Hands-on learning during COVID-19: a glimpse into our archaeological field schools in 2020

October 16, 2020

a group of students demonstrate socially distanced spacing on grass with trees in background
Archaeological Fieldwork students pose for a physically distanced group photo on the UTM campus in August 2020. Photo by M. Brand, all rights reserved.

In August 2020, UTM lecturer and archaeologist Dr. Michael Brand led a group of nine undergraduate students as they safely embarked upon two weeks of intensive hands-on learning as part of the ANT318H5 and ANT 418H5 Archaeological Fieldwork courses at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. In these courses, students learn the techniques and methods employed by archaeologists to extract data from an archaeological site and to process these data in the laboratory. Technical instruction includes excavation, data recording, mapping, and photography. The Department of Anthropology implemented rigorous safety protocols to ensure that students could engage in these experiential learning activities in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

All course participants had their own equipment kits, and the department supplied personal protective equipment including face shields and masks. Participants disinfected large shared equipment items, such as screens used during shovel tests, before and after each use. Anthropology lab and management staff were closely involved in the details of implementing protocols to meet the provincial government’s safety standards, and UTM Library staff introduced the use of smartphone apps that enabled students to utilize GPS data during their fieldwork.

Conducting fieldwork safely during a pandemic is a collaborative effort that requires dedication from planners and participants. Thanks to the great determination and enthusiasm of UTM students, instructors, teaching assistants, librarians and staff, hands-on learning can take place safely during the era of COVID-19. This fall term, students enrolled in the archaeological field school courses continue to gather once a week for safe and socially distanced lab sessions in order to clean, identify, and catalogue the artifacts they excavated during the summer. Second-year Anthropology students who are interested in enrolling in ANT318H5 or ANT418H5 in 2021 can visit the Archaeological Fieldwork field school web page for more information about course prerequisites and the application process.