This semester I am teaching Applied Archaeology and Museums at the University of Memphis. This course addresses my primary research interests – the preservation and presentation of cultural heritage and its use as an empowerment tool for the public. Since I last taught the course two years ago, the resources for this empowerment tool multiplied exponentially. A good bit of the growth comes from digital technology put in the service of human needs. (Note this understanding of technology, well articulated by folks such as Clay Shirky, is at odds with the neo-Luddite perspective. See here for my rant on all that.)
Access to the products of digital technology is not always simple or readily available. Jason Baird Jackson posted an interesting piece on the high costs for accessing academic publications in a growing open access world. The post includes a link to The Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine that allows an author to retain specific distribution rights for their published work. Sherpa is a searchable database that lists distribution rights by journal that authors retain for open access distribution. Here I am less interested in discussing specific open-access issues, and more some of the current venues and perspectives in which cultural heritage information is presented to the public.
On the digital end:
- The Center for the Future of Museums blog post Wikipedia and Museums provides abundant links to relevant user-generated content.
- The several year old Google Art Project continues to be hailed as a landmark venture.
- Field trips via Google Hangout now allow real-time interaction with archaeologists and the public, regardless of location.
- Institutions from the Getty Museum to a diversity of cultural heritage institutions such as the British Museum have impressive online offerings.
- Field work at archaeological sites such as New Philadelphia now present field reports seemingly in an archaeological instant.
A common point for these new opportunities is that even in my low-tech and financially strapped museum existence, all are practical possibilities where the primary limitation is not technology but labor to produce the products – a situation that can circle back to volunteerism and community service learning.
A second common point is that products of these technologies are accessible to a public with a wi-fi connection and basic internet surfing skills.
However, when considering the products that will live in real-time contexts created by students in my Applied Archaeology and Museums course this semester – after all, isn’t that what applied is all about? – I am concerned that the products be relevant to public interests and needs. Consider:
- I had a back-and-forth with a recent graduate of our applied anthropology program who lamented that she felt well-prepared to write lengthy academic reports but her employers really only wanted the punch line impact statements, something her academic training left her unprepared to produce.
- I am working with a student who is developing an exhibit for a county museum based on a several thousand piece surface collection curated in our museum repository for the past 30 years. The intern was excited by my preaching about the need for the exhibit to be relevant to the public, including avocational archaeologists who visit the museum. To that end, we discussed how the exhibit could interpret prehistoric trade and exchange, site function, and time period of occupation – all based on typical artifacts collected from the land surface after spring plowing or a good rain. However, as a well-trained anthropology undergraduate, the student was reasonably obsessed with making certain she typed her projectile points accurately. Her training made it hard to accept that the primary public interest of similar shaped points, from the same time period, manufactured at the same location, likely used for the same function, was not the correct typological name ascribed by an archaeologist several thousand years after the tools production. An exhibit that is not typology focused is not “dumbing down” to the public, but rather, functionally interpretive and different. That is a lesson from our co-creation with avocational archaeologists.
Co-creation with the public is a critical part of making resources relevant – whether digital or real-time. Co-creation has become a buzzword in museum contexts for the past number years, as popularized by Nina Simon in her Participatory Museum volume. My colleague Elizabeth Bollwerk and I have organized a fifteen paper session Co-Creation, the Public and the Archaeological Record for the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meetings this April in Austin, Texas. The session abstract is:
Co-creation in public archaeology is a means to engage and empower citizens to become stakeholders of the archaeological record. In museum contexts Simon (2010:278) writes that the purpose of co-creative community projects is “to give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals.” The papers in this session discuss a variety of recent archaeological projects that implement the co-creative model. The contributions demonstrate how co-creation moves beyond “hands-on” educational experiences or typical volunteer programs because participants are invited to play an active role in designing and constructing the final products to address their needs and interests. Co-creation aligns with current emphases on informal, life-long, and free-choice learning models that foster public engagement in the preservation of cultural heritage resources. The papers in this session also explore the benefits and challenges of using this method and provide examples of best practices for implementation. Finally, these papers speak to the impact of co-creation on the discipline and how the process increases the ability of archaeology to contribute to debates on contemporary issues.
We are pleased that Carol McDavid, a pioneer in this process, including her work at the Levi-Jordan Plantation (link to 1998 website) will serve as a discussant for the session.
How do you envision co-creation in archaeology?
