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Branksome and UCC Latin students collaborate during a mock archaeological dig.
May 11, 2017
Latin Scholars Dig into the Past
Grade 9 and 10 UCC and Branksome Hall students are crouched around small plots of earth behind the Potting Shed, gently brushing dirt to one side with paint brushes.

“Remember your excavation techniques,” coaches Latin teacher Theresa Fuller.

“You found something!” calls out another student, as small figurines, dishes, golden bottles and tablets in ancient Roman text are unearthed by these amateur archeologists.

No, Branksome Hall was not built upon an ancient site, but rather, is the location of the first ever joint mock archaeological dig between Branksome and UCC Latin students.

Branksome girls first created all of the mock artifacts, modelled after those from different sites in Pompeii. Next, the Branksome Classics Club buried them in eight locations on campus.

The eight groupings held replicas of artifacts from the house of a Pompeiian business woman, the Gladiatorial Barracks and the House of Fawn, an aristocratic residence. Students had to identify the site based on the objects they’d found.

After a welcome breakfast, the students watched a video about excavation techniques, and then got to work. “It’s just thrilling to see them relating to one another,” says UCC Latin teacher Ms Erb. “Collaboration is key for us as an IB school”.

The dig is the creation of Ms Fuller, who saw an opportunity to bring the study of Latin alive through object-based learning. “I wanted to give students an opportunity to engage in hands-on inquiry, to breathe some life into their study of the ancient Romans’ language,” says Ms Fuller. “We read antique texts and sometimes we forget about the people who lived and breathed this language. Studying material culture puts us in contact with the Romans in a way that Latin studies alone cannot do.”

As fewer and fewer schools are offering Latin studies, the teachers also wanted to bring together UCC and Branksome students to meet others who are learning Latin. Classics is a traditional subject that is often taught using old fashioned pedagogy, so Ms Fuller is always searching for ways to bring it into the 21st century.

“Last year, I approached object inquiry with a visit to ROM’s temporary Pompeii exhibit,” says Ms Fuller. “This year, we didn’t have that opportunity, so I came up with an even better one: make the artefacts ourselves and run a dig!”

A mock archaeological dig is a natural fit with the focus on culture that is central to the Middle Years Program, and with the spirit of inquiry that drives Branksome’s IB curriculum.

The students had so much fun that Ms Fuller anticipates making it a yearly event.

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