Author Archive for Jared Katz

The Best Laid Plans: Unexpected Changes at a Late Date

This quarter has been very helpful for me in terms of thinking about and organizing a community outreach program. Many of my questions and concerns have been answered and alleviated. I have, however, had some problems that I did not previously anticipate. For example, I feel confident in the curriculum I have designed, and I believe I have all of the skills necessary to run this program successfully. I have completed the 3D models of a number of the instruments that will be used in the program, and I have successfully 3D printed some of the instruments, and they turned out better than I had anticipated. I have also received very positive feedback from my community partner, MACLA, where I had intended to hold the program. The problem, however, is that, due to no fault of their own, MACLA is unsure if they will still be able to host the program.

I had a meeting with them last week and they were very supportive and seemed very interested in the program I have developed, but due to their limited staff, they are now unsure if someone can be available to be at the center when my program would be offered in the mornings, which is the only time they do not have existing programming booked. During our meeting, people were very helpful, and brainstormed a number of other centers in the area that would be interested in my program. I have reached out to several of them, and am now waiting to hear back. Due to the fact that I had intended to start the program in the end of June, I am concerned that this last minute change of venue may throw off the schedule. I am confident that I will find a location at which to hold the program, however, I may have to change the curriculum I have developed to a more condensed version depending on how much this change impacts the start date.

I have also reached out to several museums, and offered to run regular single day workshops open to the public. Should the museums prefer this approach, the workshops would use an abridged version of my curriculum, but should still provide people with a solid overview of the material. I did not anticipate having to make a change of this magnitude at this point, but I am still confident that I will be able to hold a successful program. At the end of the summer, I may have developed two curriculums, one for workshops and one for a longer program, and both should prove to be helpful.

Racing the Clock: managing expectations of what can be done in one summer

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.

Situating the Public: Putting Them First

The goal of this post is to discuss the community with which I will be working in terms of the topics that we have been analyzing in our Public Scholars meetings.I have been looking forward to running this community outreach program for some time (I discuss the overall structure of the program in my first blog post), but interacting with and learning from the other Public Scholars and the faculty members has helped to make me more self-reflexive about the type of project I am creating. As stated by Steven Lubar on his blog focused on public humanities, “It’s not about you.” This seems intuitive, after all it is a community outreach program and, therefore, is meant to benefit the broader community. I found myself making certain decisions, however, that were primarily made due to what I am comfortable with.

I decided, for example, that I would be holding my program in a public library. When I found out it would be impossible to hold the program in a public library, I reached out to the San Jose State University library to see if I could use a room there. Unfortunately, that was not a possibility either. It was only when I was drafting an email to the Anthropology Department at San Jose State University to request the use of space in the department that it became glaringly obvious what I was doing. This program does not need to be held in a library space or in a classroom setting, that is just the environment that I am familiar with, and therefore that I am comfortable with. I instantly deleted my email to the Anthropology department, and started looking at other spaces.

A friend informed me that a cultural center in San Jose, the Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), might be interested in hosting my program. Looking into the center more, I realized it would be an ideal location. The mission of the center is to educate the community about Latino culture, art, and music in a variety of ways. It is also in a central location in downtown San Jose. This is crucial, as it will create opportunities to engage with the broader community more frequently.

As discussed by Dwight Giles, engagement is a crucial aspect of public scholarship and, in part, means the creation of a partnership between the academic and local expertise. If I were to hold the program in the Anthropology department, I would essentially be forcing students to enter into my realm of academia, rather than going to the community in order to create a meaningful program that, hopefully, can be offered in the future as well. I have not yet heard back from MACLA, but I am hopeful that they will be interested in learning more about my program. If I am able to offer the program in this space, I know I will learn from the other instructors, who have much more experience educating the public about art and music. I would also change the curriculum in order to have more opportunities for additional community members to get involved with the program, should they be interested. I am excited to hear back from MACLA and I will update everyone with what happens in a future blog post. Until then, I hope all is well.


Why I Am Here: Making Archaeology Accessible

Since I was young, I intended to go into academics. Several members of my family were involved in academia, and I found the idea of perusing knowledge in order to educate a wide audience to be a very compelling career path. I was surprised, however, to find that the more involved with my research in graduate school I became, the group of people I was speaking to shrank. At first, I thought that I was doing something incorrectly, but quickly realized I was, in fact, doing exactly what was expected of me. I then made a conscious decision that I would make public outreach one of my priorities. This past fall, I spoke to several scholars about collaborating on a potential public outreach program together, but progress was very slow. It was at this point that the the UC Public Scholars Program was announced. I began my application immediately, as the program provided the institutional backing and guidance I had been looking for.

My project uses digital technologies and new archaeological methodologies in order to educate students about ancient Maya culture. Very few secondary school systems in the U.S. that I have heard of include new world cultures in their history units. Many schools dedicate time to discuss Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures, but hardly discuss Maya, Aztec, or Inca cultures at all. This is extremely problematic, as many students in the U.S. have moved from, or have family in Mesoamerica and South America. It is my goal to create a curriculum that uses a variety of engaging exercises and affordable technologies in order to allow more secondary schools to include units on ancient Maya culture.

The program that I am designing uses my research on ancient Maya musical practices, in order to help teach middle school students about many aspects of Maya culture. For part of my dissertation research, I have been traveling to archaeological projects and museums throughout the Maya area in order to make 3D models of ancient Maya musical instruments. The first week of the program, I will present each student with a 3D printed playable replica of an ancient Maya musical instrument, along with all of the contextual information about that instrument. Each student, throughout the duration of the program, will become an expert on their particular instrument. They will need to learn about the site in which their instrument was found, the techniques used to excavate it, and what the contextual information tells us about the role of music in ancient Maya culture. This one aspect of the program will allow the students to learn about the archaeological process, as well as ancient Maya culture, in a very tangible and hands on way.

New technologies are allowing people to interact with the past in ways that were previously impossible. It allows archaeologists to help make material that brings the past to life for people in a very tactile and real way. Such possibilities range from offering digital tours of ancient Maya sites to 3D printing artifacts and allowing people to play with them. I feel it is important to use these new techniques to create affordable materials that will help to educate more people about ancient cultures throughout the Americas.