Carry the One: Archaeology Education at a Math Teachers’ Conference

This lesson uses a granola bar “test unit” to teach Cartesian Coordinates & mapping. A color-coded map of a site in St. Augustine, FL makes an apt example. (courtesy of St. Augustine Archaeology Division).

“Ooh! I need this! I’m teaching my kids about this soon. This one too!” The teacher walked away from our table, two new archaeology- based math lessons in hand. I was almost giddy. As a public archaeologist, I love finding ways to reach out to educators, whose efforts shape the future of our communities. Attending teacher conferences, such as the Florida Council of Teachers of Mathematics, offers a unique chance to reach out to teachers.

The Florida Public Archaeology Network uses an education outreach strategy that involves working directly with teachers. Believe me, I love getting into classrooms and engaging students in archaeology activities—it lights my fire to spark curiosity and fascination in kids. But interacting directly with teachers affords a more efficient method of disseminating archaeology to students. According to Ruth Selig (1991: 3), each educator that attends an archaeology workshop reaches 120 students per year.

Our vendors’ table is set and ready for the conference to start. Photo courtesy of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

Statewide conferences for teachers of math, science, social studies, and even media specialists provide an apt forum to introduce archaeology resources to a large number of teachers in just a couple of days. Better, we don’t have to navigate the structure of a particular school district to make contact. They arrive at the conference and here we are–ready to provide resources that speak to specific standards and skills, using authentic archaeological examples.

In two or three days at a vendors’ booth, we see hundreds of educators. This year, we met teachers of various grades, curriculum specialists, district math coordinators, and even staff from Florida’s Department of Education. We offered a range of resources: lessons, free classroom visits, and teacher workshops (that often provide in-service credit). Teachers received our contact information and provided e-mail addresses if they wanted us to follow up with them.

We also offered a presentation to enhance our connection with the most interested teachers, treating it as a mini-workshop on some of our favorite math lessons. Each participant receives a folder with a bit of info about FPAN and copies of several lessons. I presented a slide show that demonstrates authentic examples of archaeologists applying principles of mathematics: mapping to scale, using the Pythagorean Theorem, and ceramic frequency analysis that explores a changing market. Then our educators get hands-on experience, trying some of our favorite lessons for themselves and asking questions as they arise.

A teacher uses a sherd to apply a Project Archaeology lesson on finding circumference. Photo courtesy of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

The table and workshop both yield overwhelming positive response to the resources we offer. And I’ll be honest: I take personal and professional gratification from working at them. I was the child of two teachers; having watched my mother (a special education teacher) struggle for years to create her own curriculum and cobble together materials from disparate sources, I know educators can struggle to find engaging material with authentic applications of educational standards. Having a glimpse into the personal expenses that teachers can incur to offer the best experience for students, it delights me to no end when teachers ask how much a class visit costs. I know what will follow my answer: “It’s FREE?”  They are excited to discover that yes, there is a LOT of math in our science, and science in our social studies, and primary source research all over the place. Students, like other humans, relate better to a concept when they see authentic examples.  Seeing how skills may be used in “real life”—or even better, how a skill set can be used to explore or understand something fascinating, helps foster connections and sticky knowledge.

As an archaeologist, I love the responses we get from teachers—for any of these reasons—in a different way. The more they love our resources, the more likely they are to share them with students in the first place. They get support and authentic examples, and in the meantime increase archaeology literacy among the young population.

Having now participated in teacher conferences for a few years, I have found some strategies quite useful. Here is a quick list:

• Make contact info easily accessible. We have a postcard (that also features info about what we can do for teachers) to serve just this purpose.

• Post presentation information at your booth.

• Give it away if you can! After last year’s workshop we had some leftover folders, so we set the extra lessons out on our table. It was like Trick-or-Treat for grownups! Teachers were virtually swarming.

• If you offer lessons, address a range of grades. We handed out two lessons each for elementary, middle school, and high school.

• Align lessons with your state’s educational standards. This can be a doozy, as state standards around the country are in a state of flux right now, but teachers appreciate the effort.

• Provide lessons that meet standards in multiple subject areas, particularly in elementary and middle school. Teachers may teach to more than one subject, or cooperate with others to cover several subject areas.

