Kristin McManus

The Bromfield School, Harvard MA

Participate in an archaeological field course investigating ancient rock art from the Paleolithic through the Roman era, then independently research techniques and medium used in ancient art of Naples and Pompeii, to educate students on the historical context and multifaceted nature of symbols and how they can both divide and unite a society.

Where I've Been

  • Milan, Italy
  • Naples, Italy
  • Paspardo, Italy
  • Pompeii, Italy

My Fellowship in Images

Before we can go out in the field and work on sites in Paspardo, our program directors had us practice making the rock art tracings on plaster casts. They circled around and gave us pointers and taught us the finer techniques of how to trace.
We had to hike down into the Valley in order to get to this newly discovered site. We documented, excavated, and cleaned the site before we could begin working. I helped to discover a Bronze age anthropomorph and this is me working on tracing him!
This is the tracing I worked on. It's thought to be late Bronze age (perhaps 5,000 years old). On the right is a warrior holding a spear and on the left is a dog and a wolf. These were figures that I helped excavate and discovered as I was digging.
On our last night in Paspardo we took a night walk of a famous rock art site. It was so much easier to see without natural light throwing shadows on the rocks. It was bittersweet to spend one last night with our friends from the program.
Traveling with someone else can be trying, but Elizabeth and I were just so excited to be in Italy. We were the perfect traveling companions. Here we are on our first night in Naples before starting part 2 of our trip.
As a historian, I geeked out when visiting Pompeii. I was finally able to see what I had been teaching my students about for years! My only regret is that I wish I could have spent more time there (the tour was too short!)

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

This trip put me outside my comfort zone in many ways: first- lots of traveling and navigating train stations where you don't speak the language. Learning to adapt to these new situations was quite the accomplishment! Secondly, there is so much more to ancient rock art and the archaeological process than I ever imagined. Learning why humans left symbols that they did over 5,000 years ago and also in Pompeii when they fled was eye-opening and helped to put some modern symbology into perspective.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

This experience will clearly add to my content knowledge, but it also adds a whole new layer to my instructional practice. With the connections I made with other program participants, I hope to have skype sessions with others in the field. I can show students about archaeological practices and the many specializations and niches in the field. Lastly, I will teach students (using my own pictures!) about the artwork of Pompeii. All of these things will help to guide our interdisciplinary project.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

The greatest personal accomplishment would have to be when I was digging out the rock at the site in Paspardo. We had to use sticks because spades could damage the rock. It was a long and tedious process and my joints were aching from sitting in uncomfortable positions. But... when I started to look closely at the rock and I called over a program director, it was worth it. I had noticed a figure on the rock- and it turned out to be a warrior holding a spear. I think I yelled out in excitement!

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

Traveling the world to see other cultures and learn about the history of humankind is valuable in order to help create well-rounded citizens. This is something that I hope to inspire in students. In addition, the project we are embarking on helps us show students the hands-on nature of history and art- that it is more than reading out of a textbook. I want them to be able to transfer that to the courtyard project where they can research and leave behind their own symbols in a positive way.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

Elizabeth and I have met since coming back from our fellowship and have started to plan our interdisciplinary project. Our classes (approx 60 students) will be the leaders in helping to guide the courtyard project. However, we already asked 2 other history teachers and another art teacher if they would be willing to work with us on the project. We hope to create a workshop on a PD day in January to share out and to get others involved.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

I am envisioning that at the end of this project we will have many ways of celebrating the students' new learning. First, we hope to have an unveiling ceremony where their families and the larger community can come to view their artwork in the courtyard. We would like to include a diversity speaker in order to connect the experiences of negative symbology from the 2016 rock incident to juxtapose the positive symbology that the students are choosing to leave behind.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

In the media now there have been many messages of hate and discrimination. E.g., students see neo-nazi rallies but don't understand the significance of the swastika or why the rally brings up negative feelings for so many. I think that education is the first step- I need to educate my students on how messages can be interpreted whether they be tweets or graffiti left behind on a rock. I feel strongly that just telling students will not make a difference- they need to be involved in the process.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I have already told friends how this experience was like a dream. To be learning about and excavating an archaeological site was everything I hoped it would be and more! Being able to touch artwork that was from 5,000 years ago and try to figure out why they left it behind is just incredible. It also gave me a different appreciation for students learning English as their second language in my classroom. I worked through a language barrier and still learned so much about ancient cultures.