Sunday’s #DWHabit writing prompt, wondering, brought back a flood of memories. Exactly six years ago this week (with the Patriots heading to the Super Bowl then, too!), a dream came true for me. I was awarded a teacher travel fellowship to pursue some of my wonders. The fellowship afforded me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to nurture my curiosity about scientific and historical inquiry and deepen my understanding of object-based teaching. The month-long trip to England made it possible for me to uncover, collect, and research artifacts–central to object-based teaching–and visit important historical sites in a country where they are unearthed almost daily.
During the first two weeks of the trip, I participated in an Earthwatch-sponsored archaeological dig, unearthing artifacts at the Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum in South Shields. The two-week expedition, “Fort Arbeia and the Roman Empire in Britain,” provided me, untrained in the science of archaeology, with the rare opportunity to use authentic processes alongside Tyne & Wear Museums’ archaeological team. Arbeia, an excavation site at the time, lies within the UNESCO Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, and is the location of a Roman military and civilian settlement that guarded the mouth of the River Tyne, which opens to the North Sea. I assisted with mapping the site, excavating, recording site data, and processing finds, including jewelry, armor, and ceramics. All of this, of course, left me with more wonders about the owners of the objects and what stories they had to tell. If only they could talk!
The dig, while providing a short introduction to scientific methods as applied to archeology, made me one of the few, as well as very fortunate, teachers in my district to have such an experience and positioned me to bring it into the classroom and apply what I have learned to my teaching. Asked what a scientist does, Kindergarten students typically answer, “They mix potions in a laboratory and they look for dinosaur bones in the desert.” I regularly use my dig experience to broaden my students’ understanding of who a scientist is, what she does, and how she goes about her work.
The second half of my trip allowed for me to establish relationships with educators in the UK who utilize object-based teaching and learning on a regular basis and who have created observation protocols and curriculum to backstop their work. I visited historical sites and meet with museum education staff at Arbeia, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University, the Verulamium Museum in the Roman city of St. Alban’s, and the British Museum in London.
In writing this Slice, I realize this unique learning opportunity also launched my life as a writer. To document my experiences, I began my first blog, Wondering and Wandering with Artifact and Site. (Click here to take a peek.) It marked the first time I wrote on a fairly regular basis and shared my thoughts with the world.
Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life each Tuesday. Won’t you join us?