If you have tried contacting teachers, what strategies have worked for you? Are there any tactics we should add to those we’re already using at teacher conferences? What challenges have you faced? Are there any methods for reaching educators that you would like to learn about more?

For a look at the educational materials that FPAN uses most often, visit Project Archaeology, or download our free lessons on Timucuan Technology, Coquina Queries, and a book of general lessons called Beyond Artifacts.


  • Selig, Ruth
    • 1991     Teacher Training Programs in Anthropology: The Multiplier Effect in the Classroom.  In Archaeology and Education: The Classroom and Beyond.  Archaeological Assistance Study Number 2.  KC Smith and Francis P. McManamon, editors, pp. 3-7.  U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

Historical Archaeology in Central Europe

Western Bohemia has a rich archaeological heritage and a scholarship reaching back well over a century, but virtually none of that archaeology has examined the post-medieval period.  In the wake of the Velvet Revolution, though, Pavel Vareka began a historical archaeology project at the University of West Bohemia that ambitiously reaches over most of the past millennium and pays particularly close attention to the last 500 years:  In the present-day Czech Republic this ranges across the 30 Years War (1618-1648) to the Revolutions of 1848 to two world wars and 41 years as a Communist territory in the Eastern Bloc.   Pavel is committed to partnering with global historical archaeology scholars, and an astounding number of well-preserved sites dot Western Bohemia.  Many sites along the border have continuous occupations since the 14th century into the 1960’s, and few places can make a more persuasive claim for being transnational and multicultural than the Czech Republic, with Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic peoples migrating into the region in prehistory and more recently Moravians and Poles among the flood of peoples settling in the region.  Many Czechs migrated to the US beginning in the 1850’s, with one Chicago community dubbed “Pilsen” in reference to Plzen, the home of the University of West Bohemia.  In 1900, only Prague and Vienna had more Czech residents than Chicago, and the US today claims about 1.6 million people of Czech descent.

The ruins of this church near Plzen were used well into the 20th century.

The shadow of World War II and communism hang over the contemporary Czech Republic, but they provide an exceptionally powerful setting to weave consequential historical narratives driven by archaeological materiality.  Last week Pavel and his colleague Michal Rak took me and my University of Oulu colleague Timo Ylimaunu to see some of the numerous sites scattered between Plzen and the German border about 55 miles away.  Pavel and Michal are documenting the cyclical abandonment of villages in the region during the 17th-century, when numerous residents were driven from their homes by the invading Swedish Army and in many cases left villages standing with a rich range of domestic material culture in place.  Ironically, after World War II the communists consolidated many of the villages in the region and razed those close to the border, some of which had been continuously occupied a half-millennium.  The architectural and archaeological preservation on these sites is absolutely remarkable, and scores of such villages dot the region awaiting archaeologists.  Nevertheless, as in many places in the world, the archaeological resources themselves are endangered, poorly protected, or not valued by some scholars and communities.  While we were surveying a community cleared in the 1960’s, a metal detectorist was rooting through the ruins, casting aside nearly everything in search of World War II artifacts.  At a remarkable medieval church ruin with 20th century burials near Plzen, graves had been opened by looters seeking valuables.

Part of a 14th century village, this house stood until the 1960′s, when the residents were forced to move because of its proximity to the German border. The University of West Bohemia recently excavated this home.

The opportunities for global scholars to partner with Czech colleagues are immense, and the groundwork laid by Pavel and his colleagues—and their commitment to work with international scholars—makes such work much more practical.  Learning the history of a whole new place can be truly exciting, and living in places like Plzen can be much less expensive than many American cities.  Liberated by Americans at the end of World War II, Plzen also is especially warm to American visitors today, and reminders of the Czechs’ appreciation for American troops are all over the present-day city.   Many historical archaeologists bring methodological training, material culture training, and a commitment to public engagement that can expand central European archaeology significantly.  The scholarship that can be explored in the Czech Republic and in global connections between Western Bohemia and North America are enormously important to expanding a truly global historical archaeology.

