It was with some trepidation that myself and three student volunteers from Edinburgh University (Jo, Lewis and Tiffany) got into my car at 8am on Saturday morning to drive to Dunbar Primary School. Our purpose? To deliver ‘Artefact Attack’-a day of archaeology-themed science workshops for children at Dunbar SciFest 2016. But how many kids would we have? Would we run overtime? Would the activity work well? Would the kids (and ourselves) have fun?!
Meeting my colleague Andy, and our other workshop volunteer Colm from archaeology company Rubicon Heritage, the day got off to a good start. We had coffee aplenty, lots of pre-workshop team spirit laughter, and a great set-up in our assigned classroom. We had our amazing washing line-esque timeline strung up across the wall, our fabulous posters full of lots of interesting archaeological facts, and of course, our ‘artefact museum’-two tables full of a whole range of objects from our handling collection. This included everything from replica Palaeolithic hand-axes to a 21st century plastic micro-wave meal container!
After Andy and Colm left at lunchtime (following a lovely packed lunch provided by the event organisers), my fellow workshop organiser Louise, also from Rubicon, came along to join in the fun and lend her expertise. Unfortunately, one of our props for the workshop intro, a baked potato (prizes for guessing how to use a tattie to explain making detailed descriptions and deductive thinking!), was starting to look a little worse for wear and a bit green. Louise did an admiral job of making the best of the potato despite its deteriorating condition! Needless to say, I did not, in the end, have it for my tea that evening!
By the close of the day at 5pm, those artefacts had most definitely been ‘attacked’! The first workshop started at 10.30am, and we delivered 10 workshops throughout the day, working with 75 children in total, and even a few parents! Each child picked, sketched, measured, described and interpreted at least one object from our ‘artefact museum’, using their scientific and archaeological deductive thinking skills in the process. Hopefully they also learnt a little bit about materials, technologies and ways of life in the past along the way!
All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the day was a great success, and both myself and the team had great fun delivering the workshop and working with all the children. They came up with a whole range of fascinating, and perfectly reasoned ideas and interpretations for their artefact choices (Ancient Egyptian warrior boomerang versus Neolithic antler and flint sickle anyone?!). We were all still smiling (and standing) at the end of the day, but our game faces paled into insignificance when compared to those of our three final workshop participants, or should I say, our menacing Mesolithic hunter-gatherer, our masterful Medieval needle-worker princess, and our regal Roman general. That sums up the day for me right there folks!
Thanks to Dunbar SciFest for the invitation to participate in this year’s festival, and of course, a big thank you to the amazing volunteers and the rest of the Dunbar SciFest team who all helped make the day not only possible, but a whole lot of fun too!