We enter the third month of Doug’s Archaeology blogging carnival that leads up to the Blogging in Archaeology session at the Society for American Archaeology 2014 meetings in Austin. To review, Doug poses a question each month to which folks respond. Doug then summarizes the individual posts at the end of the month, and posts the set of links. The carnival and SAA session have the hashtag #blogarch.
For January Doug posed:
reflect on what you consider your best post(s) and why that is. Also, think about what others might think is your best post however you want to measure that (views? comments? etc.). Then share your thoughts.
My answer is not very straightforward but here goes:
- My post with the largest number of hits is Thoughts on How to Get a Museum Job. I wrote this post in part out of frustration from reading recent graduates and professors in both museum studies and anthropology write there were no jobs out there, etc. As I noted in the post, I recognize that, yes, times are tough, but students can be proactive to enhance employment possibilities upon graduation. In general, I don’t think those of us in academia spend enough time mentoring students in this process. At the same time, students often feel that with degree in hand, they are entitled to a job of their choice. I hoped that my post could bring some productive discussion to the issue. Given the overwhelming positive feedback I received in blog comments and in emails the post proved helpful to many.
- My post with the next highest number of hits is the one in which I am most personally invested - End of An Era in Louisiana Archaeology. Louisiana is where I learned what applied archaeology and cultural heritage studies were all about. My colleagues in the Louisiana Division of Archaeology – Tom Eubanks, Nancy Hawkins, Duke Rivett, Chip McGimsey, Joe Saunders, Jeff Girard, George Avery, Chris Hays, and others were some of the finest colleagues I have ever known. The dedication these folks poured into the cultural resources of Louisiana over the years was truly phenomenal. The current short-sighted economic agenda of Louisiana lawmakers ushered in the dismantling of the Regional and Station Archaeology Program. But as I noted in that post “Though the Regional Archaeology Program may be gone, the 20 years of work by Tom Eubanks, Nancy Hawkins, and all of my archaeological colleagues in the state will surely result in new and innovative directions for the preservation and presentation of the rich cultural heritage of Louisiana.” That is the challenge for us in the 21st century and the primary reason I created this blog in the first place.
- Now here is where the challenge of “best post” gets interesting – my public outreach type posts do reasonably well in terms of views. They are the bread and butter of this blog over the past three years. Like my interview with the three co-founders of South Carolina Archaeology Public Outreach Division last week, or posts on my recent collaborative work with PIARA in Hualcayán, Peru I enjoy that blogging is a venue for sharing and learning from others in the public outreach arena. However, the series of posts I consider the most important are the ones that are generally down in the bottom 25 percentile of hits – those that deal with open source and digital technology such as Wikipedia and Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. They are important posts because I believe the issues are critically relevant as we move more toward open authority and user-generated content. In archaeology, I don’t see a lot of other discussion on these points.
As I think about the challenge of determining “best” posts, I realize that in a certain respect, I evaluate blog posts in the same way I approach my “regular” peer-reviewed publications. I write and publish about what is of interest to me or I perceive of value to others. Some of those pieces get a reasonable circulation because they are popular and more in the mainstream of discussion. I also try to publish in some venue the research projects where I collect data so that for even a limited number of interested folks, the information is available. For example, if you are a fan of Warren K. Moorehead, I recently posted transcriptions I made of a set of his field notes and journals along with a portion of Jacob Walters’ journal that contains the first written account of the Poverty Point site of which I am aware.
The South Carolina Archaeology Public Outreach Division (SCAPOD) was formed in 2010 with a mission to engage the public in the presentation and preservation of the regions cultural heritage through publications, education and museums. With an explicitly ‘think local’ perspective the recently formed 501(c)3 is an example of how local initiatives can be instrumental in bringing the often exotic perceptions of archaeological research into our own backyards. The three SCAPOD co-founders, Helena Ferguson, Meg Gaillard, and Erika Shofner demonstrate the commitment to public service in archaeology by the new generation of practitioners. Below is an interview with the three co-founding members of SCAPOD.
Can you tell me a bit about SCAPOD, how and why the organization was formed?
In 2008, Meg and Erika were looking for a topic to present at the upcoming Southeastern Archaeology Conference (SEAC). Both were interested in educational outreach in archaeology and heard about the South Carolina archaeology teacher’s manual “Can you Dig it?” that was compiled in the 1980s. They decided to examine the manual along with the current archaeology outreach in South Carolina and find a way to update the lesson plans to fit current standards. The more they researched the more wonderful outreach programs they found (both past and present). They outlined a possible plan for updating and maintaining a new archaeology manual for South Carolina teachers at the conference. A number of professionals expressed interest in what they proposed. Helena soon joined the group and the three started coming up with more archaeology public outreach ideas and projects. It was clear that there was no single organization that dealt primarily with archaeology outreach in South Carolina, so Erika, Meg, and Helena decided to make their own.
