Educational Resources at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum

The Alexandria Archaeology Museum offers programs for schools and other groups, a summer camp for teenagers, and a field school and internships for college students.

Page updated on Jun 19, 2019 at 11:49 AM

Lesson Plans

Lesson plans on topics relating to Alexandria history are available online for use in the classroom. One archaeology learning activity examines a harmonica found on an archaeological site in the African American neighborhood known as Haiti. 

Arranging a Field Trip

To arrange a field trip, contact the Office of Historic Alexandria education coordinator at Alexandria Archaeology by email or at 703.746.4399.

If you would like to combine your visit with lessons at other Alexandria museums, please look over our list of sites offering educational programs before calling. The Alexandria Archaeology Museum can accommodate up to 20 students at a time for an Adventure Lesson. Large groups may be accommodated by dividing them into smaller groups and rotating site visits, as many of the historic properties are within easy walking distance of each other.

The Alexandria Archaeology Museum and many other sites offer free admission to the groups from the Alexandria City Public Schools. Some also offer free programs to other public school groups. When making reservations, inquire about the fee structure

Archaeology Adventure LessonArchaeology Adventure Lessons

The Archaeology Adventure Lessons demonstrate the step-by-step process of archaeology through hands-on group activities using artifacts from the Alexandria Archaeology collection. The Adventure Lessons, held at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, are suitable for school classes, scout groups, birthdays, summer camps, adult and senior groups. Call the archaeology educator at 703.746.4399 at lease two weeks in advance to schedule a lesson.

Lessons are free to Alexandria Public School Groups, and $2.00 per person ($20.00 minimum) for all other groups. The educator can also arrange combined tours  with other Alexandria museums and historic properties.

Elementary Age Lessons 

  • How Sweet it Was: The Sugar Trade in Alexandria - Activity Sheet What is a Sugar House? Examine special artifacts to learn how sugar was made in the 19th century. Learn how archaeologists identify and classify artifacts. Learn more about sugar refining pottery. 
  • The Potter’s Art: Alexandria Stoneware Pottery Designs - Activity Sheet Who made this pot? Learn to identify Alexandria’s potters by their designs on salt-glazed stoneware pottery. Learn more about Alexandria stoneware 
  • Archaeologists Set the Tavern Table - Activity Sheet How do archaeologists relate artifacts to historic documents? Use tavern keeper Mary Hawkins' 1777 inventory and artifacts excavated from Gadsby’s Tavern courtyard to bring an 18th century tavern to life. Visit Gadsby's Tavern Museum on a combined tour.

Lessons for Older Students and Adults 

  • Ship Science
    Why would a ship be found underground?  Use dendrochronology and other scientific methods to uncover the mystery behind Alexandria’s 18th century ship discovered along the waterfront.
  • Hayti: Uncovering an African American Neighborhood - Activity Sheet
    Who lived in Hayti in the 19th century? Weave together maps, census records and artifacts from a free black site to understand the people who lived there. Visit the Alexandria Black History Museum and Freedom House Museum on a combined tour.

Summer CampAlexandria Archaeology Summer Camp

SOLD OUT for 2019

Summer Camp provides an opportunity for 12-15 year-olds to work on a real archaeological dig. Each July, campers spend a week helping Alexandria’s City archaeologists excavate a real site. Learn professional excavating, recording, and artifact processing methods. Uncover Alexandria’s buried past while protecting the City’s valuable historic resources.

Camp dates are announced early in the new year. Register early, as this popular program fills to capacity.

Read our 2018 Summer Camp Newsletter and see Camp photos on the Alexandria Archaeology Museum's Facebook page. 

Summer Field InstituteHistorical Archaeology Field Institute

The George Washington University

Monday – Friday, May 20-24 and Tuesday – Saturday, May 28 – June 1, 2019 (10-day course)

This two-week intensive field school offers hands-on experience in excavation and laboratory study of an archaeological site in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The city has several historic districts and developed the first community archaeology program in America. It is the perfect place to investigate the Shuter’s Hill plantation site and to learn about artifact identification and analysis at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.

