Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stone, Culture, and Science in the Classroom

Two of the student's reproductions
During this time of year I do a lot of work with school kids, primarily through the Open Minds program at The Rooms art gallery, museum, and archive here in St. John's.  Sometimes these are talks about archaeology and the pre-contact cultures of Newfoundland and Labrador structured around a flintknapping demonstration.  Lately, I've been doing ground stone tool making with grade 5 students.  We've been making ground slate ulus and men's knives based on Inuit artifacts from Labrador.

One for each student
In one of these workshops, I bring in prepared slate blanks, wood handles and all the grinding, drilling, and tying tools that the kids will need to complete the project.  With a class of around 25 kids and a half dozen adult helpers, we can help each student create their own slate ulu or men's knife in about 2 hours.  Its a satisfying project for everyone involved and the kids learn about Inuit people, archaeology, patience, and perseverance as they work to create their own stone tool artifact reproduction.

Parents and teachers help with the drill
An important part of the process is using traditional tools, like the bow drill, to create their reproductions.  This works especially well in the Open Minds setting at The Rooms because the classroom is set up next door to the Connections Gallery where many of the original artifacts are displayed.  During lunch or recess, the students have the opportunity to visit the Connections Gallery and see first hand the tools that they are using and recreating in the classroom.

A finished ulu - great work!
Yesterday, during the review at the end of the session, the instructor asked the grade fives what words they would use to describe Inuit people after their experience with making and using the traditional tools and the kids replied with; "Hard-working, Strong, Independent, and Patient".

"Hard-working, Strong, Independent, and Patient" 

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Just found out about you blog. I think I enjoyed your class as much as the kids (maybe more). Great job!
    Rich (parent in the photo)

  2. Thanks, Rich - I really enjoy those days as well.


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