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SASA Receives Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Web resource, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On April 16th, 2024, Save Ancient Studies Alliance (SASA) was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in their “Spotlight on Humanities in Higher Education” grant stream. The two-year award will be used to initiate the higher education tier of SASA’s Archaeogaming Education Program. Begun in 2021, this flagship program of SASA produces and helps implement Open Educational Resources that utilize the rich worlds of commercial video games with historical settings to help educators engage students in teaching about the ancient world. SASA has pioneered the adaptation for educational purposes of the fresh concept, “archaeogaming,” the exploration of video games for their historical content. This NEH award marks a huge milestone for SASA as an organization, and will help us impact introductory-level collegiate audiences across the country.

Not only are we at SASA excited about this project, but the NEH itself touts our work in their press release about all 238 grants awarded this April: “These grants will also create open educational ‘archaeogaming’ resources that use immersive footage from commercial video games accompanied by maps, photos, voiceovers, and other historical and instructional materials to teach middle school and undergraduate students about ancient history.”

The funded project, directed by SASA Executive Director, David Danzig, and Archaeogaming Education Team Leader and Project Co-Director, Paige Brevick, will revise and update two of our Archaeogaming Education Modules, which currently are designed for middle school level, for use in undergraduate courses. The modules will be piloted in introductory Art History, Western Civilization, and World History courses at three underserved colleges - California State University - Stanislaus, Cisco College, and Salish Kootenai College.

For the uninitiated, “archaeogaming” is a term coined by Andrew Reinhard in 2013 to explain how modern video games may be explored using archaeological techniques and terminology. Since then, this definition has expanded to include the educational use of video games to help learners explore archaeological ideas, as well as the history and culture of different populations, which appear in contemporary commercial video games. For example, the game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, reflects the life, art, and environment of ancient Greece, enabling players to experience the culture at a more personal level than a book or movie can provide.

SASA has embraced the concept of archaeogaming in innovative ways, by creating a suite of Archaeogaming Education Modules on topics related to distinct ancient civilizations and their material culture. These modules use video game footage, paired with expert narration and supporting curricular materials, to engage and teach students about ancient studies topics in the classroom. SASA’s primary goal has always been to increase understanding and appreciation of ancient studies among audiences outside of academia, and this starts with history or social studies class in primary education. The mission of the Archaeogaming Education Program therefore, is to encourage students to draw connections between their own video gaming for fun and the body of knowledge held within those games. Our modules allow teachers to engage students where they are. The end result is a more interested and passionate ancient studies learner, who develops a greater appreciation for, and interest in, the deep past of global cultures.

For this new initiative in undergraduate education, the same concept applies: students who play video games for fun will engage more readily with the content in the classroom that aligns with these games. Freshman college students, despite having gone through over a decade of education, may begin their college career having little interest in or knowledge of ancient studies, which may seem irrelevant to them. As today’s university students become more focused on how their studies will impact their pursuit of a career, they begin losing touch with the rich knowledge and deep human understandings of the past. By creating these modules with highly relatable content for the contemporary learner and in a plug-and-play style for professors of introductory humanities courses, SASA will provide and implement Open Educational Resources that bridge the gap between college-age students and ancient studies.

This NEH funded project is the first step toward creating a complete set of supplemental Archaeogaming Education Modules to support undergraduate survey courses of Art History I, Western Civilization I, and World History I. Special thanks to our Grant Writing Team, particularly Daryl Bassin and Francesca Meneghetti, and SASA Ambassador Fred Winter, for their time and dedication. Learn more about SASA’s vision for archaeogaming in our Archaeogaming Program Overview, and in this introductory video. Free access is available to the current middle school modules via our Archaeogaming Education page.


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