Helen Nicholson

Archaeology for gifted kids

People, places and things lie at the heart of teaching archaeology in and out of the classroom. Archaeology is the study of the material remains of past human activity and as a discipline straddles the humanities and sciences. Aspects of the discipline are relevant to varying degrees across all mandated curriculum areas from kindergarten to Year 12 and are particularly suited to a diverse range of learners from gifted and talented students to those for whom English is not their first language. Incorporating archaeological theories, methods and practices into teaching strategies allows students to experience the past in imaginative and creative ways. This session suggests how educators might do this, especially with regard to gifted and talented students.

In practical terms archaeologists have to manage vast amounts of information about the people, places and things they study. A week in the field excavating or surveying, for example, is the result of time spent undertaking background research prior to excavation or survey and is followed by several weeks analysing finds, drawing conclusions based on what was found and communicating that information to a wider audience.

Differentiating the curriculum and empowering students to take ownership of their own learning through research is central to ensuring all students have access to quality learning. This workshop considers the process through which the archaeological record is formed, retrieved and interpreted in order to articulate and centre people, places (sites) and things (artefacts/museum objects) that underpin the principles of real world learning. Teaching strategies that develop student thinking and stimulate and initiate student cognition make their work significant. This workshop includes examples of real world teaching strategies that have been delivered to a diverse range of student learners.

Kalliope Consultancy, Sydney (NSW)


Helen is an archaeologist and educator. She has a BA (Hons 1) and MPhil in Archaeology from the University of Sydney where she has been a casual course coordinator, lecturer and tutor since 1995. Helen teaches Sydney University’s Ancient History University Preparation Course and has created, convened and delivered numerous archaeology workshops, courses, study days, talks and lectures for wide and diverse school, adult, professional and museum audiences. She spent three years as the Nicholson Museum’s Education Officer and has created and run gifted-and-talented-student workshops for the Faculty of Science at Sydney University and the NSW Department of Education.
Helen is the archaeologist who appears through the round window on Playschool and was a founding partner in Astarte Resources where she has written and edited scripts and produced educational resources. She has worked on archaeological sites in Europe, the Middle East and Australia and has developed and led over thirty overseas cultural study tours. Helen is the National Coordinator for National Archaeology Week and is currently a producer at the Powerhouse Museum.