Innovative Learning Week: Part I

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

– John F. Kennedy 

First of all Happy Belated President’s Day!  And for all you readers back in the states, it’s an Election Year so don’t forget to stay informed, keep supporting, and MOST OF ALL VOTE!

This week is Innovative Learning Week, a special week off of standard classes in order to have students go out and try something new/learn outside of the traditional classroom setting.  I’ve had a pretty great week so far!  Monday was a recovery day from the EUMC trip this weekend – so lots of laundry and kit cleaning.  I went climbing on Tuesday and then worked on my Archaeology essay at a coffee shop.  Most everyone here at Pollock has left, it was was strangely quiet (read: thank god, some peace and quiet).  So I had a nice night in with Netflix and numerous cups of tea.

But, today was the actual bomb dot com.  The Uni hosts all sorts of different events throughout the week and one of the events I signed up for was a five hour Osteo-Archaeology seminar!  It was absolutely fantastic!

The day was split into six stations with lunch in the middle.  My group started in the lab with a 3D scanning station.  We learned how to create 3D scans of an object to better analyze it in the lab.  The Uni uses this scans with their 3D printer to create models of artifacts too fragile to handle for studying.

Then we went to the Bone Station where we learned how to clean human remains.  The remains we cleaned were 400 years old from the White Friar Friary in Perth (Northern Scotland).  I got to clean a femur head.  Morbid, I know… but also really cool.  Osteo-Archaeology has always been an interest of mine.  I think it’s amazing how much we can learn about an individual’s and the broader societal context in which they lived just by their bones.  (I was also a keen bean a knew all the names of the bones when asked.)

Next, we headed outside to learn some basic fieldwork techniques.  We analyzed a stone cairn (piled stone burial mound) and drew model trenches on grids.  It was great practice for Romania, which will include a lot of skeletal remains.

The last two stations were back in the Archaeology Labs.  The first was another form of 3D modeling, this time with 2D photos aligned together to create a computerized model.  The second station was reconstructing pottery.  The pottery station was really need and a good skill to learn for museum collections – a pile of broken shards is not nearly as interesting as a reconfigured vase.

All in all I really learned a lot and had a great time.  I am so glad am I studying Archaeology.

Okay, now coming back up to the JFK quote at the top of the page – I got back to my room and immediately went for a run up Calton Hill.  I’ve got a few papers due in the next couple of weeks and needed a breather.  I played a lot of sports growing up, (everything from taekwondo, basketball, softball, cross-country, and pole vaulting) so being able to get a good workout is important to me. And especially as a person with anxiety, releasing endorphins by running has always been a way for me to relax and focus.   Also, what sort of archaeologist would I be if I couldn’t out-run a giant boulder?

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because this is exactly how all excavations work. 

And in the spirit of ILW, I think it’s important to remember that learning and knowledge can come from more than just classes and books.  People are constantly picking up information from their environment and as I run through Edinburgh I am passing one historical site after another.  Today’s route started at Pollock, ran down to Holyrood, up to the Royal Mile, across North Bridge (past Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument), down Princes Street, and then up Calton.  The route back was down South Bridge, past Old College, and then behind the busier streets of Old Town to get back to Pollock.

(side tangent: there is a great route starting at Pollock to George Square, down to the Grassmarket, and up the backstairs (really great set of awful, awful steep stairs) to the Castle, down the Royal Mile, turning onto Holyrood, and back to Pollock… honestly I should just start a new segment on this blog about Historical Running Routes.)

So I’m probably a huge nerd, but I always plan my running routes around historical sites… but it paid off when I got to the top of Calton and got to watch the sunset over the castle.  It sort of puts life into perspective thinking about how many people over the centuries have watched the sun disappear behind the castle’s rounded towers.  It was also really, really pretty.

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And now I’m back in my room working on making my Archaeology essay the most killer essay ever written.  Tomorrow a few friends and I are off to Stirling to check out Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument!

YAY History!

3 thoughts on “Innovative Learning Week: Part I

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written. Hey got new music for you the Wicked Tinkers’ third album “Banger for Breakfast,” #15 will make you weep, listen to the whole thing, it changes up in the middle. Also, #22 incorporates a bronze age horn called a “dord.” They also use it in other songs as well. Love you, Padre’


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