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Reaching the Public
Spring 1998, vol. 3(1)

Online Archive

*  Education: Can It Make a Difference?

(photo) Students reconstruct a 1000 year old Mississippian house.

"I am simply astounded that there is virtually no scholarly literature which addresses the role of North American archeology in the contemporary world. "

Brian Fagan

by Jeanne Moe

Everyone knows that avalanches are prevalent and deadly in the Wasatch Mountains that tower over Salt Lake City. Every year the Salt Lake Tribune reports the untimely deaths of a few skiers. In February 1994, a 24-year-old Forest Service employee was buried in an avalanche high in the Wasatch Mountains. He didn't survive. He was equipped with all the latest high-tech cross-country ski gear: mountaineering skis and poles, boots and bindings. He and his friend also had all the latest avalanche safety equipment: avalanche beacons, lightweight shovels, and probing poles. The ski gear enabled him to get to a remote part of the mountains and the safety gear probably made him feel safe, but he was missing one thing . . . he didn't know how to read snow conditions and avoid a dangerous situation. He didn't know how to stay alive.

What does this tragedy have to do with archeology education? The goal of Intrigue of the Past, Utah's archeology education program sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management and the Interagency Task Force on Cultural Resources, is to teach Utah's young citizens about their cultural heritage so that they are equipped to make wise decisions concerning the use and protection of archeological sites now and in the future. Just as the skier used his new equipment to take him new places, the Intrigue program instructs students about archeology—how it works and what we can learn from it—which is a whole new world of knowledge for many children. It then encourages them to clarify their own values concerning archeological sites and learn how to act wisely in various situations. The skier never learned to act wisely.

Can archeology education make a difference? After four years of educating Utah's young citizens it was time to find out if they were learning about archeology and using their new knowledge appropriately. In designing and conducting a program evaluation,1-3 we wanted to know if students are equipped with what they need to make wise decisions concerning archeological resources. Do they know what to do with their knowledge?

The Program

Intrigue of the Past was designed to combat the vandalism and theft of the state's priceless archeological resources by educating its young citizens to value and conserve the past. The program targets teachers and their students in the fourth through the twelfth grades and consists of three integral components: quality educational materials, in-service and pre-service training for teachers in archeology education, and ongoing professional development for Intrigue educators.

For educators, the program begins when they register for a 10-hour in-service or pre-service workshop. Each teacher receives a copy of Intrigue of the Past: Investigating Archaeology,4 a teacher's activity guide that contains 34 lessons covering the fundamental concepts of archeology (section one), Utah's prehistory (section two), processes of archeology (section three), and issues surrounding the conservation of sites and artifacts (section four). Workshop participants receive 10 hours of instruction in the use of the guide from trained teams of educators and archeologists. Teachers then use their own discretion to integrate the activity guide and their training into existing curriculum.

On completion of the workshop, participants receive a subscription to the Intrigue of the Past newsletter, a biannual publication that contains articles about archeology, profiles of Utah archeologists, lessons, and news about upcoming events and how other educators are using the program. Teachers also have the opportunity to compete for the annual archeology education award and to participate in special classes designed to increase their knowledge of Utah archeology.

By the end of the 1992-1993 academic year approximately 550 educators had attended an Intrigue of the Past workshop, providing a large enough population to assess the program's success and determine future directions.

Evaluation Goals

The Intrigue of the Past Program Evaluation was designed to answer seven questions: (1) Do teachers use Intrigue? If so, how much? If not, why not? (2) How and where do teachers use Intrigue within the standard curriculum? (3) Do teachers use Intrigue to teach individual concepts or to integrate units? (4) Do students acquire knowledge of archeological resources, an awareness of the need to protect sites and artifacts, a responsible attitude toward archeological resources, and an awareness of Native American cultures? (5) Do students use their knowledge of archeology to inform others? (6) Do teachers tell other educators about the Intrigue program? (7) Do teachers read the newsletter and use it to teach new concepts and lessons?

Using these questions, an evaluation form was sent to the 550 educators who had attended Intrigue of the Past workshops. This consisted of 14 sections designed to elicit data bearing on each of the seven questions listed above. Additional sections solicited suggestions for improvement of the activity guide and newsletter. Finally, participants were asked to indicate which lessons from the guide they had used.

Seventy-six (15 percent) completed evaluation forms were returned. Data received were entered into a computerized database management program, however, results were tabulated largely by hand since the sample was small.


Sixty-two of the 76 respondents (82 percent) indicated that they had used Intrigue of the Past within the last year. Of the educators not using the program, all but one reported that they were not in a situation compatible with archeology education, or that Intrigue did not fit into their current curriculum. Based on the information received, a profile of the educator most likely to use Intrigue of the Past was constructed. She or he:

  • Teaches in upper elementary or junior high/middle school.
  • Uses Intrigue to teach social studies or Utah studies.
  • Uses Intrigue to teach individual concepts or to structure units of study.
  • Uses 1-12 Intrigue lessons per year.
  • Teaches in a typical elementary classroom (21-40) students or teaches 2 to 5 sections of social studies in a junior high or middle school.
  • Plans to use some or most of the activity guide in the future.
  • Is highly likely to tell other teachers about the program and loan materials to them.

