Recently, I was asked to work with a Y5 class at The Croft Primary School in Armitage, Rugeley, whose current topic was ‘Treasure Island’. As the school is only approximately 8 miles from where the Staffordshire Hoard was found, they had looked at this archaeological treasure quite closely and were now interested in finding out more about archaeology.
Of course I said ‘yes’ to working with them, but didn’t want to encourage a belief that archaeology is all about finding treasure – well not the shiny variety anyway. With this in mind then, the workshop I delivered focused on the fact that even the most unassuming piece of evidence is like treasure to archaeologists because of the wealth of information such things can give us about the past.
We began by looking at modern rubbish – bits of items with which the children were familiar and thought carefully about them by asking questions such as, what is it? who would have used it? what does it say about the society we live in? The conversations I listened into involved much debate, which is exactly what we were aiming for. Groups questioned such things as whether we could know that a Spiderman toothbrush would have been used by a boy. Girls like Spiderman too, of course.
As always, it comes down to possibilities and probabilities: who could have possibly used such a toothbrush? who probably used such a toothbrush? And for much of the time that is as far as we can go when interpreting archaeological evidence.
We then went on to apply this kind of approach to evidence that was unfamiliar by excavating objects from a variety of periods, such as stone age flint tools, Roman pottery and Anglo-Saxon loom weights.
Here are some comments from one of the Teaching Assistants involved.
“We had a very enjoyable, productive morning with you… [the workshop] was pitched at the right level for the audience and you related it well to the class topic for the term. … A variety of learning styles were used and this allowed all to participate to the best of their ability. The lesson was cross-curricular and included elements of numeracy, literacy and science. You were very approachable, listened in to groups discussions as you walked round the classroom to check they were on the right track and you answered any questions the children had well.
The children learned not only about archaeology but also practised their social skills such as how to listen to others, take turns and value others views and opinions through debate.”
Thank you for making me so welcome!