This summer’s institute focuses on the excavation and study of the plantation landscape and the work environment of enslaved African Americans. Working with the City of Alexandria’s Archaeologists, students will also discuss public heritage values and issues resulting in a public interpretive tour.

The ten-day course in field and laboratory methods is designed to introduce students to the archaeological process from research questions through data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The field school is taught by a team of archaeologists as a case study/mini-practicum, so that students gain an understanding of the overall process, concepts, and goals of an archaeological investigation while having experience in contemporary methods. Students learn about the site, the 18th- and 19th-century Shuter’s Hill Plantation, and results to date of the investigations of the African American laundry/home portion of the site. The changing use and meaning of the hill are discussed in relationship to preservation and shifting community values.

The excavation experience includes keeping a field log, recording data, and maintaining vertical and horizontal control. Students then work in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum to wash, sort, identify, and analyze the artifacts they excavated. Workshops are held throughout the course and include topics such as excavation methods, laboratory processing methods, curation/collections management issues, conservation, ceramics, glass, and faunal remains. Students will participate in two capstone interpretive experiences: first a group discussion with the City’s archaeologists in which the data derived from the class activities are broadly interpreted; and second, a public tour of the site developed by the students.

The course has relevance to undergraduate and graduate students in American Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, African American Studies, Africana Studies, History, Museum Studies & Education, Preservation, and Women’s Studies, and anyone who would enjoy a first-hand opportunity to participate in archaeological research.

Shuter‘s Hill Site and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum are accessible through the King Street Metro Station.

How to Register through The George Washington University 

Students register for the Historical Archaeology Field Institute through The George Washington University. The course carries three semester hours of graduate or undergraduate credit through the American Studies or Anthropology departments. Class size will be limited to 20 students. This course is three credit hours.

ANTH/AMST 3835.80 (Undergraduate)

ANTH/AMST 6835.80 (Graduate)

About the Institute Staff

Director: Pamela Cressey retired as City Archaeologist with the City of Alexandria, in 2012, after directing the Alexandria Archaeology program for 36 years. The program has been acknowledged as a pioneer in community and urban archaeology. A long-time adjunct GWU faculty member in the Anthropology and American Studies departments, she earned her BA in History at UCLA and MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology from the University of Iowa.

Instructional Staff: Eleanor Breen, City Archaeologist (PhD University of Tennessee, Knoxville). Garrett Fesler, Archaeologist (Ph.D. University of Virginia) and Benjamin Skolnik, Archaeologist (PhD candidate, University of Maryland) are field directors. Tatiana Niculescu, Archaeologist (PhD candidate, University of Illinois) directs collections management, curation, and laboratory training. Emma Richardson, Museum Education Specialist (MA/MS Morgan State University) discusses public outreach methods and supervises the interpretive tour.

Internship Opportunities

Internship opportunities (unpaid) are available on a limited basis throughout the year, to students who will receive credit through their colleges or universities. It is the responsibility of each student to make the arrangements to receive this credit. Students usually come from departments of Anthropology, American Studies, Historic Preservation, History, Museum Studies and Museum Education.

Call the Internship Coordinator at 703.746.4399 for more information, or submit an Internship Application with your current resume.

Some internship opportunities that may be available include:

  • Organizing historical and archaeological references to create a data base for making preservation decisions.
  • Conducting documentary research using primary and secondary sources on specific properties or on specific aspects of the City’s historic development.
  • Conducting archaeological survey, excavation and laboratory work, as available (generally May through October)
  • Assisting in museum education programs which interpret archaeological and historical information to the public. Opportunities to design and install small-scale exhibitions are available on occasion.
  • Assisting in collections management of artifact collections and their documentation, including field notes, records and photographs.