Education Leads to Preservation at Gault
December 7, 2010 | by D. Clark Wernecke, Executive Director, The Gault School of Archaeological Research
We leveraged the AIA’s Site Preservation Grant in a number of ways to try to get the most we could out of it and, coming to the end of 2010, I feel we have been very successful. We applied for funding for three discrete projects in our educational programs; the writing, design, and printing of a teacher’s guide to a free DVD we distribute, the implementation of a model teachers workshop and, to give us the ability to have a presence at three teachers conferences here in Texas.
In order to accomplish the first goal we helped put together an alliance of organizations in Texas that promote archaeological education. This group includes the Gault School of Archaeological Research, the Shumla School, the Texas Archeological Society, the Texas Historical Foundation and the interactive website, TexasBeyondHistory.net. Members of a working committee from these organizations helped us to put together the teacher’s guide (available as a pdf on our website www.gaultschool.org) and also develop a curriculum for the workshop we held in July.
The group’s impact was really felt as we worked on our third goal. We wanted to meet with teachers at conventions for the Texas Council for the Social Studies, Science Teachers Association of Texas and, Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented. Booths and materials are fairly pricey at these large conventions so, by banding together, we were able to promote each member at the alliance. At each convention we had a display featuring materials from each member with monitors playing our video and displaying member websites. We also had materials on the programs that would benefit teachers and students as well as handing out free DVD’s and copies of the teacher’s guide.
The effort was a great success. We learned things that we could handle better in the future but that was part of what the exercise was all about. We talked to (and got email addresses from) a lot of teachers. The largest convention, the science teachers, had 7,000 attending over four days! The GSAR was able to contact key people in five area school districts we had not previously been involved with and have fielded a large number of requests for information since then.
We did run across some indications that our concern about archaeological education is not misplaced. We overheard one teacher remark that he “didn’t teach that Indian stuff” in his social studies class. A number of science teachers said that they would pass on the information to the history teachers at their school to which we replied that some of the end result of archaeology might be considered history but that the process was filled with hard science. We had many great conversations with teachers as to how they could integrate archaeology into their present curriculum (and into the State’s requirements).
The entire experience we started with the AIA grant proposal has been a very rewarding one. We have forged new alliances that amplify our message, found new outlets for those messages, and made a number of new friendships. We are now looking ahead to 2011 – we will expand our offerings for the classroom, hold a larger teachers workshop, and, budget permitting, participate once again in the professional conventions. Most importantly the comments I get from the Gault site’s neighbors regarding this new exposure are fiercely protective which bodes well for future site protection and preservation.