What niche does SCAPOD fill in educational outreach in South Carolina?
We do a little bit of everything – classroom visits, adult programs/presentations, museum exhibit design, and so forth. We have plans of more projects for the future. However, one of our main visions for SCAPOD was for it to be an archaeology outreach “clearinghouse” of sorts. There are numerous other organizations that do great archaeology outreach programs. We don’t want to be seen as competition for organizations who do similar programs to SCAPOD, but rather a collaborator that can assist in successful archaeology outreach within South Carolina. We also aim to fill in the gaps of needed programing statewide.
In your outreach efforts you promote a “think local” perspective. Has that approach been successful?
We like to think so. Often, we find that when we talk to people about archaeology, they begin to talk about far off lands like Egypt and Greece. Although archaeology in these areas is widely publicized, people have a hard time making personal connections with far off lands. Discovering and learning more about the archaeology that goes on in South Carolina, sometimes literally in their backyards, makes the topic much more relevant to people especially children. Children are total cultural creatures, meaning they are sponges of the culture that surrounds them. Exposure to thinking culturally on a local level is a tremendous benefit to them as they grow and develop. We have been in contact with teachers about archaeology program development. They were very excited to hear we emphasize South Carolina’s history and archaeology. In local schools, when they focus on South Carolina history, our archaeology programs fit nicely into the curriculum while also meeting state teaching standards.
How has your public outreach evolved since SCAPOD was formed?
We have learned to be flexible with our approaches and programs. We found giving multiple program options, or offering to tweak a program so it fits the setting/current area of study works the best, rather than having set or “canned” program options. It seems best if you allow the client/audience to guide some of the development of the programs so that we can effectively reach the public. Our outreach is a unique form of applied anthropology, where we take anthropological perspectives and make them relevant through real life examples of archaeology. We have also learned four very important words “go with the flow”. No matter how well you think you have something planned, there is always the potential for something unexpected and opportunities for creative development.
How will SCAPOD adapt programming to meet common core curriculum standards?
The manual that began this whole adventure, “Can You Dig It”, was a printed manual handed out to teachers. Our draft third grade manual is currently available and completely free on our website (scapod.org/manual). Our plans for the manual are to keep adding grades to it on the digital format. Having the manual in digital format allows us to edit in order to fit the changing nature of the South Carolina teaching standards in real time. The cost associated with editing, printing, and distributing is eliminated which allows us to keep the resource free to teachers. All SCAPOD Archaeology in the Classroom programs have a connection to the current South Carolina teaching standards, and are revised as those standards change.
What do you consider your most successful recent efforts in public outreach or community engagement?
We just completed activities from a grant that was awarded to us by Target Corporation for our Archaeology in the Classroom program. This grant allowed us to provide students with quality archaeology programs and helped teachers reinforce their lessons. The students reached with this program go to schools where budgets have been slashed preventing them from being able to take field trips and have access to supplemental educational opportunities in the classroom. Our hands-on programs brought the material to them for free.
How has SCAPOD incorporated social media and a “virtual” presence in public outreach and education?
We have a SCAPOD Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest page, as well as our website and associated blog. As SCAPOD develops, we have found that social media has been wonderful for publicizing what we do and where we have been, as well as local, national, and international stories of archaeological interest. One thing we have learned is how difficult it can be to keep up with social media posts! We are always looking for volunteers to help us keep our virtual presence active and up-to-date.
As a relatively new organization, what are some of the biggest lessons you have learned from your educational and outreach program?
You can never have too much help! We have begun to rely heavily on volunteers to help us carry out our programming. We are very fortunate to have great volunteers that make this possible. Our connections with the local archaeology community provide us with dedicated individuals.
Also, experiment! We have learned, because of the custom tailored nature of our activities, we really don’t know how a program will go until we do it. Every time we do a program we have a list of how to improve it and what worked well. The list helps us the next time we go to do the program. If you’re afraid to try something that’s never been done before, you’ll never get new and original program ideas.
What do you consider to be the biggest obstacle in developing effective educational outreach?
