The Next Generation of Archaeologists at St. Martin De Porres
Primary School students are learning about Archaeology in the classroom through a project between the US Embassy and NICH. The programme, which started some three years ago, has seen the participation of students across Belize. This year students in Belize City, San Antonio, Benque Viejo and Dangriga will be immersed in the theory and practice with a visiting archaeologist. Andrea Polanco stopped by to see what the budding archaeologists got up to a primary school in the city:
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Around eighty students at the Saint Martin’s De Porres Primary School are learning about archaeology through theory and practice. The two day sessions with the standard four class is teaching students the basics – what is archaeology – why it is important and why they should take an interest in the field.
Dr. Alexandra Jones, Executive Director, Archaeology in the Community
“We are just teaching them that studying all human past through objects, material remains and the monuments architecture left behind. But in that we are also teaching them the importance of that to Belize. In addition to that, we are giving the kids an opportunity to practically act like archaeologists so that they can learn what we do and that when we talk about the fact that you have to go to school and that there is a lot that is involved in this – they themselves are understanding that it is not just digging, but it is science, math and there is an art.”
The two-part workshop requires students to retain information and ask questions. The second part has them doing a mock excavation. What they are learning today has been simplified.
Malachi Cooper, Student
“About the Mayas, Archaeologists, work with the old times and pots and those things.”
“Did you enjoy the class and why?”
“Because I learn about some things that I didn’t learn before.”
“Was it fun?”
“Yes, ma’am. Real fun.”
“You think you would consider fi be wah Archaeologist now?”
Malachi Cooper, Student
“Ah think suh.”
Tiana Pelayo, Student
“I dig for the artifacts, the Mayan, people deh go dah Mayan ruin and dig the walls to get things.”
“Now, from what you learnt; is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“It’s not good fi yuh bruk the Maya ruin.”
“We are lowering it to their age level. I mean, we are making it fun and I think by having activities like create your own culture it is giving these kids to take these complex ideas and simplify them in fun and creative ways. It is the same thing with the method part, we are teaching you how archaeologists excavate and how we find out what we do, but then we are bringing them outside and letting them go through the process. And then at the end, we are telling them, look at all the objects you have. What does this mean? So, they are looking at a spoon, a top, a plate; they are looking at a bone. And they are coming together and coming up with their own conclusions that if you put all these objects together you would find this in a kitchen. And so they go through the same process that we go through for the interpretation and analysis, so they can come to the same conclusions that we come to.”
The programme stems from a partnership between the US Embassy and the Institute of Archaeology. It started some two years ago where high school and primary school students participated. This time around, primary schools will be the sole focus – and over three hundred and fifty students from different parts of the country will benefit from the project.
Dr. Allan Moore, Assoc. Director., Education & Communications, Institute of Archeology
“From the onset of things, kids should learn to appreciatetheir culture and if we work with this generation, it would be hopeful for the next generation that we have people helping us in protecting, preserving and appreciating our culture in perpetuity for future generations.”
“How do you measure the success of programs like this; to see that the students are learning and applying things, maybe not necessarily on a big level but maybe right home in their own back yards?”
Dr. Allan Moore
“That’s a good question because we have had from this level because we go like, ‘who wants to be an archaeologist’ and students go like ‘ahhh I want to be one. I want to be one,’ yuh know? Do you want to study? Do you want to go in the jungle? Do you want to do this? And they go. We see more visitation of locals, local schools to our sites. We have seen a curb in looting in illegal possession at the upper echelon. So, we have seen where bit by bit it has been growing. We don’t have much looting at our major sites anymore. The lootings that are taking place are way out in the boonies; behind the Chiquibul area, La Milpa area, so way out in remote areas we have been having looting. So, if we think about it from that aspect, we have been growing.”
Adrienne Galanek, Chargé d’Affaires/Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy
“Protecting cultural heritage across the world is a priority for the US Government and working in partnership with Belize and the specific focus of this program of working with the youth is to incorporate at risk youth here in Belize,. So, hopefully it will generate in the youth of Belize an interest in archaeology, so not only preserving archeology but becoming Belize’s future archeologist.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.