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Access Cambridge Archaeology launches new programme for primary schools: CALF

last modified Dec 07, 2016 05:27 PM

 On Friday we ran our first ever CALF day- Cambridge Archaeology Learning foundation. Covering everything from what archaeology is, what we study, what it tells us and how it gets there, CALF sessions introduce the essentials of archaeology to those aged 7-11. The sessions are taught in the classroom, using a wide range of fun, hands- on activities using real artefacts.


Foxton Primary school welcomed us for our first ever CALF day were we spent the morning with a mixed year 3 and 4 class. After a brief introduction explaining what archaeology is (we don’t do dinosaurs!), we demonstrated some of the tools we use, and the kind of objects we find. Many of them had heard a bit about archaeology before, and were keen to share what they had found in their own gardens. There is nothing like some practical learning however and we soon started on our activities. Pupils loved digging through their own ‘midden’ looking for seeds to identify. Historical maps pulled on other subject skill areas as did looking at real animal bones. They had great fun identifying what the mystery skeleton was and handling a real lion skull! Pupils got to identify pieces of pottery from ACA’s excavations – and were amazed to realise that some of the pottery they held in their hand was over 2200 years old!


The second half of the morning we looked at understanding how we can tell how old objects are, and what does and does not survive. It’s a tricky concept to imagine, but with our handy ‘excavation’ in the classroom, pupils were able to dig through different layers and find objects. We then looked what the objects can tell us about the past. It may just be a bit of old pottery to you, but what did people use it for? What can it tell us about the technology of how it was made? Where is it from and what trade routes brought it here? Pupils then got to put these ideas in to practise by being the archaeologists themselves. They examined boxes of objects from different periods and came up with their own interpretations.


It was all great fun, and was repeated with a mixed year 5 and 6 class in the afternoon. The content worked well for all age groups, as archaeology is such an interesting subject, there are always more questions you can ask about the past. The rest of the school didn’t miss out on the fun however! At assembly time we played a game of Call my Bluff with some of the more unusual objects from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Archaeologists have to interpret objects to understand the people who used them, and everyone had a great time guessing what the objects were.


The sessions are designed to hit the overarching aims of the National curriculum for history and as such introduce students to ideas of historical enquiry, concepts of change, and how we use evidence. Importantly they also help demonstrate the depth of time; rather than focusing on one time period, pupils understand how they all fit together. It’s important to build on pupils’ knowledge however so examples can be linked back to topics pupils are currently studying.


Overall the days were very well received, with feedback from staff at Foxton Primary school giving very positive reviews highlighting “The combination of hands-on learning and lateral thinking” and “A good mix of both hands on and thinking. Great range of artefacts. I particularly liked the use of drawers to demonstrate the layers of earth.” Having had such a fantastic first go we are keen to offer the sessions to more schools! Sessions are currently structured as a half-day with each class but can be modified according to schools needs and budget.


If you would like ACA to visit a primary school near you, please visit for more details or contact us at