Perceptions of archaeology amongst primary school aged children, Adelaide, South Australia

20th November 2013

Tim D. Owen and Jody Steele
Sample of responses to Question 1: 'What is archaeology?' (published in Australian Archaeology 61:67).

Sample of responses to Question 1: ‘What is archaeology?’ (published in Australian Archaeology 61:67).

A public archaeology programme was initiated at the Fern Avenue site (an early nineteenth century Adelaide jam factory) as an integral part of the archaeological investigations conducted between March 2000 and November 2000. One component of the public archaeology programme was an archaeological education programme for primary and early secondary aged school children. The primary school component of the programme provided 583 inner-city primary aged school children (aged between 7 and 11) with a classroom introduction to archaeology followed by practical on-site experience. This paper focuses on the outcomes of the primary school class-based teaching. Analysis of the children’s written schoolroom answers has enabled a basic evaluation of the students’ overarching perceptions relating to Australian archaeology.

In general, this study suggested that the primary aged school children involved in the programme understood that archaeology involved ‘investigating the past’ and ‘excavation’. However, comprehension beyond these fundamentals was limited—especially in terms of more specific knowledge, such as an understanding that Australian archaeology comprised the major disciplines Aboriginal, historical or maritime. Although the children’s initial understanding of archaeology was limited, it held a high level of appeal. The base interest generated by archaeology was used to teach the fundamentals, whilst the site visit compounded and enhanced most of the students’ awareness of the discipline, creating a memorable experience for all involved.

Owen, T.D. and J. Steele
Perceptions of archaeology amongst primary school aged children, Adelaide, South Australia
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