Project Archaeology Leadership Academy

SCAPOD Co-founder Erika Shofner explores sites in Montana during the 2015 Project Archaeology Academy.
SCAPOD Co-founder Erika Shofner explores sites in Montana during the 2015 Project Archaeology Academy.

In June, SCAPOD co-founder Erika Shofner had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy in Bozeman, Montana. Project Archaeology, a joint program between Montana State University and the Bureau of Land Management, was developed in the early 1990s with three main objectives: to develop awareness of the nation’s diverse and fragile archaeological sites, to instill a sense of personal responsibility for stewardship of these sites, and to enhance science literacy and cultural understanding through the study of archaeology. Since its creation, Project Archaeology has expanded across the nation through a network of like-minded archaeologists, museum educators, and teachers, providing high-quality (and common core aligned) educational materials, professional development opportunities, and professional support.

The June 2015 Leadership Academy was made up of a mix of educators from different backgrounds (museums, archaeology, and teaching), and from locations all over the country. Being from Columbia, SC, Erika had the distinction of having the most easterly origin of any of the participants. During the Academy, participants were immersed in the Project Archaeology curriculum, specifically Investigating Shelter, in order to return to their home states and educate others in how to effectively use the Project Archaeology curriculum in the classroom.

Investigating Shelter activity during the 2015 Project Archaeology Academy.
Investigating Shelter activity during the 2015 Project Archaeology Academy.

Each day focused on participants learning the Investigating Shelter curriculum and participating in the activities as though they were classroom students. Erika stated that, “it was enjoyable actually doing the lessons themselves, instead of just figuring out how to teach them.” The nine Investigating Shelter lessons guide students through what archaeology is, does, and the tools (such as observation, inference and analysis) used in completing an archaeological investigation. Each chapter builds upon the last until the end where all the knowledge gained is used in the investigation of an actual shelter site. “One of the really exciting aspects of this curriculum is there are at least a dozen different final shelter lesson to choose from, all from different time periods or areas of the United States, and more are being developed! Some of my favorite lessons, such as the Family Room Site allowed us (as students) to get up and move around. The Family Room Site had us looking at the floor plan of a family room (laid out on a painter’s tarp) with different artifacts scattered throughout the room. We were actually able to interact with the ‘site’ to a degree during our investigation and analysis, giving us a more immersive experience than a simple worksheet could provide,” Erika said.

I would like to thank the wonderful people at Project Archaeology: Courtney, Jeanne, Crystal, and Bekah – you all were wonderful teachers and hosts, and provided me with a remarkable educational experience. To my Leadership Academy 2015 cohort – you were an amazing group of people that I felt truly honored to meet, learn with, and learn from. I look forward to seeing how Project Archaeology continues to educate and expand in the future. – Erika

Erika and her fellow Project Archaeology participants also had the chance to take some amazing field trips to Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, and the Museum of the Rockies to gain experience in educating outside the classroom…and have a lot of fun doing it! During the week there was a lot of discussion and sharing of ideas from the participants’ various backgrounds. Since Erika’s background is in archaeology and not education, she was thrilled to discuss some of her ideas and questions on the classroom perspective with teachers who were familiar with the material.

Not only does Project Archaeology have wonderful professional development workshops and opportunities such as the Leadership Academy, but it is also dedicated to supporting its educators all over the country after the events are over. Participants were given a variety of resources and contacts to help assist in their own promotion and teaching of Project Archaeology. That being said, SCAPOD is now the Project Archaeology representative organization for South Carolina, and we are working on developing and expanding Project Archaeology within the state. Please visit the Project Archaeology South Carolina page (currently under construction).

SCAPOD is planning to host Project Archaeology teacher workshops in the future. If you are a South Carolina teacher who is interested in participating in or learning more about a workshop, please contact us through this website or by emailing scapod@gmail.com.