Connecticut State Museum of Natural History

Kids are Scientists and Engineers Too – Archaeology Fieldschool for Kids, University of Connecticut

UConn Kaset blackboard

The Day of Archaeology 2014 coincides with the final day of archaeology fieldschool for the University of Connecticut’s Kids are Scientists and Engineers Too (KASET) program, which is sponsored by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and Connecticut Archaeology Center. The 2014 KASET archaeology fieldschool focused on training 5th-10th grade students in archaeological field techniques, which they employed to document the remains of the 18th century Farwell House.

A typical day of KASET archaeology consists of excavating to recover slag, bricks, metal, bone, ceramics, glass, and other material culture associated with the Farwell house and its previous residents. The goal of the KASET students is to document the “leftovers” from the Farwell house property to inform present day students and the public about the daily lives of 18th century farmers in rural Connecticut.

Farwell house unit excavation

Students use trowels to carefully locate artifacts while excavating one-meter units. Once the students complete a 5-centimer level, they map the soil and rocks in the planview of their unit.

Farwell house screening

After mapping, the students screen soil through quarter-inch mesh to collect smaller artifacts, like ceramic and glass sherds.

Farwell house metal detecting

In addition to traditional meter excavations, the 2014 KASET archaeologists employ metal detecting to pinpoint and retrieve metal objects located near the Farwell house. Interesting metal detecting finds include a line of barbed wire, machine parts, and a 1917 penny, all of which illuminate the long-term use of the Farwell house property as part of the University of Connecticut’s agricultural complex.

Farwell house washing artifacts

Once the provenience of the artifacts is recorded, the students wash and inventory the artifacts. In the coming weeks, the artifacts will be analyzed and a report will be created so that future KASET archaeologists can continue “collecting pieces of the puzzle” used to reconstruct the history of the Farwell house with the goal of considering past, present, and future land management strategies for preserving historic archaeological sites.


I’d like to acknowledge the contributions of many volunteers in the archaeological community who assisted the KASET students in the fieldschool. Special thanks are due to the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA) who provided additional tents to shade our screening area from the hot July sun! Thank you all very much for your help. The success of the fieldschool is due in large part to your participation!

Digging with Kids: Historic Archaeology, Education, and Fun

The Kids Are Scientists Too (KAST), Archaeology Field School for Kids has been held annually since 2004 at the Farwell House site in Storrs, CT, USA on the campus of the University of Connecticut.  Children between the ages of 9 & 15 are able to learn the scientific methods of archaeology by excavating a real archaeological site.

Farwell House

The Farwell House was built in the mid-18th century and occupied by the Farwell family until 1908.  The house was sold in the early 20th century, and shortly thereafter the University acquired the House.  The House served as a dormitory until the University determined maintenance costs were too high. The House was burned down in a fire training exercise in 1976.  At that time the house was the oldest in town.  The foundation was filled in, and the only research conducted on the site has been by children participating in the KAST dig.

The site is ready for Field School

Each summer new units are excavated in what once was the front, back, or side yards of the House.  Much of what the students discover in the upper layers relates to the burning episode.  Below the burn layer are artifacts dating to the occupation of the House and date to the 18th-19th centuries.

All excavations are overseen by a professional archaeologist, and reports are filed with the State Historic Preservation Office.  Now that the program is in its 8th year with its 5th staff archaeologist, questions about excavation strategy, professionalism, and the future of the site and the KAST program are coming to the fore.  This year has been especially introspective and self-critical.  As we move forward we want to insure not only an enjoyable experience for the students, but a professional investigation of an historic archaeological site that answers real research questions and makes a contribution to not only the archaeological community, but to the larger community.

The KAST Field School has run for the last week and concluded Friday the 29th of July 2011.  After 4 days of excavation the students spent a day in the “lab” at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.  Activities included washing and identifying artifacts and creating a display of their finds that will remain on exhibit at the Museum.

KAST excavators looking for artifacts in the screen


A KAST Student Washes Artifacts

KAST Display

The program has been well received by not only the students, but also their parents and local media.  A local news program visited the site and interviewed students for a short interest piece on the evening news.  It is my personal hope that programs and publicity like this will reinforce the importance of historic preservation and archaeology even in a precarious economic climate.