I am used to helping to teach fieldschool students, interns, adult volunteers, and high school students. I am used to working in archaeology almost exclusively on the professional level and with people that already have an interest in archaeology. But, Last year about this time I started getting involved with a non-profit based in Washington, D.C. called Archaeology in the Community (AITC), founded and lead by Dr. Alexandra Jones. AITC is a public education and outreach non-profit that provides STEM programming for students from all age groups (elementary to adult) but most of the programming is geared toward children.
One of the more successful programs AITC has is the Young Archaeologists Club. Each session of the program is six weeks long and meets once a week on Sundays. Each session a different topic about archaeology is discussed with an interactive lesson. Each session also goes on two field trips; usually to museums but when possible, the students are taken to an active dig to see archaeologists at work. The session starting this weekend (March 10, 2019) will be the second one I am helping with. During my first go round, I have to admit that I struggled with my classroom management. I hoping this round will be different. I have gathered that I need to keep the students engaged, I hope to do that by essentially facilitating them to teach themselves about the topics which we will discuss.
In addition to the what archaeology is, this weekend I want to impart two additional points. 1) anyone can be an archaeologist, the more varied a team of archaeologists are the, and the more life experiences they can draw from the more complete our interpretations of archaeological assemblages and sites can be. 2) Archaeology happens, sometimes literally, in your back yard, even in the mid-Atlantic. Discovery, History, National Geographic, etc. almost always show archaeology as something that happens over seas and out west (with the exception of Jamestown). I work almost exclusively in the D.C. metro area, sometimes literally in peoples back yards, or in wooded lots behind office buildings. There are sites in D.C. that have literally been found under buildings. Archaeology happens in your community and tells the story of your community.
We need make it clear that history and archaeology is contributed to and affects everyone. The only ethical way to approach this challenge is to do everything in our power to make archaeology accessible to everyone, not just the initiated. AITC is tying to do that by making it available to youths who may not otherwise have access to it. Dr. Jones was able to secure a grant for the Young Archaeologists Club that has allowed us to make it free for participants. But that grant is only going to carry us so far, and only makes funds available for that program. AITC’s 10th anniversary is this weekend and we are reaching the end of our fundraising push for this milestone. The money being donated will contribute to programs like the one I described here as well as after school programs, internships, and other STEM education, and professional development opportunities for children and young adults. You can donate here, even small donations help.
AITC on Twitter and Instagram: @AITC_DC