As most of you are already aware, last year marked our first field season in which we managed to incorporate a public archaeology experience. While in the past we had the occasional volunteer or two at our Pointe-aux-Vieux site, 2012 at Orwell Corner represented the first time our work became uber-accessible to one and all, a fact on which we capitalized (as did the general public!); however, it was not the first time we attempted to reach out and bring Prince Edward Island archaeology to the people of Prince Edward Island (and possibly beyond). You see, while we always like to engage people on-site, every so often we like to take the opportunity to seek them out off-site. To paraphrase that iconic line from Field of Dreams: Present on it, and they will come.
Well, that’s the hope anyway.
While it’s been a busy and somewhat hectic (ongoing) field season in 2013, we’ve managed to carve out more time to present our craft to the public, an activity we typically reserve for the off-season. Below is an account to date of our presentations/workshops. As you’ll see, we’ve spent quite a bit of time working with kids, and I know I don’t need to tell you that it has provided for some interesting experiences.
Prince Edward Island Provincial Heritage Fair 2013
Each May, some of the best and the brightest elementary and junior high school students on PEI gather at the Confederation Center of the Arts in Charlottetown for the Provincial Heritage Fair. What is that, you ask? Well, here’s what the Department of Tourism and Culture has to say on their website:
The Provincial Heritage Fair is a grand celebration of Canada’s heritage, in the form of student history projects. Students in Grades 5 to 9 have an opportunity to explore the history of their families, communities, province and/or country.
Anyway, this year (May 16), as in previous years, we were asked to put on just one of the many heritage-related workshops that are offered to students throughout the day. It was my first time involved with this venture, and I have to say, it was a blast. We presented to about thirty students on the basic theme of “What is Archaeology”. Essentially, we would ask them questions along the lines of “What is an artefact?”, “What is an archaeological site?”, “Why do archaeologists excavate sites?” and so on, allowing them to provide us with their own answers, after which we would then deliver a more professional answer (although to be fair, there were a lot of times when it wasn’t even needed, as kids can be really perceptive). We also included an artefact guessing game, and capped the presentation off with a workshop on how to make Mi’kmaq clay pots, giving them a chance to get their hands dirty. All in all, a tonne of fun, and illuminating for them, and for us as well.
(While making clay pots)
Student: “I’m going to go home tonight and tell my mom and dad that I learned how to make pot today!”
Me: “‘A’ pot. You’re going to tell them how you learned to make a pot. The ‘a’ is very important. Please don’t leave it out, or I’m going to get fired.”
Isaac Stewart taking students through an archaeology slideshow presentation.
Believe it or not, this photo actually captures the “learning how to make pot” moment.
Clay pots in progress.
University of Prince Edward Island Day Camp
On July 11, we participated for the first time in the Panther Academy, a summer day camp program put on by the University of Prince Edward Island. They were looking to do something with archaeology, and when we found out, we eagerly offered our services. We gave the same presentation as the heritage fair, this time to a group of slightly younger students. We weren’t sure how they would take to the material, but they were quite energetic, and relished the question-answer format, which took us a bit by surprise. Because of time constraints, we held off on the clay pot-making portion of the routine, but opened the floor to extended answers on some of our questions. Again, a good time was had by all.
1) An elaborate and epic one-sided discussion of evolution by a seven-year-old, from trilobites to dinosaurs to humans.
2) Being taught the many ways in which a shipwreck can be exposed, including – but not limited to – a beaver that dams up a river.
Meghan Ferris (back row, far left) and Isaac Stewart (back row, far right) with day campers at UPEI.
Orwell Corner Historic Village Public Archaeology Presentation
Because we’re currently into our second year at our site in Orwell Corner, we decided that it was time to get a presentation together on the work we’ve been doing and let people in on some of our findings to date. On July 30, we crashed the Community Hall in Orwell, and presented to a not-so-numerous crowd of about eleven people, taking them through our public archaeology program, as well as our research into the material culture and human history of the site. Although it wasn’t the most well attended of presentations, it was still a success, and a great opportunity for us to fine-tune our public speaking skills, as well as refine our presentation, which we hope to give again at some point.
Museum Madness 2013
This past Wednesday (August 21), we hit up the Garden of the Gulf Museum in Montague the Beautiful for Museum Madness 2013. (Fun fact: the Garden of the Gulf is the oldest museum on the Island, established in 1958.) Back in June, we were approached by staff there about getting involved with an annual summer program called “Museum Madness”, a series of fun and informative weekly activities aimed at exposing children to history. We used our by now tried and true presentation, taking a group of young kids between ages six and twelve through the basic aspects of archaeology. Afterwards, we took them outside the museum and taught them how to make clay pots – no marijuana jokes this time, thankfully!
Watching the transition from intense clay pot-making focus to about a dozen kids taking their clay and mashing it every which way against the brick exterior of the museum in an attempt to make cool impressions.
Isaac Stewart and Meghan Ferris presenting on archaeology, with Dawne Knockwood manning the slides.
Dawne Knockwood giving a step-by-step workshop on how to make a Mi’kmaq clay pot.
See you in the next post!