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Spring 2009
Right SideTitle
November 4, 2009
Learning Through Building in Second Life:
ECHS ANTH 1000 Archaeology Projects
Jami Leibowitz, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University
The Early College High School (ECHS) Project gives local high
school students the opportunity to take ECU classes using the
Teen Grid in Second Life (SL). Last semester, students in the
Introduction to Anthropology course researched and then
reconstructed some well known archaeological sites. The
process of having to recreate, i.e. build, the sites in SL forced
students to truly focus on the architecture and artifacts found
at the sites so they could give an accurate representation. The
building combined with additional outside research, helped
students to understand how the artifacts that are left behind
help archaeologists understand past cultures.
The Archaeology Project:
Archaeologists study past cultures through material remains. By
examining what is left behind, archaeologists can infer how the people
who used that site lived and perhaps even what they believed. You will
be teamed with two other students to research a well known
archaeological site and then build a replica in Second Life. In addition
to the replica you as a team will have to produce a series of
researched notecards that you attach to various features in your SL
build discussing the site. 50% of your grade will come from this group
component (i.e. the build and the notecards), however, the other 50%
will come from an individual 3-5 page, double spaced paper discussing
the culture of the group that once lived at this site.
(Introduction to project description as provided to students.)
One of the unique features of SL is the building components. All
students taking the SL ANTH 1000 course simultaneously took
ITEC 2000 in which they learned (among other things) how to
build in SL.
In Anthropology we incorporated what we learned about how to build into
what we knew about archeological dig sites and we created our own.
~~Brittany Howard, J. H. Rose High School
Building in SL is an activity that the students both thoroughly
enjoyed and proved very adept at. Building archaeological sites
in SL complements the tactile nature of archaeology. Having the
unique ability to actually recreate archaeological sites using a
process that the students enjoyed, enhanced students’
enthusiasm for this project, which translated into students
putting in additional effort than they otherwise would and
subsequently, learning more than they otherwise would if this
had been viewed as just another boring research project.
Introduction to Anthropology (ANTH 1000) provides a general overview of the four
main subfields of anthropology: Physical/Biological Anthropology, Cultural
Anthropology, Linguistics and Archaeology. Under any circumstance, this is a lot of
material to cover in one semester. In the ECHS program, the time constraints are
compounded by occasional technical difficulties with SL, teacher work days and
special events that take place in the high schools. This is further compounded by
the need to include more background information to which they have just not yet
been exposed.
In the best of time circumstances, the Archaeology segment of ANTH 1000 consists
of two weeks of material that covers a definition and the goals of archaeology,
basic archaeological methods and two theories about the development of
humanity based on the archaeological record (the Neolithic revolution and the rise
of the state). This isn’t truly sufficient for students to gain an understanding of how
the artifacts culture groups leave behind help archaeologists to reconstruct those
past cultures. To a significant extent, this also proves somewhat disappointing to
students for whom archaeology tends to be an extremely interesting and accessible
Teaching Archaeology:
After rushing through the archaeology segment in ANTH 1000, I
always advise students to go on to take Archaeology Around the
World (ANTH 2000) for a more thorough exploration. Of all the
subfields of Anthropology, Archaeology is the most visual and
tactile. You learn archaeology by examining artifacts and sites.
The standard approach taken to learning archaeology in ANTH 2000
and other archaeology classes is to focus on particular archaeological
sites to learn significant concepts by exploring how they are
represented in the archaeology of those sites. They then go further to
discuss how the analysis of those individual sites contribute to a
broader understanding of both past cultures and the evolution of
human civilization. The archaeology projects are designed to bring
that element of learning archaeology through the exploration of sites
into ANTH 1000.
Project Requirements:
This project consists of a well researched individual paper as
well as the group build. For the paper, students are expected to
write a 3-5 page double spaced well researched and cited
paper discussing the people who once lived at the site. For the
build, students are encouraged to be as creative as possible,
however, there are a few elements / requirements they must
Build at least one substantial structure found at the site.
Build at least one additional structure or artifact associated with the site.
Design an environment appropriate for the site.
Create an introductory poster giving basic facts about the site.
Incorporate the research you have done into the site in the form of at least 10
– 15 notecards connected to various features, images, or objects within the
Provide information on the archaeological expedition associated with the site.
Somewhere in your presentation post an image of the site as it looks today (or
when found) and a reconstruction of what the site looked like at its height.
Provide a bibliography that includes a minimum of 5 sources. Sources may
include credible websites, books, articles, documentaries, etc.
Remember, this is an educational site. Make both the site and the information
within your site tourist friendly, i.e. easily accessible and interesting.
Given the time constraints associated with ANTH 1000 and the
unique learning environment of SL, the archaeology projects
proved to be a successful strategy. Students were able to
combine what they learned in ANTH 1000 with the skills they
gained in their other SL course, ITEC 2000 to research and recreate archaeological sites. Through this self-directed project,
students successfully discovered how artifacts and
archaeological sites help modern day people understand past