Western Bohemia had an exceptionally traumatic 20th century history. At the very close of World War II, prisoners from concentration camps were driven on desperate “death marches” that claimed one in four prisoners. During one of these marches, 37 people were killed and buried in this mass grave near the current Czech border; the grave was exhumed and the victims moved in 1946. Michal Rak and the University of West Bohemia directed recent excavations of the the site, recovering 22 shoes and a spoon in the former mass grave.

Next year the European Association of Archaeologists’s annual conference will be held in Plzen and hosted by the University of Western Bohemia, so for those who are curious to visit the region and see these exciting sites this will be a valuable chance to visit and to meet our post-medieval colleagues in central Europe and beyond.  The world is covered with enormously fascinating places to do archaeology, and West Bohemia’s rich prehistory, medieval landscapes, and sobering wartime and communist heritage rank among those places to which historical archaeologists should turn.

Teaching and Teaching Portfolios in the Academic Job Search

By Stacey Lynn Camp, University of Idaho

One of the biggest challenges of an academic job search is convincing a hiring committee that your skills and research interests are perfectly tailored to the advertised faculty position. Many advertised positions are ambiguous to begin with, with broad calls that span geographical and temporal specializations. Teaching responsibilities are also sometimes left to the applicant’s imagination, with the candidate charged with the task of deciphering what is expected of them in terms of their teaching and advising load.

Deciphering Teaching Expectations
If it is unclear what a university expects in terms of a teaching load (how many classes you will be expected to teach per academic year) or teaching pedagogy (how you approach teaching), you should spend a considerable amount of time looking into published material associated with the hiring department and its faculty on staff. This information can often be found on a department’s website, where course offerings are usually listed underneath a faculty member’s profile. At my institution, a number of faculty members in my department have published their teaching philosophies in teaching pedagogy journals.

One hint that teaching skills are prized at a university is a request for an applicant’s teaching portfolio, which can be made in the initial job announcement or requested from the applicant once they have made it through the first or second stage of the interview process. If, however, the job advertisement does not require extensive documentation of your teaching experiences, you should still take time to consider and research how many courses you will be teaching in the position, how many students you will be teaching in your courses, what courses you might be able or expected to teach in the department, the textbooks, book chapters, and articles you intend to assign as course texts, and the pedagogical strategies you will employ in the classroom.

Creative Commons license held by Stanford EdTechNo matter where you interview, questions about your teaching will inevitably arise. Even at the most competitive research schools you will be expected to teach a few classes every year, and it is important that you think carefully about how you will undertake course instruction and employ the pedagogical values that you hold dear in the classroom.

If you are one of the fortunate few who make it to the first or second round of interviews for the position, you should ask questions about the teaching and advising expectations and how those balance out with research and publication requirements of the position. These questions are important to the faculty hiring committee, as they show that the candidate has the foresight to consider what their responsibilities will be in this position.

Developing a Philosophy of Teaching
To demonstrate your commitment to teaching, you should consult publications on teaching pedagogy. There is ample literature on the topic that is both broad and discipline-specific in scope; at the very least, it is helpful to be aware of commonly utilized teaching strategies in academia and within the field of archaeology. Recently published literature within our own discipline includes Baxter’s Archaeological Field Schools: A Guide for Teaching in the Field (2009), Burke and Smith’s Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom (2007), and Mytum’s Global Perspectives on Archaeological Field Schools: Constructions of Knowledge and Experience (2012). Citing this literature in your teaching philosophy or mentioning it during interviews shows that you care about your students and you take the role of a faculty mentor and instructor seriously enough to read up on the subject matter.

When I applied for my current position as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Idaho, a teaching portfolio was part of the initial request for applications. My teaching portfolio comprised of qualitative and quantitative data from my teaching evaluations, letters of support from professors who supervised me as their teaching assistant, letters of support from former students, handouts and assignments from my classes, syllabi from courses I hoped to teach at the University of Idaho, examples of graded papers and my feedback on student assignments, a faculty member’s assessment of my teaching in the classroom. and, perhaps most importantly, my teaching philosophy statement.

I knew that the university was a second tier research institute, which meant that my teaching and research experiences would be equally valued in the hiring process. As a result, I spent a great deal of time writing and thinking about my teaching philosophy. The teaching philosophy should not merely be a descriptive compilation of your accomplishments (e.g. teaching awards, good student evaulations, training in teaching pedagogy, etc.); the hiring committee should be able to find that information on your Curriculum Vitae. Rather, your teaching statement should be a coherent, consistent narrative that describes how you approach teaching, how that approach aligns with your research and dissertation project, and how you see yourself evolving as a teacher over the course of the next five or six years as an assistant professor.

