by Bernard K. Means
In late August, I was forwarded an email sent to Merry Outlaw, Curator of Collections at Jamestown Rediscovery. In the email, Holman Middle School teacher Alayna M. Tignor was inquiring about replicas of artifacts from Jamestown and Merry referred her to my lab. I was of course happy to provide some replicas that we had on hand, and even printed a few more—including enough small arrow points found in the leg of the first European to die at Jamestown for her to distribute to the class she taught. I invited Alayna to see the lab itself and, after looking around, she asked if I would be willing to speak to the 6th graders at Holman Middle School. I, of course, said yes, not quite realizing that I would be speaking to almost the entire 6th grade class of around 400 students and not a small, single class.
This morning, I arrived at the lab and filled a bright orange plastic tub with several objects that we are working on or have on display in the lab, including mastodon bones and teeth, World War II binoculars, and part of a tattoo dummy that I am in the middle of printing. I made sure I also had some of the Jamestown artifacts with me as well. After arriving at and checking into the office at Holman Middle School, I went to the school’s auditorium and spread out the contents of the orange tub. I also set up my presentation on a laptop Alayna provided, since I forgot mine (oops!).
The 6th graders entered the auditorium in quite the orderly fashion, filling the front rows and moving toward the back. My dim memories of my 6th grade assemblies seem to suggest a more chaotic approach when my fellow classmates and I entered an auditorium.
I gave the students an overview of our work in the Virtual Curation Laboratory, talking a bit about 3D scanning, our partners in the past, and of course 3D printing. The students notably reacted to my discussion of the butchered dog jaw from Jamestown and its connection to early 17th century cannibalism. They also really liked learning about Ice Age megafauna and several students were interested in our work in India. One thing I liked about the 6th graders is that they were engaged and inquisitive. They asked questions throughout the presentation and several after. And teachers and teacher aids passed around various replicas I brought with me. Possibly because of the size of the replicas, the mastodon ribs and teeth and Ice Age walrus skull fragment received the most attention. Hopefully I inspired a future archaeologist, historian, or paleontologist!