This blog has come about because of the work of the Workers’ Educational Association Inclusive Archaeology Education Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Over the past two years we have been seeking to create a sustainable project that allows those from disadvantaged backgrounds to get involved in archaeology. We have presented our work at several conferences and have received positive feedback. On this page we would like to create a monthly discussion about current issues, sustainability, successes and difficulties around inclusive archaeology.
Please add your comments and share your ideas with us.
This month the topic is: How to make visits to historic sites accessible – and meaningful – to those with disabilities.
The Digability sessions are now in their field visit phase after our introductory classroom sessions. We have visited some fantastic sites over the past few weeks and seen some great examples of adapting access to suit the learners we have taken. The National Coal Mining Museum for example, having been advised of mobility problems, adapted their underground tour so the route was shorter and more accessible. At Barnsley and Doncaster Museums, handling sessions have been tailored to learners needs and interests. Cannon Hall prepared a fantastic day allowing us to excavate in the kitchen gardens and at Heeley City Farm the staff were very supportive, encouraging students to have a go at helping to repair the round house. We have of course taken full advantage of the free access for education groups provided by English Heritage and visited sites at Bolsover Castle, Brodsworth Hall and Conisbrough Castle. We have also made links with East Peak Industrial Partnership and Elmet Archaeology to provide fieldwork opportunities; both have been incredibly supportive of our students and helped to provide worthwhile and memorable access to our local archaeology.
In terms of access and support, then, we have found our partners very willing to work with us to develop opportunities for students with additional needs. Access, of course, is only part of the picture. As educational practitioners, we also face issues relating to the impact of field activities – particularly for students with learning difficulties. How much do our students learn? Can we measure what they have learnt from field visits? For some of our students it is an almost overwhelming experience to visit a castle for the first time or to see what it was like for family members to work underground. For others the experience of being outside for long periods ( usually 4-5 hours) is challenging and the benefits of these experiences is hard to measure, except from the large smiles and excited chatter. There are learning goals: identifying parts of a building; learning new words; working together as a group to measure and record a site or building; trying something new (such as handling mud in building the round house); but it is hard to capture these at times in a way that can be fully recorded.
We would really welcome any views on this and examples of how other people measure learning in the field – as well as your experiences in accessing/providing access to heritage sites.