Archaeology, education and young people

Posted on November 4, 2016


Children and retired people are the bread and butter of public engagement. So it is not surprising to have seen a session at the CIfA conference on the topic but what was interesting to see was a session that moved into the realm of social issues with children. There are lots of kids based projects and lots of social projects but the intersection of the two is rarer. Mainly because working with social issues and children each have special requirements and so combining the two creates a delicate situation. It was very interesting to see projects that addressed both issues and we filmed it so you can see those presentations too.

Session Abstract:

Cultural heritage is increasingly used as a vehicle for social projects involving people of all ages. Community activities based on local history and archaeology have proved successful in engaging hard to reach groups and achieving a range of outcomes, such as increased participation, community cohesion and physical and mental health benefits. Young people are increasingly identified as a group for whom it is important to provide these opportunities. Across the UK the cultural heritage sector is being asked by policy makers to address social issues such as poverty and exclusion. For those who are delivering education and outreach to young people the stakes are increasingly high.
As this approach is becoming a more formalised, it is necessary for the sector to examine our practice and to make sure that we are equipped to deliver to all groups including those who are hard to reach. The session papers will offer case studies and evidence on which to base the closing discussion, look at informal and formal delivery opportunities and explore effectiveness. Practitioners from across the sector will bring examples of successful interventions and share how they plan for positive outcomes and analyse the effectiveness of their work.
The session will end with a discussion, led by the organisers, to explore the lessons that can be learned from the presentations in the session, and will include the following
• Are we equipped to deliver social archaeology projects?
• Does this differ from other kinds of engagement?
• What do we need to do to provide quality experiences for young people?
• Do we have the necessary skill sets?
• What should we be doing to assist in our own professional development?
• Can we demonstrate effectiveness in this area, and how do we do this with confidence?
• What about funding?

Janet Bailey, Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust and Nicky Milsted, CBA

Informal Education As A Means Of Social Integration

Engaging children with archaeology does not always happen in Schools; yes, they are taught the about the Romans and Egyptians etc, but, what about those children who are interested in more or those who do not have access to such education. There are numerous ways to engage with archaeology, yet, these are not always practical. Access to Archaeology provides an inclusive environment to foster interests regardless of ability and background.

Our sessions are tailored to the individual and are supportive and fun for all involved, outcomes are measured of the engagement levels and barriers that are broken by the individual. A simple ‘that was brilliant’ or ‘when is the next one’ is sufficient to show how vital such services are to those who face challenges and hurdles in everyday life.
Education in all forms is a gift; it is our responsibility to ensure that it is achieved in a professional manner regardless of the shape it takes.

Victoria Reid

Diversifying The Future Of Community Archaeology: Ethnicity, Disability And Affluence

Young people are the future, the future of heritage management; inspiring a passion about their heritage helps to safeguard it for the future. Heritage belongs to everyone, but sometimes is not as accessible to some as it should be and provision for young people in general needs to be increased, not just for those from diverse backgrounds. This paper will provide the following projects as case studies for good practice:

The My Place Project (HLF), working with schoolchildren in Bradford and Keighley, which have high ethnic minority and youth populations. The Young Archaeologists’ Club (in particular the Leeds Branch) and how it is trying to remove the barriers to include those with additional needs and those from less affluent backgrounds.

Finally I will be explaining how the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) project are incentivising involvement for people between 16-25 through both formal and informal training events.

Megan Clement, CITiZAN

Achieving And Evidencing Social Impact In An Archaeology-Based Widening Participation Programme

The Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) is designed to raise educational aspirations, enthusiasm and attainment amongst state-educated and disadvantaged teenagers through participation in archaeological excavation. Devised in 2005 by Carenza Lewis (then at the University of Cambridge) in collaboration with Aimhigher and now funded by the Universities of Cambridge and Lincoln as part of access agreements with the British government’s Office of Fair Access (OFFA), HEFA involves learners in school years 9, 10 and 12 in setting up, running, recording and writing up a 1m2 excavation which contributes to university research (Lewis 2014a). The excavation is the central element within a carefully structured, varied and challenging scheme of assessed work in which HEFA learners develop and refine a range of identified and explicitly elicited skills – cognitive, technical, social and personal – vital to success in education and the workplace. More than 5,000 young people have taken part in HEFA since 2005, and central to its success has been the attention given to identifying, assessing, monitoring and reporting on its impact on learners (Lewis 2014b). HEFA is thus able to demonstrate the capacity of archaeology to build social capital by broadening access to higher education and helping young people gain the skills they need to contribute most to society in the future. This paper presents the aims, structure and outcomes of the HEFA programme, focussing in particular on the ways in which its impact is identified, measured and fed back to learners, schools and funders.


Lewis, C. 2014a. The Power of Pits: Archaeology, outreach and research in living landscapes. K. Boyle, R. Rabett and C. Hunt (eds) Living in the Landscape. Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Monograph. pp 321-338.

Lewis, C. 2014b. ‘Cooler than a trip to Alton Towers’: Assessing the impact of the Higher Education Field Academy 2005-2011. Public Archaeology, Vol 13 (2014), no 4, pp 295-322. DOI 10.1179/1465518715Z.00000000076.

Professor Carenza Lewis, University of Lincoln

Young Archaeologists Club: making a significant and positive impact on the lives of young people

What is YAC? The Young Archaeologists’ Club is the only club for young people interested in archaeology. We have a network of local clubs across the UK where 8–16 year olds can get their hands mucky doing real archaeology. Each club is run by a team of local adult volunteers from a range of backgrounds; some are professional archaeologists, others work in museums or schools. Many are just interested in archaeology and volunteer with YAC to further their own knowledge and experience. Every branch is unique and the experience of club members vastly different.

Is variation between YAC branches a problem, or is this broad range of YAC experiences contributing to the growth of a young generation who view archaeology and the historic environment from new and creative perspectives?

YAC branches are free to develop their own informal “archaeology curriculums” guided by collective experience grown over many years, with session plans and ideas shared within the YAC leaders network. Should YAC HQ provide a more prescriptive guide to which archaeological stories must be told, or is the current flexible approach the right one?

What does archaeology have to offer (Today)? Archaeology, creativity and technology to empower

In 1986 Peter Clarke presented a paper for the CBA research report Presenting Archaeology to Young People, entitled: What does archaeology have to offer? In his paper Clarke emphasised that “the purpose of presenting archaeology to young people is not to recruit or train young archaeologists. The main aim of the exercise is to decide which particular aspects of the subject are useful in the general education of young people (…)” (1986:12). Thirty years later, we are still asking the same question facing new challenges and priorities. Archaeology is revealing its chameleon-like nature operating across social and cultural boundaries. The aim is to discover the strengths of whoever we’re working with – and to integrate them purposefully into the whole clattering machine. Regardless of age, profession or status; all have a significant contribution to make.

This paper examines the new challenges faced by archaeologists. It explores the tools and resources available to reach new audiences, and make a difference in people’s lives. In collaboration with Sean Harris, CPAT will explore multi-disciplinary approaches to develop new social archaeology projects and educational experiences, whilst exploring new ways to assess their effectiveness.
Viviana Culshaw (CPAT) and Sean Harris (Wilde Boar Press)

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