Field Schools

John Staeck (staeckjp@MARTIN.LUTHER.EDU)
Fri, 7 Apr 1995 14:05:48 -0500

Howdy. My experience has been that morale and a balance of archaeological
experiences make field schools much more successful. Students who feel that
they are being sytematically exposed to and trained in a variety of
experiences tend to be happier about their experiences than people who are
simply dumped in the same or similar units. This is especially important
since not all students take to field work as strongly as others. I think it
is pretty important to encourage and prepare lab technicians and
ethnohistorians, who need a working knowledge of field archaeology, but who
themselves may not want to be out in the field regularly (or at all?).
We're a small school with a modest faculty in anthro. Our
students, like most everywhere, have financial limitations and need to work
part of the summer in order to afford to come back to school in the fall.
In response to this we've developed a 3-part model for our in-house students.
1. Archaeology II: Reconstructing the Past, is offered in the
spring semester. This is a method and theory course that uses the field
school site, at least in part, for examples of field work. Students receive
a full semester of theory and method in preparation for the summer.
2. A 6 week field season on a regional site. We're in northeast
Iowa and this is my primary research area. We've got many good and
important sites worthy of investigation. During this session we cover
survey, excavations, and the accompanying sampling, recovery etc. issues.
We rotate crew members so people have experiences with different crew
members and in different areas of the site. We also do some mapping with
laser theodolite (but most of this is covered in 3).
3. During the fall semester we run a laboratory course that is
mandatory for all those returning from the field school. Here we process
those materials that were not dealt with during rain days and a few evenings
during the summer. The course meets once a week and then students are
expected to put in about 10 hours per week on their own (4 credit course).
This gives us the chance to cover basic techniques and provide updates
weekly while also being flexible enough to allow students to continue with
other class work. We also take this time to undertake mapping projects with
the laser theodolite and to learn the fundamentals of data recording and

All-in-all response has been very positive. Cost is kept to a minimum
because the spring and fall courses are included in the college's
comprehensive fee. We offer only 4 credits for the 6 weeks because that
keeps the summer cost under $1000 per person.

We do give up the flexibility to bring in large numbers of students from
other colleges, though, since these students are not always prepared in
terms of theory to begin a field school (see SOPA field school guidelines
re: lecture etc...) We do take students who have some background in
archaeology and we are happy to try and work with folks on getting out into
the field.

Well, in a large nutshell that is what we try to do and why. So far, so good.

cheers - john
John Staeck Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
Anthropology Program
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101