Time is our biggest obstacle right now. All three of us have full-time jobs outside of SCAPOD, so it can be a challenge to balance work with the development and execution of our programming. Thankfully we are all creative thinkers and do well with unique schedule adjustments. We have been fortunate in the past year to begin developing a dedicated group of volunteers. With SCAPOD’s current growth, we would not be able to do the amount of programming we have without them.
What has been your experience working with Boy Scouts in earning the Archaeology Merit Badge?
Working with the Boy Scouts in helping them earn their Archaeology Merit badges is a relatively new endeavor for SCAPOD. The requirements and guidelines for the merit badge are quite rigorous and, require professional assistance or supervision. Although it is possible to complete the badge without direct access to artifacts or archaeological sites, we feel that hands-on experiences with archaeologists are the best way for the Scouts to get a true understanding of what the badge (and archaeology) really mean. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with a State Park Service Ranger who previously worked in Florida doing archaeology outreach activities. When he came to South Carolina, he already had a good framework in place on how to fulfill the merit badge requirements using resources available through the State Parks. SCAPOD has used this framework in conjunction with our own archaeological programming to provide a hands-on experience in the field. Pairing South Carolina Boy Scout Troops with nearby archaeological sites is another way we are able to implement our “think local” theme and give the Scouts the opportunity to work at an actual site.
Do you have any words of wisdom for archaeological and museum professionals to enhance their outreach work?
Love what you do and don’t be afraid to try something new and take a risk! If you love it then the amount of time you put into it unpaid won’t be as painful. The formation of SCAPOD was a risk. There was no roadmap for what we did. We have put an enormous amount of our own time into what we have accomplished, but we love what we do. We love working with the public and seeing them light up when they make the connections our programs provide. That professional passion and those we work with is what has made us a successful nonprofit organization. Being driven by what we do and the need we fill is what is propelling the organization forward. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for SCAPOD!
Contact South Carolina Archaeology Public Outreach Division at firstname.lastname@example.org
I posted before about the class response to their “greatest insight” gained from participation in the Wikipedia as a Research Tool course at the University of Memphis this past semester. Here is my first post on the course that provides background on how I constructed the class and shifts in student thinking about Wikipedia over the semester.
This week, I take up a second question on their final exam where students recommended changes for the next time I teach the course. Below is a representative sample of student responses along with my thoughts.
What about this class did not work for you? How would you improve the course if offered in the future?
“I would improve the course by having students create articles from the (Wikipedia) list of requested pages. I feel it would be easier to have something to go off of . . . versus having students create an article on their own. I noticed at the beginning of the semester, a lot of people were simply editing the articles for their high school. I knew very little about creating an article, let alone a music or album article, and therefore got to experience a lot more in-depth about how to create one. It was actually a lot of fun getting to mess around and figure stuff out, like figuring out how to create a track list or adding an album cover. I feel that if everyone stepped out of their comfort zones and did an article that required more than just adding a few sentences, they would get a better experience of editing an article and starting from scratch.”
The Wikipedia 12-week syllabus for article creation allows students to get half-way through the course before getting serious about the topic of the article they will produce. Although I directed students to the request for articles page early in the course, the formal structure of the 12-week syllabus allowed for procrastination. The focus on creating a page was in some ways a detriment to the process. Some students created excellent pages and others not. In hindsight, the expectation that all students will create an article results in inevitable substandard pieces being loaded to Wikipedia’s public space that will ultimately be deleted. Simple fixes for this problem include:
- to not set a mandatory sequential timeframe as the current 12-week syllabus does for moving the student article from the sandbox to a live page.
- require instructor approval for moving the article from the sandbox to the live page.
- or require students to submit their articles to the formal Wikipedia editorial process when moving the pieces from the sandbox.
Understanding the coding was difficult for me, and moving my page out of the sandbox and onto a live page posed many challenges. This however, was not a sign of a fault in class, as I was given the tools to resolve these issues. My only suggestion for reducing this problem would be to possibly create a page in class, as an example. This would allow the students to be more familiar with how to complete the tasks above before they had to do it on their own.
This comment flows into a discussion of Marc Prensky’s often cited article Digital Native, Digital Immigrants. Though informative, the article seems to overstate the divide. For example, the problems some of the students had with the technology in the class, seem counter to the sweeping generalizations of the divide painted by Prensky. Simply put, as a Digital Immigrant, I overestimated the digital knowledge of the Digital Natives in the class.
