Saturday 17 August 2013

Summer schools

I have taken another two weeks off my research for a course, but this time I have been teaching, rather than learning. Since 2007 I have taught Introduction to Archaeology summer schools for lifelong learners with the archaeology department in Bristol, so the courses are now in their 7th year.

Artefact handling session at Bristol City Museum
The summer schools are a combination of taught lectures, practical sessions in artefacts handling, surveying, and environmental archaeology, and two days of fieldwork at Berkeley Castle.

I really enjoy teaching these courses, as my students are always incredibly motivated and enthusiastic. Many have taken time off work to come along, and some have even travelled far and wide to attend: in the past I've had students from Brazil, France, Turkey, and Australia. Many students are considering a career in archaeology, either by starting an undergraduate degree, or changing from a related career through a postgraduate qualification. 
The excitement at trying to interpret a pollen chart for the first time!

My favourite part: I get to set the syllabus, and as a result, choose the best bits to teach. For most of the students this is their first hands-on experience of subject, and often the first time they take part in an archaeological excavation. 

Sadly, the University of Bristol, like many other universities, no longer has an active continuing education and lifelong-learning programme. This is largely a result of changes and cuts in government funding, which has been taking place over the last decade and more. Personally, I feel this is a great shame, and one which will have consequences in the future. With university tuition fees increasing, I worry that potential students will be put off subjects like archaeology which have a less obvious career path (although in reality, studying archaeology is a great choice that offers a huge range of transferable skills!). Lifelong-learning programmes can therefore be a great way for people to keep their interest and involvement in the subject.
I wrote a blog post for the Heritage Open Days website following my students through one of their days on site at Berkeley castle. Take a look to see what we were up to!