Although most teachers use Intrigue to teach social studies, the program is widely used in other subjects: science, language arts, art, music, and mathematics. Intrigue lessons are also used in a wide variety of venues: lower elementary classrooms, high schools, and even universities. Special educators, gifted and talented teachers, and resource instructors also use Intrigue lessons.

Lessons most often taught are those that cover the fundamental concepts of archeology—section one of the activity guide. Second in popularity are lessons reviewing Utah's prehistory, especially the Anasazi. Lessons dealing with issues and ethics surrounding archeological conservation, section four, rank third in popularity. A sequence of three lessons involving rock art are frequently taught. These lessons provide students with a Native American perspective on ancient rock art, allow them to make their own "rock art," and provide a powerful and personalized lesson in preservation. Lessons least likely to be taught are those which model archeological processes, methods, and analytical procedures—section three.

This pattern of lesson use was expected. Teachers are encouraged to use as many lessons as possible from section one, fundamental concepts. Each of the lessons provides a simple, hands-on approach to the principles of context, observation and inference, scientific inquiry, chronology, and culture, which form the basis for understanding the science of archeology, cultural history, and conservation issues. While fourth and seventh grade teachers are expected to cover Utah's prehistory, few materials are available. The section two lessons provide much needed materials in the form of essays written at fifth grade level on each of the prehistoric cultures, plus activities, quizzes, and vocabulary words.

Section three lessons use actual archeological data to model analytical procedures and are more oriented to work sheets and graphic representations of artifacts and sites. The lessons are generally perceived to be more difficult than those in section one. Section four lessons offer several alternatives for teaching the ethics and issues of archaeological conservation. Students have the opportunity to clarify their own values regarding archeological resources, decide how they would respond in given situations, and formulate plans to help protect sites and artifacts. Many teachers are looking for issue-based lessons to teach values in their classrooms.

Evaluation participants reported that 61 percent of the students exposed to Intrigue of the Past teach others about archeology. Most of their audience consists of other children under 12 years of age.

Because Intrigue of the Past is used at the discretion of teachers and access to student products which measure outcomes is not feasible, it is difficult to evaluate student learning. In addition, the goal of Intrigue of the Past is to change values concerning the conservation of archeological resources, thus affective as well as cognitive learning, knowledge and comprehension, is important.5-7 Affective learning is much more difficult to evaluate because it is more difficult to measure in behavioral terms.

With no real way to evaluate student learning, we asked teachers to assess what percentage of students gained knowledge of archeology and Native American cultures, and acquired responsible attitudes regarding the protection of sites and artifacts. Responses to these questions most directly relate to overall program goals. For the most part, teachers thought that students exposed to Intrigue of the Past acquired the desired knowledge, awareness, and responsibility.

However, some students apparently slip through the cracks. Approximately 18 percent of the educators using Intrigue in their classrooms reported that less than 60 percent of their students acquired a responsible attitude toward archeological sites. While other evaluation results are overwhelmingly positive, it appears that 18 percent of Intrigue educators are not conveying the message of personal responsibility to their students. These students are apparently learning about archeology, but failing to grasp the importance of valuing and protecting the past. Why is this the case?

A Failure to Instill Responsible Attitudes?

To account for the low marks reported in the "responsible attitudes" category, we divided the participants into two groups for analysis: those who reported that 61 percent or more of their students acquired responsible attitudes toward archeological resources (Group 1, N=39), and those who reported 60 percent or less (Group 2, N= 11. The remainder are not using the program or did not supply sufficient information for analysis.) We surmised that Group 2 failed to include lessons with strong preservation messages, resulting in low percentages in the "responsible attitudes" category.

The two groups were compared based on the number and types of lessons they used in their classrooms. We found that both groups used a similar mix of lessons from each of the four activity guide sections. The only measurable difference between the two groups is that Group 2 taught fewer lessons per year than did Group 1, however, the difference is negligible. Thus, we were left with a less than satisfying explanation for failure to instill responsible attitudes.

In an effort to account for the difference between the two groups, we examined several factors including grade and subject taught, number of years elapsed since taking a workshop, and geographic location of school. Grade, subject, and time of initial training revealed no clues. We did, however, find a correlation between location and responsible attitudes. A total of 13 respondents were located in rural areas. Of these, 6 were in Group 2 and comprised more than 50 percent of the total, while 7 were in Group 1 and comprised only 16 parent of the entire group. Thus, it appears from these data that Intrigue was less successful at producing responsible attitudes in rural areas than in urban areas.

In southwestern Colorado, recreational pot hunting is a family tradition of long standing.8 Numerous families in this area have collected artifacts from public lands for several generations. Although no similar survey exists for Utah , it is reasonable to believe that the same attitudes are prevalent west of the state line.9 Additionally, some commercial looters in Utah believe that "the public has the right to artifacts located on public land."10 Thus, recreational pot hunters as well as commercial looters know a lot about archeology but don't understand why it's important.

