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Creative archaeology in school

October 6, 2014

Summer 2014 was an exciting time for Nunalleq excavation’s public engagement and education team in Quinhagak. While Quinhagak itself was excited to receive their new principal Peggy Price, we too were excited to start working with her and the school. Without hesitation we were welcomed to visit classrooms run by the new 6th grade teacher Heather Vogwill, new 5th grade teacher Melanie Richmond, and the new high school science and math teacher Vincent Villella.

6th graders6th graders writingThe outreach and education team was fortunate to have Scottish author Kathleen Jamie help lead two of the education outings at the school. We visited the 5th and 6th grade classrooms with a creative writing project in mind. Melia Knecht, with her curatorial expertise, brought with us a few of the artefacts recovered in this field season; an antler with carved caribou on it, a stone fishing lure, a harpoon point, a hafted ulu, an ivory seal amulet, and the head of an unusual doll (or figure). These artefacts were brought in to show students what is currently being found in excavation as well as to hopefully inspire some creative storytelling. The students were led to imagine what life was like 500 years ago in the village of Nunalleq. After some writing exercises and storytelling by our education team, some of the students continued on working on their stories. At show and tellIn the end (thanks to Heather Vogwill and her class) we were supplied with 14 original pieces of creative writing, accompanied by artwork, inspired by the artefacts. These stories were featured at the show-and-tell event for the excavation. I was very impressed and proud of the skill that all of the students showed in their work on these pieces. I have chosen one to feature on the blog here, due to her creative writing piece and her confidence to share an oral creative story in class.

Kathleen instructing the 6th graders

Kathleen instructing the 6th graders

Below is Marita Tunutmoak’s (6th Grade) story:

Five hundred years ago…

I was helping gather black berries for Eskimo ice cream. My parents told me to go with Chimaraq because he likes to bring grass baskets to the hill, he brought two of them, and I was half way there to finishing gathering black berries. I saw Evil Mr. jinxii then I said, “Chimaraq, tailuci, AMBII!” and when he held it I said, “Chowa,qaa?!” and Chimaraq said, “knaam” it was made of wood and we put it back and we brought an adult with us and when we came back, it was gone. After we went on the other side of the hill, there was a small door and I opened the small door Chimaraq said, “Nengqeralria, AMBII close it!” so I refused and I went in the door and I saw Evil Mr. Jinxii, alive and it said, “Kaithpait?!” so I said, “Waqaa J!” and I seen he had sharp teeth so I ran back to the village and Chimaraq was confused when he was running with me and we brought back berries and he said, “What’s the matter?” So I said, “I saw a little person with sharp teeth!” And when Evil Mr. Jinxii went to go on the berry house there was lesser berries, he got really mad, so he went to the village and said, “Who went to the black berry hill?” and me and my sister got scared. So my sisi went to go see who was that and she said, “Why?” Jinxii said, “its my berry house not yours!” so I said it was me, Nengqeralria. And jinxii took me. It was a week there was here holes 000 so I chose the middle every one was happy to see me again.

Marita's artwork

Marita’s illustration for her story

Carrie highschool classHighschoolersA few days later I was invited by Vincent Villella to speak to the high school math and science classes about science and technology in archaeology and of
Nunalleq. In one class, that had recently been learning about the scientific method, we chatted about how the scientific method is applied in archaeology and what ways scientists investigate our research questions on site and in the lab. Once again artefacts from the excavation joined me at the school, this time a bit of ancient Yup’ik technology: a stone ulu blade, arrow end blade and socket, a stone spear head, and a stone drill bit. I was glad to see that some students were interested in learning more, for I saw them at the show-and-tell event later that day.

Jacqui teaching highschoolers

Jacqui teaching highschoolers

This is just the beginning of archaeologists working with the students and staff of Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat. More collaborative projects will be developed in upcoming months for my return in Quinhagak January, February, and March of 2015.

Jacquelyn Graham

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rosemary Pilatti permalink
    October 7, 2014 14:22

    Hello. So HAPPY reading this post! As a retired elem teacher in Nikiski, Alaska, I’m thrilled to read the student’s writing and read about the writing lesson. How lucky they are to have access to the site, artifacts and also access to visiting teachers/scientists/writers/artists/photographers. Keep up the great work with young Alaskans! Rose Pilatti

  2. Sheila Quillin permalink
    October 20, 2014 03:56

    Could Marita or a story teller speak her story on video or audio with written words that we might hear and see what it sounds like thank you . Regards Sheila

  3. August 19, 2015 19:51

    Reblogged this on Mme Ogden and commented:
    This post is a wonderful example of how teachers can engage with researchers to show students how knowledge is actually produced before it gets into their textbooks. In this case, researching are sharing about an archaeological dig happening close to the school.

    I loved the assignment that the educational team came up with to follow their presentation: a creative writing project, based on the artifacts the students were shown from the dig, with the starting line “Five hundred years ago…” What a great way for students to engage with history.

    This assignment even inspired me as an FSL teacher. If you scroll down and read Marita Tunutmoak’s story, you’ll notice that the prose is in English, but most of the dialogue is in the native language. What a great way to engage second language learners. I’ve found that one of the barriers of teaching beginning French is that the children’s cognitive ability far exceeds their language ability, making whatever they can understand or communicate in their second language rather boring. Sometimes students try to communicate more complicated thoughts or ideas, but generally end up getting frustrated. By combining the two languages in a narrative like this, the students can write an interesting story, while using their second language at the same time. This idea would be particularly useful for elementary school teachers, as the English part of the story could go toward their English Language Arts mark.

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