Education and Outreach at the Society for American Archaeology

This past week the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) held their Annual Conference here in Memphis, Tennessee.  The meeting provided a lot of great public education and community outreach discussions and resources.  Here are a few of those offerings:

On Wednesday, I attended the Project Archaeology Coordinators and Friends meeting.  Project Archaeology has created a series of curriculum guides that use archaeological inquiry to instruct on past and present cultures in social studies and science education.  A particularly intriguing discussion took place on Common Core Standards that are moving into the educational curriculum gap left by No Child Left Behind.  Project Archaeology curriculums are ideal for Common Core Standards that foster critical thinking skills.  The Project Archaeology webpage has information about training workshops for their curriculums.

On Saturday morning I attended the always enjoyable Archaeologyland hands-on activity.  The session consists of a series of both time-tested and new fun activities for youth that teach principles of archaeology research, preservation, and craft production.  The activities are easily transferred to the classroom or museum setting and require no prerequisite knowledge of archaeological methods.  The ArchaeologyLand link has pdf files for many of these innovative activities.

The Public Archaeology Interest Group (PAIG) of the SAA sponsored a symposium Public Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century.  In line with their goal to “serve all of those interested in public archaeology” the group intends to publish the session papers over the next several months in a blog form.  Given the success of this year’s symposium, at the PAIG meeting this past Saturday evening, members discussed for hosting an e-symposium/forum or possibly a poster session at next year’s SAA annual meeting.  Future session topics considered included the role of avocational archaeology and creating methods for evaluating the impact of public education programs.

The Public Education Committee (PEC) of the SAA also met and established several priorities for work in the coming year.  First, a subcommittee will begin working to update the Archaeology for the Public webpages.  Second, in a recent survey of the 50 state coordinators for public education in the SAA, respondents overwhelmingly expressed a desire to receive more regular communication on outreach and educational opportunities.  One tool the coordinators considered for disseminating such information was to revive the Archaeology and Public Education Newsletter.  Although popular, the Newsletter was discontinued several years ago because of increased production and mailing costs.  Today, newsletter distribution as pdf files is considered an economically feasible alternative.  The PEC also noted the need to review experiences with the 15-year old Boy Scout Archaeology Merit Badge and to consider recommending possible modifications to the Boy Scouts.

Finally, at the Annual Meeting the SAA formerly voted to support the Second Annual National Archaeology Day scheduled for October 20, 2012.  Initiated by the Archaeological Institute of America, and with five months to go before the actual event, the list of sponsoring organizations for 2012 is already double that of 2011.  Supporters include the National Park Service, thus allowing its 400 parks across the United States to feature special archaeology programs on October 20 through lectures, special exhibits, and other events.  National Archaeology Day is a perfect opportunity to highlight cultural heritage preservation issues.  You can register as a supporting organization and start planning to hold special activities.  The National Archaeology Day website has more information about the event.

Do you have an additional public education or outreach experience from the SAA meetings to share?

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