The developers of the Intrigue program knew at the outset that the job of changing attitudes in some of these areas would be difficult at best because of these long held beliefs.11 Although the sample size is extremely small and results should be used with caution, these evaluation data confirm our early concerns that the program may not be as effective in rural areas as urban. Thus, it is not that Intrigue teachers are ineffective or not presenting the right messages, but that it is difficult to change firmly entrenched values even with good materials and methods. A more thorough evaluation which may involve intensive ethnographic techniques12 targeting these geographic locations may be an appropriate second step.

On a more positive note approximately half of the rural teachers who responded were successful in producing responsible attitudes in their students. Their success may be instructive for reformulating educational strategies for rural locations in general.

We were still unable to account for the urban portion of Group 2: Why did some urban educators indicate low percentages in the responsible attitudes category? Several other possible explanations which are not measurable with the data at hand may illuminate this question as well as the divergence between Groups 1 and 2.

Although most of the lessons in sections one, two, and three contain preservation messages, these messages may have been omitted by Group 2 educators. Also, the personal enthusiasm and effectiveness of teachers may vary between the two groups. Group 2 teachers may have made a more harsh assessment of student learning than did Group 1 teachers. And finally, Group 2 teachers may work in more difficult circumstances than Group 1 teachers, e.g. large classrooms or difficult students. Future Intrigue of the Past program evaluations will be designed to address these and other variables.

Future Directions

The illegal excavation of archeological sites and the collection of artifacts continues in many parts of Utah. Special Agent Rudy Mauldin, who specializes in Archaeological Resource Protection Act violations, reports that active pot hunters still do not understand that sites need to be protected for their scientific and traditional values. Mauldin reports that pot hunters often tell him that "the only reason that archeologists don't want us to dig is because they want the fun of digging the sites themselves." Like the cross-country skier, they don't have the right knowledge. They think that archeologists are in it for the same reason they are—to get the artifacts out of the ground. Pot hunters typically know something about what archeologists do but don't understand the importance of the scientific information that sites, artifacts, and their context provide, an understanding that might cause them to stop illegal digging and collecting.

lt may, of course, be too late to educate the hardened pot hunters that Mauldin encounters. However, we must be sure that their children receive the correct message from us, the archeological community. To simply show the public what archeologists do, especially field work, while omitting the contribution that archeological research makes to science and anthropology in general, may make it appear that archeology is nothing more than summer fun in the wilds of America and the rest of the world. Intrigue of the Past strives to demonstrate the contribution of archeological research and all of the reasons for protecting sites and artifacts. Evaluation results show that the program is largely successful, however, it appears that we still have our work cut out for us especially in rural Utah where the young citizens we are trying to educate live in close proximity to the archeological resources we are trying to protect.

For more information, contact Jeanne M. Moe and Kelly A. Letts, Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake City, Utah. This article was excerpted from a paper presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Anaheim, California, April 22, 1994.


1. Stufflebeam, Daniel L., 1971, "The Relevance of the CIPP Evaluation Model for Educational Accountability," Journal of Research and Development in Education, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 19-23.

2. Stufflebeam, Daniel L., 1984, "The CIPP Model for Program Evaluation," in Evaluation Models, edited by George Madaus, Michael Scriven, and Daniel Stufflebeam, pp. 117-141.

3. Moe, Jeanne M., 1992, "Intrigue of the Past Archaeology Education Program: A Proposal for Evaluation," manuscript on file with the author, Salt Lake City: Bureau of Land Management.

4. Smith, Shelley, Jeanne Moe, Kelly Letts, and Danielle Paterson, 1992, Intrigue of the Past: Investigating Archaeology, A Teacher's Activity Guide for Fourth through Seventh Grades, Salt Lake City: Bureau of Land Management.

5. Bennett, Dean B., 1989, "Four Steps to Evaluating Environmental Education Learning Experiences," Journal of Environmental Education, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 14-21.

6. Iozzi, Louis A., 1989, "Part One: Environmental Education and Affective Domain." Journal of Environmental Education, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 3-9.

7. Iozzi, Louis A., 1989, "Part Two: Environmental Education and the Affective Domain." Journal of Environmental Education, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 6-13.

8. Nickens, Paul R., Signa L. Larralde, and Gordon C. Tucker, Jr., 1981, A Survey of Vandalism to Archaeological Resources in Southwestern Colorado, Cultural Resource Series, no. 11, Denver: Bureau of Land Management.

9. Signa Larralde, personal communication, 1994.

10. U.S. General Accounting Office, Cultural Resources: Problem Protecting and Preserving Federal Archeological Resources, Washington, D.C.: GAO/RCED-88-3, 1987, pp.23-24.

11. Moe, Jeanne M., 1992, "The Development of Archaeology Conservation Values: An Evaluation Using Ethnographic Methods," manuscript on file with the author, Salt Lake City: Bureau of Land Management.