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Exploring the Archaeology of Suffolk’s Aggregate Landscapes

An Outreach Project for Schools and Communities

Initiated and Run by

Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service.
Working partners included Suffolk Wildlife Trust; West Stow Anglo Saxon Village; Claydon & Thurleston High Schools; Suffolk Youth Services; SCC Education Advisory Service.

Funding sources

Funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund and monitored by English Heritage.

Aims

  • To engage and excite a range of young people in their heritage.
  • To develop the interest and knowledge of young people in their local area with specific attention to river valleys.
  • To use archaeological evidence from Suffolk’s river valleys to experiment with and experience ancient technology as a means to better understand and appreciate life in the past.
  • To work within a former gravel working site as a means of raising awareness of gravel extraction and the re-instatement of the site as a reserve for conservation and leisure.
  • To work, co-operate and socialise with a range of adults and peers.
  • To provide a cross curriculum training package for all schools, educational centres and stake holders.

Work done and results

This project was specific in its intention to push the boundaries and test the possibilities of carrying out experimental and experiential archaeology involving practical work with young people. It was designed to encourage teachers and outreach workers to undertake more adventurous work with their students and challenge the current perception that anything that puts students at risk should be avoided through fear of legal action.

The project comprised two main elements:

  • Classroom based work introducing Key Stage 2 children to the aggregates industry and archaeology through practical activities.
  • Three experimental camps for young people with the activities based on archaeological evidence recorded in advance of quarrying.

The work pursued within the experimental archaeology camps surpassed all expectations both in the success of its delivery and in the student’s reaction to it. The variable weather was planned for and helped test all participants in terms of developing ‘soft skills’ such as determination, perseverance and co-operation. These were needed when part of the ‘experience’ involved building and then sleeping in basic shelters in woodland in early autumn.

Outcomes

‘Hard’ outcomes include:

  • A training package for teachers and outreach workers in the form of DVD’s and printed materials that can be used as part of their curriculum development work. The package uses film footage of the camps including interesting feedback from students addressing issues of learning, trust and how students can feel patronized by well-meaning adults.
  • Two roundhouses which will be used as educational resources for The Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Mid Suffolk District Council’s Ranger Service.
  • A Roman kiln that can be re-fired with local school or community groups.
  • An in-filled reproduction Roman kiln suitable as an excavation project in the future.
  • A series of training films with supporting materials for use within the education and outreach sector.

‘Soft’ outcomes include:

  • Staff from various action groups (survival, woodcraft), trained in working with young people on heritage activities.
  • Teaching staff and assistants from both primary and secondary schools with an increased understanding of their local heritage and how to access and deliver it to their students.
  • Raised awareness of heritage within participating groups, evident from the feedback.
  • An interesting case study for teachers and outreach workers considering the health and safety issues associated with potentially hazardous situations.
  • The opportunity for participants to work with a range of adults and peers to aid the development of communication, reliability, perseverance, responsibility and trust.
  • The opportunity for students to experience different ways of learning, environments and expectations.

‘Archaeology is a fantastic resource for developing an understanding of heritage and the historic landscape. If we are to do it well then the people employed to deliver it need the skills and expertise to be able to maximize the opportunities that are there. Let’s see archaeology as an opportunity for learning about life, as a tool to enable learning rather than just a way of learning history.’

Lessons Learned

  • Young people are quite capable of managing risk and readily take responsibility if trusted and respected: Indeed this was something young people vocalised. They often feel patronised and treated as if they will naturally try to ‘muck it up.’
  • Recruitment of professionals leading workshops needs to be carefully managed. Professionals should not only skilled in their own discipline but skilled in working with young people.
  • Tutor/participant ratios need to be high to ensure safety in hazardous situations.
  • Providing experiences of this nature and quality is expensive. Alternative methods need to be explored, for instance trained volunteer groups or sponsorship.

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