Archaeology in the Classroom

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Long-time SGA member Rita Elliott edited this 1992 special issue of Early Georgia; its full title is ‚“Archaeology in the Classroom: By Teachers for Teachers—Used Archaeology: Practical Classroom Ideas for Teachers by Teachers.” Notes Ms. Elliott in the Foreward:

Welcome to a new partnership. The past decade has seen a growing relationship between the world of professional educators and professional archaeologists-a relationship that can be mutually beneficial. The growing crisis in our schools, symbolized by low test scores, high drop-out rates, drugs, violence, and boredom, and fueled by economic problems, decreases in federal and state educational funding, latch-key students, single-parent families, students living below the poverty level, lack of role models, and over-indulgence in television, has thrown educators into a precarious and unenviable position.

At the same time, archaeologists are struggling with major assaults on non-renewable cultural resources throughout the country. Intensive development, particularly in the Sunbelt region of the southeastern United States, destroys countless archaeological sites daily-sites unprotected by federal and state laws. Site vandals and “looters” trash archaeological sites while searching for intact or unusual artifacts that they hope will bring a hefty price in the collectors’ market. An increasingly weak economy has led to major cutbacks in government and private grants supporting archaeological research.

The unpleasant dilemmas faced by both educators and archaeologists have resulted in an amazing revelation. These two seemingly unconnected problems can be addressed simultaneously. Archaeology is a wonderful medium for enticing students to learn because it is exciting, adventurous, and mysterious. Archaeology is the perfect vehicle for educators because its multidisciplinary nature allows it to address many of the Quality Core Curriculum objectives mandated by the state of Georgia, including visual arts, science, English and Language Arts, Mathematics, and Social Studies. It improves students’ skills in logic, interpretation, research, and problem solving while enabling students to become aware and tolerant of other cultures, work together in groups, improve self-confidence, and actually discover that learning can be fun!

Students, however, are not the only beneficiaries of an archaeology curriculum in the classroom. Archaeologists finally will be able to enjoy the rewards of a grass-roots archaeological education. An educated and informed public is a public that will support legislative protection of archaeological sites. It is a public that will slowly turn from artifact collectors to site recorders, from purchasers of illegally obtained artifacts to prosecutors of site vandals. Some in the archaeological community protest the introduction of archaeology into the school system on the basis that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. What better rebuttal is there than examining the status quo? Dedicated educators (and everyone who embraces an archaeology curriculum) know and stress the importance of site preservation, ethics, and professional supervision. What better or more numerous heralds could the professional community have than educators throughout the state and the country?

Volume 20, Number 1 of Early Georgia‚ “Used Archaeology: Practical Classroom Ideas for Teachers, by Teachers” has been prepared with the goals of both educators and archaeologists at the forefront. It is hoped that it will help fill a void in the state of Georgia and perhaps be a useful model or stepping stone for others with the same aims.

This issue has two main sections. The first has a series of first-person experiences authored by teachers who have used archaeology in the classroom. The second main section discusses a series of archaeologically-related activities teachers have found successful in their classrooms.

Click here to download a PDF copy of this issue. A listing of all issues of Early Georgia, along with an order form, can be found here.