Kids are often fascinated with the science of archaeology. It combines a sense of adventure, the opportunity to dig and get dirty and the art of storytelling. Many kids find the stories of the past romantic and the artefacts fascinating. Introduce them to the overall science of archaeology by engaging them in activities related to the major functions of archaeology. If possible, take them out to a dig site and let them observe the process.
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The dig is one of the more exciting aspects of archaeology. Divide students into teams and assign a current archaeological dig to each team. Have them research into what that dig is searching for, what it has found so far and where its location is. Have them create a map showing where the dig is and then create a journal chronicling the dig as if they were one of the archaeologists in the field.
An important concept in archaeology is the archaeological record which refers to the physical evidence about the past. Archaeologists document and interpret the archaeological record. Have students pretend that they are archaeologists from 1,000 years in the future. Tell them that an excavation has recently uncovered several objects that they think are from 2010 to 2020. Place several objects in front of them such as staplers, a flash drive, a cell phone, a pencil, a raincoat and ear buds. Have each student write a one-page paper that documents and interprets the object and how it might have been used by the "culture" of the early 21st century. Encourage them to be creative and humorous in their interpretation, but have them accurately describe and record each object.
Have everyone in the class hold their writing implements in the air. As a group, come up with a classification system for these writing implements. Decide whether to classify it by material, style, colour or function. Keep refining the system until all the pencils have been classified. Explain that archaeologists, like all scientists, have to come up with classification systems. What can be especially tricky for archaeologists is that they may not know the function of a particular object until more has been learnt about the culture.
Explain that archaeologists must give detailed reports of their finding so that other scientists can build upon what they have found. Their reports contribute to the overall archaeological record. Archaeologists often use topographical maps to report where they have dug and what has been found at each level. Contact your state's historical society and either ask for a speaker to come out or ask them to send you a topographical map showing where things have been found. Share the map with students.
Mix in a little entertainment with your archaeology lessons. Show one of the Indiana Jones movies during class time and talk about what is realistic and what isn't. When students finish their work, let them play an online archaeology game such as Treasure Madness on Facebook or Dirt Detective on Colonial Williamsburg's Kids Zone site.
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