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Can you dig it

Reimagined Programming: Can You Dig it? Endures Through the Pandemic

The McClung’s annual celebration of International Archaeology Day, Can You Dig it? (CYDI), has been a programming staple for over a decade. This event welcomes hundreds of participants from the general public to interact with UT faculty, students, and community partners. But just like so many education events disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, our cherished program had to adapt to our new circumstances.

Activity bag

The archaeology activity bag featured lessons and materials for craft and science projects.

CYDI is much more than a science fair. It is a commitment to raise awareness about archaeology in the Knoxville community. Last year, the McClung partnered with Belle Morris Elementary School to deliver over 400 archaeology activity packets to students learning onsite and remotely. This past October, we expanded on this approach and partnered with Spring Hill and West View elementary schools for in-class presentations by museum educators along with take-home activity packets for every student. A total of 709 kits were distributed at the schools, with an additional 59 given to families who visited the McClung during Knox County’s fall break week.

Circle Time with PreK

Museum educators lead circle time for a class presentation on archaeology tools.

After months of strict physical distance, museum educators Leslie Chang Jantz and Callie Bennett were finally able to engage with local school students directly. Over the course of a week, they visited every classroom for a presentation on archaeology and its field tools. Along the way, UT graduate students, such as Brigid Ogden, joined the visits to educate the students about their own academic specialty. Regarding her experience, Brigid comments, “So many students had great questions about the material and it was great to see them get excited about not just archaeology as a field in general, but also the research being done in their own backyard.” After each presentation, teachers were given the activity bags to distribute to students at the end of the day. The activity bags featured three archaeology lessons, complete with supplies for art and science projects, and were designed to encourage continued learning at home for students and their caregivers.

Angela Hodge posted on the McClung’s Facebook page:“My daughter attends Spring Hill Elementary and today she learned about archaeology and what they do. She brought home a craft of making corn cob with pipe cleaners and beads. We will definitely be making some more for our family!”

Circle time with students

Callie Bennett shows students at West View Elementary a trowel from an archaeology tool box.

The CYDI outreach program has been a unique opportunity to engage with students and neighborhoods unfamiliar with the McClung. Despite the increasing constraints faced by teachers during these hectic times, our partner schools graciously agreed to grant the museum an hour session with each class. Angela Ballard, second grade teacher at Spring Hill, shared with us, “My students were engaged and asked many questions. They were also so excited to get the bags. They came back the next morning and talked about what they made and learned from the lesson.” We are grateful to Knox Education Foundation coordinators at Spring Hill and West View, Jessica Bocángel and Susan Martin, for securing support from teachers and administrators for the program. They were integral to the success of this initiative!

Children with activity bags

Students at Spring Hill Elementary and their activity bags.

The McClung team looks forward to resuming the popular onsite CYDI celebration next year. Until then, we trust that the relationships we have built with community schools these past two years will enable more families to feel welcome at the museum.





This program has been generously sponsored by

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