Look at the teaching philosophy as an opportunity to explore the ideas, concepts, and methodologies you desire to impart to your students. This involves a bit of self-reflection; some questions you should ask yourself are: what is it that has driven me toward a career in anthropology? What is it that intrigues me about this discipline? What are the two or three key points or methodologies I want students to know when they leave my classroom? How does my work intersect with other disciplines in meaningful and interesting ways? How can I make anthropology and archaeology relevant to non-anthropology majors?

An Example of a Teaching Philosophy in Historical Archaeology
Let me give you an example of how I answered these questions and composed a teaching philosophy that reflected my personal and academic research interests. What I have always liked about historical archaeology is its multiscaler approach to interpreting a site, a community, or a region. By comparing and contrasting multiple data sources, historical archaeologists can identify gaps in historical knowledge as well as discover contradictions between what is said in the documentary record and what is found in the archaeological record. I encourage students to be active participants in this discovery process by giving them data to analyze and deconstruct, and devote nearly half of my Introduction to Historical Archaeology course at the University of Idaho to critically analyzing and assessing the limitations and advantages of using different sources of information, such as photographs, maps, probate inventories, newspapers, oral histories, and, of course, archaeological assemblages.

Thinking critically about where data originated, who produced the data, and for what purposes the data was collected or written is not simply a skill limited to the practice of historical archaeology. In today’s media saturated world, it is crucial that students, as consumers of media, learn how to assess the intentions of media producers and the validity of the data cited by the media. So, to make a long story short, one of my primary teaching goals is to prepare students to be critical consumers of modern day media and to understand how to verify the authenticity of the media’s claims using the tools of historical archaeology. My course readings, my assignments, and my in-class discussions all work together to impart this skill set to students.

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Defining Teaching Experiences
For some applicants, the very thought of organizing a teaching portfolio evokes fear and anxiety. This is perhaps especially true for applicants whose teaching experiences have been limited, comprising of undergraduate mentoring in laboratory or field school settings or serving as teaching assistants for classes. At the very least, you will be expected to demonstrate that you have already started to build a strong repertoire of teaching and mentoring experiences that will serve you well in a faculty position

Even if you have yet to teach your own course, you should not discount other types of interactions and “teaching moments” with undergraduates. These experiences come in many forms, such as working with lab assistants, directing field crews, mentoring and advising undergraduates, or serving as a teaching assistant and directing discussion sections. Much of what we do as archaeologists involves hands-on learning and instruction, but it is up to the applicant to draw connections between what initially may be viewed as atypical forms of instruction and classroom teaching.

Concluding Thoughts on Teaching Philosophies
If you are hired for the position, you will be thankful for devoting energy and time to fleshing out your teaching objectives and philosophy. Teaching statements are an essential component of faculty assessment. When I went up for my third year review at the University of Idaho, I revised and edited my teaching philosophy statement that I submitted as a job applicant. I will be revising it once again when I go up for tenure next year.

Thinking through your approach to teaching can also result in research and publication opportunities. I have written on teaching pedagogy in archaeology (Camp 2010), and how giving students the chance to do archaeology over the course of an academic year and outside of the traditional summer field school model can help solve real-world issues facing campuses.

Inspired by positive student responses to my integration of archaeological experience into the classroom setting, I continue to seek new and innovative ways of delivering course content to my students. From my perspective, then, the best teaching philosophies are ones open to student input, self-critique, and continual revision as one grows and matures as a teacher.


Works Cited

Baxter, Jane Eva (2009) Archaeological Field Schools: A Guide for Teaching in the Field. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Burke, Heather and Claire Smith (eds.) (2007) Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom. One World Archaeology Series. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Camp, Stacey Lynn (2010) Teaching with Trash: Archaeological Insights on University Waste Management, World Archaeology 42(3):430-42.

Mytum, Harold (ed.) (2012) Global Perspectives on Archaeological Field Schools: Constructions of Knowledge and Experience. New York: Springer.