appropriate clothing. Importantly, children and teachers will be able to ask questions. This will not only address potential queries but will communicate to the archaeologist the issues that are of concern to children and teachers.

4) It is useful to develop a range of activities that school groups can participate in during site visits. Whilst excavation tends to be very popular, it can also be a ‘turn-off’ for others. Finds processing and specifically the washing of finds is often a popular activity, especially when detail is slowly revealed as dirt is removed. Recording work is also an activity that school groups can be involved in. In particular, finds drawing is a relatively simple activity to provide for. A number of community projects have successfully developed heritage trails around the locality of a project and incorporated these into site visits. It is important to ensure that there are sufficient and varied activities available so that children’s interest on site is maintained. Activities such as topographic or geophysical survey can be problematic unless there is a high level of skilled staffing available. Also, very small numbers of children can be accommodated on survey activities at any one time. Problems can occur when children are expected to watch whilst others are doing. Teachers will best know the capabilities and concentration spans of their pupils. Good communication between project organisers and teachers will best ensure effective learning.

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