Excavation is just one aspect of archaeological inquiry. Because of the provocative images it evokes, teachers often inquire about opportunities for their students to “dig” as a way to engage them in the study of the past. As a teacher, however, you may find it more practical to structure a simulated or “mock” archaeology dig in your classroom, while still fulfilling the educational standards for problem solving and critical thinking. Below are some fine examples of simulated digs. See Artifact Study Kits and Reproductions for additional sources of materials for a classroom dig.
Doing Archaeology in the Classroom: A Sandbox Dig
Developed by an archaeologist, this sandbox dig activity begins with a research question and ends with analysis and interpretation of the site. Activities leading up to the dig include instructions on how to set up a simple archaeological survey on your school grounds, as well as activities and discussion questions on the importance of preserving sites.
Based on an actual archaeological site, this interdisciplinary 6-8 week unit is a standards-based curriculum designed for upper elementary school students. Students examine artifacts and features found on the surface level and then “excavate” the site to discover cultural evidence from 100 years ago. The project includes constructing maps, collecting and analyzing data, formulating hypotheses, and arriving at conclusions based on the data. Resource materials such as historical maps, architectural drawings, a Sears catalogue, and a memoir of a young boy aid students in unraveling the story. The kit is $425. Professional development workshops and seminars are offered throughout the year at various sites, including nature centers, museums, and zoos. A one-day workshop is $125.
Archaeology: Digging Deeper to Learn About the Past by Judith Cochran
An American Schools for Oriental Research (ASOR) teaching unit with directions for conducting your own dig simulation. While directed mainly to middle school students, many of the activities can be used with students of all ages.
Digging Up Mesopotamia by Stephanie Elkins
An American Schools for Oriental Research (ASOR) interdisciplinary unit that includes directions for a class excavation simulation. Developed for 7th & 8th grade students, this unit includes a separate lesson for art classes on the uses of the artist's skills in modern field excavations.