Although I reviewed each step in class, we watched Wikipedia tutorials on same, and students were provided links to reference sheets for every process, some students had a difficult time with the rather simple Wikipedia coding. Some students remained unaware of the Beta Visual Editor or reference templates, despite being discussed and used as examples in class.
The fixes to the technological concerns include:
- require students to bring their laptops to class. Alternatively, the class could be held in a computer lab on campus.
- although I demonstrated all processes in class on existing articles, some students suggested that I create an article along with them. This suggestion makes complete sense to me. I was in error when assuming basic coding would be readily understood by all students.
Also, the course might be improved if the sister projects were emphasized a little more. This is just a personal suggestion because I was unaware of these projects before the class, and I was quite intrigued by them. I think spending a little more time investing some of these could be interesting and would shed more light on just how incredible Wikipedia as a whole is.
I enjoyed the reading journals and giving insight on specific things. The only thing that I really felt myself begging for during the year was just more class discussion. I really enjoyed listening to what my fellow classmates had to say about what they had found in their experiences.
The above two comments get to the essence of the changes I will incorporate in the next iteration of this course. The course ended up focusing too much on the technical aspects of Wikipedia and not enough on the concept I really wanted to bring to the table – a discussion of user-generated content and open authority as in Lori Byrd Philip’s recent article The Temple and the Bazaar: Wikipedia as a Platform for Open Authority in Museums. Although we did discuss blogs, webinars, MOOCs and related issues, in the future I will spend more time on these topics.
Also Case Studies: How Professors are Teaching with Wikipedia is an excellent alternative resource to the 12-week article writing syllabus. The assignments in the case studies do not require creating a Wikipedia article but provide experience in the same production skills, such as editing articles and adding photographs or other graphics to existing articles. These activities seem more suitable for the type of class I taught that met for only one hour, once per week for 15 weeks.
Here are a few summary points on my general experience with the class:
- The course provided students with an experience in user-generated content where they were required to make decisions and assessments independent of their instructor. Although successful, I want to push that experience further. Unfortunately, a considerable amount of time in the classroom and for the students work outside of class got bogged down in technical minutia. A one-hour per week, one semester course with Freshman, most with very limited experience in user-generated content, proved an insufficient amount of time to both introduce the concept and create the product.
- Wikipedia video tutorials and information sheets contain somewhat of a mixed message about the real world experience of Wikipedia. The admonition to “be bold” and abundant notations that you can clean up any mistakes after the fact, while true, is certainly not the position of many of the editors. While some territoriality, dismissive, and elitist comments are not uncommon on Wikipedia, the majority of editorial comments received by my students were completely in order, supportive, and on target. Whereas most students produced acceptable or superior products/edits, a significant minority put up articles of poor quality. In fact, my greatest misgiving in the course was not having safeguards in place, such as noted above, to prevent poor quality articles from going public, that will ultimately be deleted.
- I am strong proponent of open authority and user-generated content. Throughout the course, I consistently emphasized that Wikipedia was only being used as an example to examine user-generated content. Throughout the course for every Jimmy Wales video promoting Wikipedia, we watched a second video that presented a counter perspective. Ditto for readings. For example, a third question on the students final exam was to assess Tom Simonite’s The Decline of Wikipedia recently published in the MIT Technology Review. Given the brevity of the class, I did not include readings or videos that might be termed more as rants or diatribes such as Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur. However, given today’s polarized sociopolitical climate on almost every issue, there is an apparent need to expand student exposure to these more extreme positions and I will do so in the future.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and look forward to a revised course offering for the fall of 2014.
So Doug, over at Doug’s Archaeology, launched a blogging carnival leading up to the Blogging in Archaeology session at the Society for American Archaeology 2014 meetings in Austin. The idea is that Doug will pose a question each month to which folks will respond. Doug will then summarize the individual posts at the end of the month, and post the set of links. The carnival and SAA session have the Twitter hashtag #blogarch.
So, if you are up to writing a response to the monthly question on your own blog send the link to Doug’s Archaeology and/or email him (email@example.com) the link. Sounds like party!
The December topic is the The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly about Blogging.
The Good – It’s really all pretty good. In the last month’s post I talked about why I blogged and that says it all.
The Bad – The biggest downside is that blogging can be a real time suck. I take the writing and content pretty seriously – at least from my perspective. Most posts go through at least 3 or 4 major drafts and then a few more minor ones. Although I like to think that the more substantive posts I write from scratch take me about 3 hours – it’s probably closer to 4 or 5 from the very start to pushing the publish button. If I am publishing a guest post, an interview with someone else, or something short and directed like this post, I have maybe 2 hours invested in each post.
