Grand Challenges of My Archaeology- High School


I guess I lurk in more places than online, here I am lurking in the temple of Jupiter Anxur.

I have been lurking in the Archaeology social media world for quite some time reading Lucy’s and Doug’s blog, following Twitter chats, and mostly keeping this blog as a travelogue of my times abroad for my family. However, it has been my hope recently to make more of an effort to put down my musings (on something other than the post-it notes that litter my desk) about what I’ve read, or heard, or thought about in the greater world of archaeology. I figure joining in the Blogging carnival might be an excellent way of starting this habit.

Doug put forth the theme for the January blogging carnival as the grand challenges of your archaeology. I find two challenges in my archaeology: novelty and time.

I find myself in a unique spot as a high school teacher who has earned a masters in archaeology instead of education. I know others have done this (surprisingly I teach with one) but for the most part I find myself alone, coming up novel activities, and forging new paths in blending a language and archaeology curriculum.  I have been focusing a lot of my efforts on bringing archaeology to high school students, a greatly different task from the college student (even though mere months sometimes separates them).

Far too often the education of any non-college learners in archaeology is seen as the purview of the volunteer moms at the local history museums, but so much more can and should be done with it. I teach Latin at a high school but at every free moment in my curriculum I introduce archaeological lessons into my classroom, from using bags of soil to talk about context to Lego sculptures to improve descriptive narratives to simple slide shows of baulk walls to explain stratigraphy. I’ve also gone outside the classroom and created an archaeology program for exclusively for high schoolers as a subset of a field school. This is all done on my own time, sometimes my own dime and often times with very few colleagues* to chat about best practices or lesson plans suited to the high school student.


Demonstrating pick axing to the first group of high schoolers (now all in college)


My other challenge is time. Being a secondary educator the expectations placed on me are to teach and not research; to grade and not produce; to babysit sometimes ungrateful students and not write anything down. Even this blog post is a struggle to write between class passing, my short prep periods, and in what little free time I have after school. And that is not to say that I think college professors have all the time in the world. I know junior professors and adjuncts who are struggling for time just as much. And I could make more time by not teaching and just give everyone a worksheet and then I would have time to produce more archaeology based curriculum. But then I might as well leave teaching which is the opposite of what is best for my students. But to be given time for the express objective of thinking, reading, and writing within my day at school, where I don’t feel guilty about ignoring grading or lesson planing would be so helpful. It would reduce my own stress and increase my own happiness.

Archaeology should not be limited to those who decided to embark into the classical or anthropological fields, it should be for the masses (under correct supervision c.f. #opposeHB803) and supported as such earlier in a leaner so life. In a time when the high school guidance counselors steer students to STEM programs and away from a liberal arts education, a trend which could have detrimental ramifications on the field as a whole. More archaeologists should be entering into education and bring meaningful lessons to high school students and inspire them to pursue higher education in these fields.

*And if there are other high school teachers teaching archaeology to high schoolers in a class, then the word is not getting around, and a sub-challenge is facilitating better communication between these teachers.

About handyatmurlo

This journal has evolved from a blog about my archaeology days in Italy to my travels in the world with my wife. I am a Latin and Social Studies teacher at St. Columba School. I earned my MA at CU Boulder, my teaching certificate from Fort Lewis College and my BA at UMass Amherst. I have spent my summers working in Italy as an archaeologist at three different sites. One I have worked at for 10 years at Poggio Civitate at Vescovado di Murlo. I have worked at the Villa of Maxentius in Rome for 2 years, before the project ended. I also spent 2 summers at the FSU excavations in Cosa.
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1 Response to Grand Challenges of My Archaeology- High School

  1. Pingback: What do we, archaeologists, see as our grand challenges | Doug's Archaeology

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