While designing this outreach program, I have constantly had to remind myself that this workshop will only be seven to eight weeks long. Another important factor is that I will be working with middle school students, not college undergraduates. When designing the overall structure of the program, both of these constraints have proven to be challenges I need to overcome. I knew both of these factors conceptually, but it was only when I was sitting down to design the entire program that I saw how limiting these factors could be.
While creating a lesson plan for the various topics that I will be covering this summer, I realized I was planning sessions based on college courses, not on middle school extra curricular programs. For example, I planned to give a 45 minute lecture on the first day in order to introduce the students to the field of archaeology. Remembering back to my middle schools days, I don’t know how enthusiastic I would be if summer vacation had just begun and I was sitting in a workshop listening to a 45 minute talk.
I have been asking for advice from a number of middle school teachers from several different countries to help me come up with a successful strategy. They all had, for the most part, similar comments. They suggested getting the student’s moving by having activities planned, and to break up lectures into shorter time frames spread over the duration of the class. I always intended the program to be largely based on hands on activities, but I also had planned several larger lectures throughout the program. I now need to shorten these lectures, creating natural stopping points during which we will pause to complete the exercises, and create additional shorter activities to incorporate into these units. Breaking up these lectures and including even more activities does change the original schedule I was intending to keep, but I am hoping this new schedule will keep the students more engaged.
I believe I will be able to accomplish the overall goal of the program within the time frame of this summer without too much difficulty. As mentioned in previous posts, I hope to turn the curriculum I use this summer into a program that can be presented to middle schools around the country, in order to help encourage more school systems to teach their students about Maya archaeology in an affordable and hands on way. I intend to create one program with three options; a one-week schedule, a two-week schedule, and a three-week schedule, depending on how much time the school wants to spend on the unit. The first week will be a stand-alone course, and both remaining weeks will build off of it, should schools want to discuss the topic in greater detail. Because the program I am running this summer is stretched over 7 weeks, I believe I will get a sense of what is working and what is not, and will have time to test several options to see works best. I will spend several months after the program ends writing the curriculum with detailed instructions on how the exercises are run, basic instructions on how to use the software I am using, and my own comments and thoughts detailing what worked, what didn’t and why. I believe that the time frame I have available will be sufficient to run a successful summer workshop for the students and to complete the curriculum I am designing.