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Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

  • By UCLA Today
  • Published Oct 1, 2001 8:00 AM

Amid the increasing emphasis in K-12 schools on the three R's, the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and the Seeds University Elementary School are doing their best to ensure that L.A.-area teachers don't give short shrift to fundamentals of another sort.

The Portals to the Past Web site is designed to help K-12 teachers introduce the study of past cultures into their curricula. Users are invited to "think like an archaeologist" and impart interactive lessons to students using a technique called the inquiry process, in which teachers and students work together to define pertinent questions that guide the search for understanding.

"Our hope is that teachers will take away some new ideas of how to present pre-history and past cultures to their kids, and how they can make this kind of classroom learning exciting," says Rita Shepard '83, M.A. '88, Ph.D. '97, the Cotsen Institute's outreach coordinator.

In addition to describing the process used by archaeologists to conduct their research, "Portals" includes answers to frequently asked questions about the field, links to resources (magazines, books, films, games, CD-ROMs) and museums with relevant educational programs, and an extensive glossary of terms. Teachers are also given suggestions for specific lesson plans. "It's not just reading a text and answering questions at the end of it," says Shephard. "These are very interactive - students manipulate objects and take an active role in the learning process."

The Cotsen Institute is also developing a series of Web sites called the "Virtual Archaeologist" that will transport visitors into virtual field labs where they can "accompany" UCLA researchers on their digs. These sites, which will be linked to the "Portals" site, are slated to be up this winter.