Project Archaeology is excited to welcome Virginia Wulfkuhle to the blogging world! Virginia is a Public Archeologist at the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka and our Project Archaeology coordinator in Kansas.    

The examination of the earthlodge floor plan stimulated much discussion about Pawnee lifeways and beliefs.

This is my first blogging attempt, so please excuse any violations of conventions. We want to share some thoughts about Kansas’ teacher workshop, “Understanding Past and Present Cultures: Bringing Project Archaeology into the Classroom,” August 3-5, 2011. We chose to hold the workshop at Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas (ESSDACK), an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas, which provides staff development activities for educators. Our hope was that this south-central Kansas location would draw teachers from Wichita, Kansas’ largest metropolitan area. As it turned out, the workshop attracted teachers from all across the state as well—from Kansas City (extreme northeastern Kansas) to Beloit (north-central Kansas) to Garden City (far southwestern Kansas). We attribute this broad distribution to the fact that we disseminated the announcement directly to about 7,500 teachers by e-mail blast, using a list compiled by the Education/Outreach Division of the Kansas Historical Society. We originally accepted 24 participants, maintained a waiting list, and eventually ended up with the hoped-for 20 people.

The “we” in this article are four instructors, a luxury rarely enjoyed in the archaeology education business. I (Virginia Wulfkuhle) am Public Archeologist at the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka and Project Archaeology coordinator for Kansas; Nathan McAlister, history teacher at Royal Valley Middle School in Mayetta, was the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year and is an alumnus of the 2010 PA Leadership Academy; Brenda Culbertson is an astronomy educator and experienced amateur archaeologist; and Annette Roach, a teacher at Royal Valley Elementary School, recently returned from the 2011 Project Archaeology Leadership Academy, was an unexpected and welcomed member of the instructional team.

In Lesson Five sorting the contents of doohickey kits was a hit.

The first two days were devoted to Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter. We covered the overview, warm-up, all nine lessons, and the final performance of understanding. We used the Pawnee earthlodge investigation, based on 14RP1 in north-central Kansas. Favorite parts were the archeology tool kit lessons (four through seven) in general, use of historic photographs, the context game, family room and earthlodge footprints (many thanks to Gail Lundeen for letting me trace her groundcloths), and the final performance shelter dilemma.

Following the first three parts of Lesson Eight, we incorporated the expertise of Brenda Culbertson to present a segment on Pawnee archaeoastronomy. She brought an inflatable planetarium (do archaeologists ever travel light?), and we divided the group in half to fit the space. Considering the sweltering temperatures, this enhancement— instead of an outdoor activity—was a fortunate decision. We made a special effort to emphasize the stewardship message, and the teachers “got it.”

A picketer spontaneously interrupted at the City Council meeting.

The last day was spent on two Kansas-specific units, developed by the Kansas Historical Society: The Archaeology of Early Agriculture in Kansas: A Fifth Grade Integrated Reading Unit and Migration of the Pueblo People to El Cuartelejo: A Seventh Grade Integrated Reading Unit. Both units consist of a Student Magazine, Student Journal, and Teacher Guide (for more information, visit Teams of participants were assigned to teach sections of each unit. It was interesting to see their contrasting teaching styles.

A group of five teachers came from Paola Middle School (east-central Kansas) because “our teaching team wants to integrate our Social Studies curriculum with all core subjects. We are currently implementing an archaeological dig as a hands-on learning experience.” While this gave me pause going into the workshop, my fears were allayed when I sat down with the group at the conclusion of the second day of class and reviewed their project. These teachers have invested a huge amount of effort in planning and executing their multidisciplinary undertaking. In addition to a controlled dig, the program incorporates a great deal of prior research conducted by the

McAlister guides teachers through part of Lesson Nine.

students, and, as a result of their participation in our workshop, I am confident that they will increase the lab processing, analysis, and reporting elements.

Here are some quotations from the evaluation forms:

“Loved that it is something I could immediately use in my classroom.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop! It was well-organized and I was provided with A LOT of useful ideas to use in my classroom.”

“Great ideas for teaching cross curricular standards.”

“It was more than I expected and [I] was very pleased and motivated to continue with this project.”

At the end of three days, our graduating class was still smiling.