During the third and final year of our community excavations at Clare Castle Country Park, our Outreach and Community Engagement Officer, Caroline Adams, has been working closely with two schools in Clare, Suffolk – Clare Community Primary School and Stour Valley Community School.
In the summer 2021, well before the excavations started, an on-line programme suitable for each school year group was devised, which was designed to prepare them for visit later in the year. The primary school students were encouraged to have a go at a range of activities including making their own mini dig, doing artefact drawings and making a museum displays using objects from home, which culminated in the school displaying their work during a ‘show and tell’ session attended by Caroline and Jo Caruth, Project Manager of the Clare Castle excavations (fortunately we weren’t required to pick any winners, as they were all so good!). The secondary school presentations involved more in-depth information about the community project, an artefact quiz and discussions about life in Clare during the Black Death in the 14th century and during the English Civil War in the 17th century, as these were periods of history the children were studying.
Children and staff from both schools were then able to visit the site and have a go at excavation, soil sieving, finds washing and finds’ identification. Most children helped to unearth animal bone and pottery and were able to see the range of artefacts being excavated up close whilst they were finds washing. The visit included a tour of the site: rumours of an Anglo-Saxon burial had already been circulating, and seeing it was the highlight for many of the children!
Teachers from the schools described their visits as ‘fantastic’, thanking us on behalf of the children, staff and parents, commenting that they ‘loved everything we did – the children were buzzing when we got back to school!’
There was no better example of the impact of the visit that in the endeavours of 6-year-old Alvin Walker, who attended again with his parents during the Open Day in October. Alvin built a 3D model of the park for a school project, complete with the castle’s motte and keep, excavation site, digging tools and an underground skeleton, only revealed under a lifting flap. We all thought Alvin’s model was wonderful and admired how enthusiastic the children (and all ages!) were about the archaeology – we will be very disappointed if he doesn’t become an archaeologist!
The Yellow House school, with students based in Clare, also attended a tour and artefact handling workshop with Jezz Meredith.
After some children from St. Andrews C of E Primary School, Yeldham, attended the Clare Castle open day with their families, they returned to school and told their teachers and friends all about the archaeology. The school then contacted Cotswold Archaeology to find out more, and Caroline ended up delivering an online presentation about the dig to the children, including an artefact quiz. The school said ‘thank you so much for giving us your time and for sharing those amazing finds with our class. We have been talking a little more about them and the children are fascinated by the thought of the Anglo-Saxon graveyard under the ground where they ride their bikes and play football!’