“Daddy, I want to become an archaeologist, I’ll study of my beloved dinosaurs in my free time!”
What if you are the father of this enthusiastic child? What would be your reaction? The problem is that in the majority of the cases parents don’t know what to say or simply say “no, you’ll be a doctor!” But it’s not the point!
We are five archaeologists from different parts of Italy (Elisabetta, Samanta and Nina from Tuscany, Giovanna from Puglia and Francesco from Marche) and we are very convinced that telling archaeology to children and adults is an exciting way for educating them about our cultural heritage.
All of us remember the excitement of visiting archaeological sites when we were children and later on all of us have had very involved experiences with children. Last summer something changed: Giovanna wrote of one of her days with children for the DoA and then for Archeostorie, the others opened a Facebook fan page on the same theme. So in September 2014, together we started a new stage of life: we became bloggers for Archeokids, the blog where archaeology and children come together! We don’t want all children to become archaeologists but we think it’s important they understand why cultural heritage is something that strongly influences their identity and why they have to take care of it.
We started with the social. Our social media presence (on both facebook and twitter) focuses on the diffusion of archaeological and educational content, both posting and sharing news and articles, with particular emphasis on the promotion of archaeological workshops and museum activities aimed at children. In fact, the latter are many and widely spread throughout the country – hence our wish to properly showcase them through these platforms.
The importance we placed on promotion didn’t go unrewarded: after some time we found that museums, associations, and educators themselves would update us on their activities, thus establishing us as a useful channel through which information can either be provided or sought. Our social media accounts have evolved into an interactive and co-working space where people can share or consume content: parents and teachers alike contact us with questions on teaching archaeology to their children, while associations keep us updated on their activities, sending us either promotional material for upcoming events or pictures of past ones, that we then gladly share on our facebook page.
As of today, we can count on 2,757 facebook followers and 782 twitter followers – numbers that grow every day and that, after less than a year, making us feel both proud and rewarded for all the dedication and hard work we pour into this project.
Since last September our personal calendars started being affected by this new engaging adventure: our Mondays stopped being simply the first day of a new week and started being conceived in our minds as the “day of the post”. Since then, in a pretty rigorous way, we have been taking turns writing a new post on the blog every Monday morning so that Archeokids counts 75 post till now, 40 of which are written by the five of us. Since the beginning, learning from children, we have decided to let our imagination flow in choosing the topics and actually finding good inspiration has never been a problem: the five of us have been involved in many experiences concerning kids and archaeology, on our excavations when they come to visit and they want to know what you are doing, when we go to schools and we explain what being an archaeologist means both through words and laboratories, and when we guide them visiting a museum or a site and so on…
Another interesting development of our blog was represented by a series of posts that deserved their own category: “object of the past” in which we imagine stories to explain the creation, the use and sometimes also the end of the life of a particular object. A little experiment of this type has also been carried on to illustrate an archaeological site through the eyes of a kid living there in the Middle Ages.
When we decided to tell archaeology to the children our first concern was to use a language they could be able to understand but what we learned working with them was that they were not only able to understand things sometimes better than adults, but that they were very curious about them and hungry for details. That’s why some of our posts were also dedicated to explain facts to them – sometimes pretty delicate – concerning the actuality of the treatment of our cultural heritage as in the post about the destruction of some archaeological sites by Isis.
Among the sections that in the first few months of the blog’s lifetime (almost a year!) we decided to inaugurate, there are two that are particularly fond of: reviews and guestposts. We start from the first: “great books for young archaeologists” is a space dedicated to books for children but also for adults who, like us, enjoy children’s literature. To tell archeology it’s necessary to refer to issues such as ancient history, myth, paleontology and many are the books, narrative or educational, aimed at children and teens who develop these topics in a fun and light way, though never ordinary and superficial. We are pleased to advise them because we believe that, in addition to feeding the imagination and enriching the knowledge of every small reader, it can also be useful as support for educational activities, at school or elsewhere.
The second section, the “guestpost”, is the one that makes the blog a virtual marketplace, in which one can relate their experiences and confront oneself with other archaeologists and museum professionals working with and for children in the field of archaeological education. Through the words of other archaeologists, we realized that the hardest part of our work is this: building bridges made of words, games, values and emotions able to unite a world, very often obscured of the archeology, with communities of adults and children – where all are required to build their future.
Stories about trying to imagine what the world will be.
One year of Archeokids also means time to first results. We believe we are following a good way: each of us put into this experience all we can in terms of expertise, time, resources, energy and ideas. When we started we only had an idea of what it meant to work in a network: now we know and we have learned to use different tools and acquired new skills… we have grown too! Being bloggers of Archeokids also changed our approach with children: we realized that we can talk about everything with them, even about complex arguments.
Three keys open the doors that separate archeology from the world of children:
- stories, which are able to involve kids and carry them into the past as protagonists
- games that help them to assimilate rules and sometimes difficult concepts
- experience that makes a subject such as history something concrete and tangible
Through the blog we came in contact with many realities and so many different people that have to do with the education of children and heritage: operators, teachers, museum directors, officials of the Superintendency and from everyone a unanimous chorus: heritage education!
All of us are realizing that it is simply unacceptable that in Italy our children have no teaching that educates them at what they are surrounded by daily: a beautiful and rich cultural heritage, of which tomorrow they will have to deal with in terms of knowledge, protection and enhancement.
Archeokids is just a little blog, but can still grow, because we believe in the value of this education and we try to do our part building a different image of archaeological heritage and of the many wonderful experiences involving children.