A few weekends ago, I was invited to participate and present at the Mississippi River Watershed Education Symposium, held by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC). This symposium brought hundreds of researchers and educators throughout the region together to focus on the education and ecology of the Mississippi River Watershed. The symposium featured keynote talks from National Geographic’s Sean O’Connor who presented on the educational opportunities of online, publicly accessible databases and citizen science, like National Geographic’s FieldScope. Chad Pregracke, founder and president of Living Lands & Waters gave the other keynote address. He spoke about his efforts to clean up the Mississippi River while working with hundreds of communities along the Mississippi Watershed and thousands of volunteers to help reduce the amount of waste that washes into our rivers. There are great educators facilitating ecological education throughout the watershed. Check out images of the Mississippir River Watershed Education Symposium on Flickr.
I presented on the CAA’s efforts to bridge concepts of ecology and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields with the science of archeology, while also focusing on the humanistic aspect of archeological investigations. As other archeologists from across the pond have noted, archeology is uniquely positioned to be a tool for educators. We utilize a number of scientific fields, from ecology to anatomy to geology to chemistry…the list goes on. And, we apply these sciences to human questions: to understand what it is to be human, while addressing relevant global issues. We use stable isotope geochemistry to calculate water temperatures that fishes were living in thousands of years ago. These data are then interpreted to understand deep-time perspectives on climatic fluctuations, human fishing pressures, and fished populations. But most importantly, we are investigating these questions to understand how people have interacted with environments and animals, applying scientific methods to understand people. We use magnetometers to detect subsurface magnetic anomalies that may indicate how people in the past used the landscape around them before recent land management practices were implemented.
Again, we are using science to understand what it is to be human. These methods clearly draw on scientific fields other than archeology, but are also investigating humanistic topics that help us understand human actions, behaviors, and impacts. Importantly these research questions and methods have the potential to help students understand how the scientific method is applied so that present-day citizens can better understand what it has meant, means, and will mean to live on this planet together.
The archeological sciences have significant, although largely untapped, educational potentials for students emerging into the economic and political climate of the 21st century, bridging the sciences and the humanities. As archeologists, we need to make our discipline accessible to everyone from the 2nd grade student, to the teachers in our schools, to lifelong citizen scientists. This will not only foster an appreciation of the scientific method, but also a sense of respect for humans and the great cultures, people, and civilizations that once populated the Earth. Let’s make archeology accessible. Let’s draw on what archeologists in Europe are calling for and bring archeology to everyone in the US! Join the CAA in making archeology for everyone. Like and share this post, spread the word about the importance of archeology in STEM- and humanities-based education, and make an effort to support archeological education and research! Archeology for everyone!!!