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.
- Curriculum Materials, Mesa Verde National Park
- Community Based Archaeology in the Coal Creek National Historic District, Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve
- For Teachers (archeology-specific)
- Teaching with Historic Places lesson plans
- Archeology for Kids
- Technical Brief 4: Archeology in the Classroom: A Case Study from Arizona
- Jameson, John H. and Sherene Baugher, "Past Meets Present: Archaeologists Partnering with Museum Curators, Teachers, and Community Groups," In Making Connections through Archaeology: Partnering with Communities and Teachers in the National Park Service (New York: Springer) 2007.
"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.
- Meeting at Headquarters: Public Archeology at Valley Forge, Valley Forge National Historical Park
- Common Ground: Reaching the Public
- Technical Brief 15: State Archeology Weeks: Interpreting Archeology for the Public
- Distance Learning (four courses in archeology and interpretation, one on curation)
- Training, in the Archeology Outreach module
- Educators can advise interpreters on state and local benchmark standards, contacts in local schools and governments, and appropriate techniques for various age groups.
- Interpreters can advise educators on the range of techniques to engage with audiences and ways to work across age groups and other identity categories.
- Archeologists can be both educators and interpreters, and educators and interpreters should turn to archeologists to vet their programs.
- Archeologists and Interpreters Working Together from Interpretation for Archeologists
- Shared role in resource stewardship from Study Tour of Archeological Interpretation
Educators and interpreters know how important it is to consider the audience and the most effective ways to communicate. Archeologists are aware of the demanding ethical standards of their profession and the definitions and contexts for archeological materials. Together, they can design effective programs that promote stewardship and reach all parts of the interested public.
Education and interpretation are each important and useful approaches to enhancing the public benefits of archeological resources. Choose an approach after considering the audience and its needs, the resources and their stories, the goals of the outreach, time frame, and media involved.