And the winner is……..
I’ve spent the last few days taking stock. Last year I set up as a freelance heritage and archaeological education specialist (there’s a mouthful!) and, amongst other things, I run handling sessions in schools. The new curriculum should be a gift to archaeologists as at last it is acknowledged that the Romans didn’t come to an empty Island and schools are now looking for way to teach ‘From the Stone Age to the Iron Age’. The emphasis on chronology and the ‘long arc of development and complexity’ means we can suggest all sorts of interesting approaches to teachers- if they have the time in a very crowded curriculum!
In a half-day session I try to give children an idea of the time-scales involved in ‘The Stone Age to the Iron Age’, equip them with some understanding of the differences between the different ‘stone ages’ along with the terminology of Paleo, Meso and Neo lithic (which they love learning), introduce the idea of a Bronze Age, talk about how archaeologists work and how we look at evidence but most importantly I give them stuff to look at, pick up, hold, sniff, argue about, sort, draw and wonder at.
I’ve been going through notes I’ve taken and letters and drawings by children to try and work out which object fascinated them the most.
And the winner is………………
A cattle mandible! It is ‘cool’, the teeth wiggle and one comes out. This worries some children as they think they’ve broke it but it starts a really useful conversation about what holds teeth in place and what has happened to the gums after thousands of years in the ground. Some children get fascinated by pottery as they can imagine the people who made it. A piece of an antler pick is popular as is some worked bone. Flint is described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘clever’ and a replica hand axe admired but when it comes down to it- a cattle mandible with wobbly teeth does it every time.