Skype a Scientist Pro Tips: Engaging with K-12 Classrooms

Presentations can be a challenge when you are not physically in the classroom and don’t have slides. Here are some things to consider that may help:

  • Use props (e.g. your tools, a 3D replica of an artifact, a real artifact, etc.) that you can show on camera
  • Have the students use their bodies to demonstrate concepts:
    • Survey: walk in a straight line and think about what you see; write things down as you go
    • Artifacts are everywhere—gesture to shoes, chairs, etc. and ask: “How will an archaeologist in the future interpret your classroom? What will they find? What kind of room might they think it is? What clues will your class leave behind?”
  • Use real-life examples and challenges:
    • Write down everything you throw in the trash for a day. How does trash help us understand people and their activities?
    • Why would the dishes in the school cafeteria tell us more about people than a single, unique diamond necklace? Archaeologists aren’t treasure hunters. We want to understand more about people and care a lot about things that aren’t shiny, gold, or otherwise “valuable.”
  • Bust myths!
    • Aliens
    • Treasure hunting/looting, monetary value of artifacts, the idea that we keep them or sell them
    • That we look specifically for one thing and then pull it out of the ground
    • That we dig holes (we work slowly and carefully!)
    • Reinforce the idea that we have research questions and a plan that dictates what we do and how we do it
  • Talk about teamwork and how different specialists come together to make a project happen.
  • Reinforce respect for ancient and modern cultures (and the dead, if talking about human remains/burials). Discuss the importance of forming relationships and working with local communities and local archaeologists and professionals.
  • Treat every question with excitement; if it’s not the best question or is rooted in a misconception, use language that is respectful and gently explain the issue.
  • Encourage students to research more on a topic they find interesting.
  • Talk about trusted sources and provide examples of good places to look for factual information.
  • Be open with students about how you got where you are: were you always interested in this field? Did you switch from something else? Did you discover this interest by accident?
  • Be an advocate for students working hard in school and for following up with their interests.
  • Let students know it was hard to get where you are today, but show them that they can also pursue their interests if they work hard (some teachers like it if you emphasize how anyone can go to college if they want to).

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