UCD Archaeology: Reaching Beyond the University Programmes

Contact: Thomas Kador (thomas.kador@ucd.ie/ conor.mcdermot@ucd.ie)

Note: This initiatve ended in 2012. However you can access a list of UCD summer school courses, including archaelogy, at this webpage

Archaeology is one of those subjects that Irish school students only come across in a very limited way, as part of the History and Geography curricula, prior to being able to choose it at third level. In an effort to finding ways of expanding the reach of archaeology in Ireland and in particular to give primary and post-primary school students the opportunity to experience the subject, the UCD School of Archaeology has launched a number of outreach and engagement initiatives. These include a Transition Year Programme for second level and participation in various access initiatives for both primary and post primary students.

Transition Year Programme

The transition year programme, established two years ago in 2008/09, invites transition year students to gain a week’s work and research experience at the School of Archaeology. This year’s programme, held in March 2010, took in eight students out of nearly 50 applications from all over Ireland, highlighting the great demand for making archaeology accessible to post-primary school students.

As part of the programme, the students explore many different aspects of the work the School of Archaeology is involved in. They get to work with artefacts and materials, environmental remains (ecofacts), work with our conservator and attend some undergraduate lectures. As one of the perks, the students get a behind the scenes visit to the archaeology collection of the National Museum of Ireland and have the opportunity to handle objects from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt at the Classical Museum in the UCD School of Classics.

Access Initiatives

Since 2004 the School has also been involved in a number of primary school access initiatives, including work with the UCD New Era access programme, which I reported on in the 2009 Engage newsletter. This year the School had the opportunity to contribute some archaeology workshops to UCD Access Week 2010, organised by the UCD Students’ Union. The event allowed fifth and sixth class primary school students to explore ancient objects, study human remains, learn about excavation and environmental archaeology, and to embark on a virtual journey with Viking sailors. The workshops are based on archaeology graduate students providing small groups of 4-5 primary school students hands-on interaction with the materials. In turn, it is hoped that such experiences will, in a small way, help to raise the students’ educational aspirations. Additionally, some of the School of Archaeology’s postgraduate students are also involved in the UCD New Era summer school, through delivering 45 minute long workshops in archaeology to third and fourth year post-primary students. In facilitating workshops for school students the archaeology postgraduate students must find new ways of communicating the subject matter, free of jargon and in clear and creative ways, which in turn can prove hugely beneficial to their approach to their own research.

First established in 2004, the following are community partners to date:

  • UCD New Era programme
  • UCD Students Union
  • Various primary and post-primary schools
  • The National Museum of Ireland
  • The UCD School of Classics


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