For posts I write, I now use only photos I have taken and played with in Photoshop. I think my images are at least aesthetically pleasing, and most often relevant to the post, at least in my head. Finding and creating the right image also takes time. I also have a whole set of half-written blogs that I probably just need to dump as they are no longer relevant. So, time commitment is really the bad part of blogging for me.
The ugly – Very few trolls have commented on my blog over the years. I made a firm decision several years ago to always approve a comment and never delete a response unless it is truly offensive. I began this policy with the C.H. Nash Museum FB page where I deleted one rather bizarre and somewhat offensive comment a few years ago and regretted doing so. On FB I find that a reasoned dialogue with haters or negative Neds/Nancys has a neutralizing impact. The same is true with my blog. I recall only one instance of a rather strident and polar commenter who was not interested in a dialogue, but a platform. The individual pretty much just went away when confronted with a reasoned response. Engagement is an important part of the “social” in social media – blogs, FB, et al. should not just be used as a megaphone but in true dialogue.
The post below is written by my colleague Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza the Co-Director along with Rebecca Bria of Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA). I have posted before about the fantastic community outreach and cultural heritage work of PIARA. On December 6th of this year, PIARA sponsored a Christmas party for the 140 children of the Hualcayán community in the Andes mountains of Peru. PIARA views theses events as an integral part of their applied archaeology program not just for the community but with the community. In addition to archaeological research, in the coming year, PIARA will continue to focus on community wellness, cultural heritage and economic development, and projects such as medical care and electricity restoration in the Hualcayán community. I will especially appreciate your considering making a financial contribution or other support for PIARA during this holiday season and beyond.
An Act of Love in Hualcayán
by Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza
There are many people who worry about giving the perfect gift to their relative. But what happens for those people who do not have enough resources to buy the Christmas tree, festive dinner, or the gifts? This is the situation in the community of Hualcayán in highland Ancash, Peru. There is no money to buy presents. People there can only prepare a dinner and share it with their family members.
This year Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) had the idea to prepare a party for all the children in Hualcayán. First, we collected a list of names of all the children from the community. The nurse of the community, Ofelia, and the principal of the school, Magali, helped me to collect the names for the list. We were surprised because the list contained the names of more than 140 boys and girls who live in Hualcayán; in other words, almost half of the population living in the community are children!
We decided to prepare a Christmas party at the school in Hualcayán on December 6th, so the children could celebrate and have fun. But the big surprise was seeing several parents from the community also sharing the hot chocolate and panettone, which warmed us on that cold day. Despite the cold, the excitement of the children knowing that they would receive a gift, made the day feel warm as the sunshine broke through the clouds.
Parents from the community also supported this event and prepared two big pots of hot chocolate. We also had sweet panettóne from Lima thanks to Meruquita´s Bakery. Children from Hualcayán do not usually drink milk every day. Fortunately there was even enough hot chocolate to share with the parents who accompanied us on this very happy day.
After everyone had a full stomach, it was time for the children to show their artistic talent, as a form of thanks for the celebration. Without exception all students participated in the artistic event, from the tiniest preschooler to the oldest secondary school student. The children prepared songs dances and traditional scenes with themes related to Christmas. The singing was particularly welcome as there is currently no music from radios because Hualcayán has been without electricity for the past several months. All of the children sang loudly and were proud of their participation.
Then came the most awaited part, the distribution of gifts! With the list of names of all children living in Hualcayán, we had organized all of the presents in the school library the day before. We started with the little children, but all the boys and girls were so excited that even though it started to rain, they stayed in line to receive their gifts – waiting for their doll, car, train, soccer ball or volley ball.
The faces of joy and surprise at the time of receiving the gifts was the best gift I could receive. All of the children thanked us many times and even their fathers and mothers came from the farms or houses to show their appreciation.
To bring a little joy to these children during the holidays is difficult to put into words. The satisfaction of sharing with the community is the best reward – an act of love – a different way to share with one person or many on this special date.
Although PIARA performs archaeological research in Hualcayán, the communication and closeness we have with people has enabled us to participate in various community activities, such as a simple holiday celebration. With great joy PIARA is able to be a part of this community that received us a few years ago, and it allows us to work on their behalf.
Watch this brief video with highlights from the Christmas Party!