Dr. Ian Lindsay (ArAGATS co-director) and a Purdue University colleague assist students with a geocaching game at Cumberland Elementary School’s annual Math Night (West Lafayette, IN).
In an age where assisted navigation systems are available in every new car and standard in our mobile devices, it’s not hard to imaging how the spatial reasoning skills that humans have honed over our long evolutionary history might begin to decline. Indeed the weakening of wayfinding skills is a phenomenon that is being documented in ethnographic cases across the globe, and is part of a broader debate in society about the degree to which modern technology is enhancing human cognition or stunting it (see for example Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage [Norton, 2014] vs Clive Thompson’s Smarter Than You Think [Penguin, 2013]). However, even as advanced satellite imagery and navigation technologies help archaeologists document ancient sites with increasing precision and accuracy, map reading and spatial reasoning remain fundamental skills in archaeological fieldwork and analysis. So who better than an archaeologist to instill the value of maps to young people?
With this in mind, I spent an evening at Cumberland Elementary School’s annual Math Night on September 25, using a simple geo-caching game to teach K-3rd graders about the importance and fun of map skills. First, I employed a mock pirate’s treasure map to teach the students about locating places using a set of spatial coordinates (i.e., latitude/longitude). Students were then presented with a map of their school overlaid with a grid and provided with three sets of coordinates that would guide them to secret prizes at each location, usually a classroom. It was an entertaining and rewarding way to enhance applied spatial reasoning and basic math skills relying on kids’ inherent desire to find stuff!
Of course, it didn’t hurt to have Project ArAGATS’ DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter (or, drone) on the table to spark their imagination!
Elementary school students dig archaeology | Cornell Chronicle.
The week of June 15-19, professors Adam T. Smith, anthropology, and Lori Khatchadourian, Near Eastern studies, led a mini-course on archaeology at the Elizabeth Anne Clune Montessori School of Ithaca. Nine children ages 5-8 spent five mornings exploring aspects of archaeological research.
“It was an opportunity for students to learn about the research being done by archaeologists at Cornell’s Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies and begin to understand the importance of studying and preserving humanity’s deep past,” said Smith….
The excavations in plastic tubs were a highlight! More at the link.
The Aragats Foundation is committed to utilizing Armenia’s heritage as a basis for educational initiatives both in the US and in Armenia. When you teach archaeology, you teach not only history, but also mathematics, language, architecture, materials science, zoology, botany, economics, anthropology…. The list goes on. Any subject can be taught through the lens of archaeology.
Last summer, under the auspices of an Engaged Anthropology grant
from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Aragats Foundation Advisory Board member Maureen Marshall led a workshop in the village of Tsaghkahovit that brought the results of her analysis back to the community where her research had been conducted.
Dr. Maureen Marshall working with students in the village of Tsaghkahovit
Dr. Marshall conducted her PhD research in Armenia under the auspices of Project ArAGATS, receiving her degree from the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology in 2014. Upon completion, she was eager to return the results of her work back to the communities in Armenia where we work. In her workshop, Dr. Marshall was joined by two other members of The Aragats Foundation, Dr. Lori Khatchadourian and Dr. Ian Lindsay.
The 2014 workshop in Tsaghkahovit was an important first step in our mission of promoting an engaged archaeology that brings the benefits of research directly back to the communities that live amidst Armenia’s extraordinary ancient heritage. The Aparan Heritage Center, when it is a reality, will become a center for teaching heritage to communities throughout the region.