Now that Dig Greater Manchester is really underway we’ve just finished the first phase of the schools programme in Wigan. This involved a week travelling around Wigan giving class visits to all 10 schools that have signed up to take part in the Etherstone Hall evaluation. It was a great week and a fabulous opportunity for the pupils to get to know Sarah (educational archaeologist) and find out about what would be happening on site.
Each school had an hour-long visit which introduced archaeology and the history of the site itself. The age and knowledge range of the students varied wildly but they all had a fairly good idea of what archaeology is. The sessions were great fun and included a mixture of activities and discussion. Each one started with the question ‘who knows what an archaeologist does?’ which brought up all sorts of answers! After discussing what archaeologists do and where they dig we got stuck into some rubbish sorting games. These were designed to get the students thinking about what sort of things may be found on a dig and what these things can tell us about the people who dropped them. As you can imagine the reaction to bags of (clean!) rubbish with things like old shoes and banana skins in was quite interesting!
The sessions also included some map reading to illustrate how archaeologists find the sites they are going to dig (we’re not psychic as some of the younger pupils thought!). We concentrated on maps of Etherstone Hall and the children were asked to look for familiar symbols and taught about those that they didn’t recognise. The final activity of the sessions was ‘What’s that for’ a chance to try out the tools that will be used on site and work out what they’re used for. This was an important activity to help the students feel a little more confident about what they’ll be doing on site rather than like fish out of water.
The class visits really highlighted just how much interest there is amongst both teachers and students for archaeology. Every class was asked ‘who is excited about going digging?’ and without exception the answer from everyone was always ‘I am!!’. This overwhelming enthusiasm seems to stem not only from the archaeology itself but also from the opportunity to try something new and different and get out of the classroom. We’re hoping that the skills the students will learn can be applied to all sorts of areas both as part of their school work (interpretation, analysis) and in life in general (confidence, communication), and of course inspire a new generation of budding archaeologists!