I’m teaching the Archaeology course this year as a sixth, i.e. extra, course. I agreed to it because I’ve not taught it in a few years and I wanted to get it out there as a viable course (hasn’t seemed to work; it’s not running next year…). But I’ve been using it as a bit of a lab course, i.e. trying things to see how they work. We’ve done a lot of electronic assessments, project-based work, and independent learning, using a lot of material from my online version of the course.

In talking to the students one day, though, they said that they expected more, well, archaeology (the archaeology part of the course reflects how much of our knowledge of the ancient world comes from artifacts). So a quick search of the files and I found something that I thought might work.

The class before April break, they chose groups. The assignment: create an alphabet of their own using symbols and shapes (no letters or numbers) and create a message using the alphabet. Their homework over the break: bring in a 4 to 6 inch terracotta pot. The class back from April break they decorated their pots with the alphabet-message (and in general) and then the fun began. We went outside and shattered (and I mean shattered) those pots (note to self: thin bags = no bags).

The students, in their naivete, thought the fun was the smashing. Oh were they mistaken. The next class I arrived with the shattered pots in their (now repaired) plastic bags, we went outside again, and their job was to sketch each piece, both shape and decoration, and reconstruct the pot (the students were hoping for glue, but I settled for theoretic reconstruction).

It was a fun project. The students enjoyed (although one student did opine that he was going to find an archaeologist, write to him, and tell him how bad he felt for him) it, at least the active / engaged part of it, and gave them a glimpse of at least part of archaeologists’ jobs.

Sometimes, in school and at home, it’s good to disconnect.