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NPS Archeology Guide > Archeology Outreach > 3. Education or Interpretation?

Education or Interpretation?

Education and interpretation have overlapping elements, but each is distinct in its approach and goals, and often in audience. Archeologists should collaborate with interpreters and educators to develop outreach programs to benefit from each other's skills, knowledge, and experience. They should also work together to develop outreach programs that are relevant to a broad, diverse audience.


"Education" tends to refer to formal curricula delivered to fulfill specific knowledge standards according to school grade or developmental stage. Its audiences are often classroom-based, such as K-12 and college or university classes. Educators tend to present multiple points of view but expect a correct answer, use facts to support learning objectives, believe the retention of information to be paramount, and guide learners toward information that they need to learn. An education program may be followed by an activity or an assessment to see what students have learned.


"Interpretation" is educational, but takes place in informal settings. Interpreters tend to offer multiple points of view, lead audiences to personal revelations, encourage open-ended dialogue, and believe the process to be as important as the end result.