Upper Perkiomen High School in Pennsburg, where he teaches social studies.
What he is doing:
Farrell, of Hatfield, started an archaeology club at Upper Perkiomen at the beginning of this school year as part of his graduate work in public archaeology at Temple University.
The club has about 15 students and is a partnership between the high school and Temple's Department of Anthropology. Since May 10, the club has been traveling to Marcus Hook, Delaware County, to work at the site of a 1730 plank-log house on the Delaware River, just south of Chester. Students there are learning archaeological documentation and basic excavation techniques.
The goal of the training is to prepare the club to participate in a three-week dig supervised by Carin Bloom, a doctoral candidate at Temple. Bloom is investigating the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army at what is now the site of a chapel on Route 23 in Valley Forge.
Under Bloom's direction, Farrell and his students will use their training to excavate the site.
"We hope to find out what sort of activities took place on this landscape during the encampment," said Farrell, 48. "The kids will be there for three weeks, doing all the things expected from someone taking the class at the collegiate level."
Farrell has a bachelor's degree in history from Gwynedd-Mercy College in Lower Gwynedd, and is one year into a Ph.D. program at Temple. He became a teacher just three years ago. Prior to that, he was a chef.
"Restaurant hours just did not work for someone with a wife and four kids," Farrell said.
How will the students' work help Bloom complete her research?
The kids will do all the scut work, leaving Carin to do the supervision and interpretation. That said, scut work, done by skilled diggers, is important.
They will be doing shovel work, measuring, troweling the area to remove upper layers so that we can get to the encampment level. Once there, they will use their training to carefully excavate the site, screen the matrix, remove artifacts, and note features in the ground.
What artifacts do you hope to find?
We hope to find evidence of the 18th-century military occupation, gun flints, musket balls, nails, regimental buttons, and help Carin determine what activities were taking place there during the Revolutionary War.
How will you be incorporating this experience for your doctorate work?
I'll be building on this for my dissertation. My contention is that properly trained amateurs can do high-quality academic work and excavation if they are properly trained.
What will Bloom do with her findings?
Carin will be presenting the findings at academic forums, and publishing the work in peer-reviewed journals.
Why does archaeology interest you?
Archaeology is about the context and the material culture. What we do produces a tangible connection between the past and our collective future.
I still remember the first time I found a musket ball at Valley Forge, and the buzz I got realizing that a soldier from the Pennsylvania Brigade, possibly a relative, dropped that object during the Revolutionary War.
How rare is an archaeology club at a high school?
We think that we are the only high school archaeology club in Pennsylvania. If we are not, I'd love to hear from the other groups at
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so we can plan to work together. Archaeology should be about creating communities.
What his principal says:
"Lou Farrell's archaeology club encompasses students throughout the high school," said William R. Shirk Jr., principal of Upper Perkiomen High School. "He utilizes his knowledge and expertise to enhance the learning experiences of his students.
"This club encourages students to think critically about archaeology and leads them through activities that deepen their learning."
- Erica Lamberg