Today’s post is a guest post from Bryan Carlson.
The following is an outline for a discovery unit to use with students studying ancient history. It was inspired by an activity I did in my Latin classroom and our school is currently using it with our 5th and 8th grade history classes. It is essentially a version of the standard classroom dig exercise available from a number of sources such as AIA and ACE. With support of the American Council for Education’s Alumni grant, I was able to expand the project to include an additional set of student activities including having another class create the dig and having the simulated archaeologists take a try at preservation and education as well as just excavation. I think that these changes and additions really ad a level of depth that make it much more memorable and important for the students.
Phase 1: The research
The students must read about archaeology to discover how science is used to unravel the mysteries of ancient people, buried in the earth along with the physical remains of their society.
Phase 2: Creating the story
The students will create a history for an excavation site based upon one of the cultures they have studied in MS. The site should have multiple phases running back at least 2,000 years. The history should include the people, their movements how they interacted with their environment and how it affected them.
Phase 3: Burying your message
The student will create physical artifacts that reflect the culture and story they have chosen. The strata of the soil, the location of the artifacts, post holes, pits, and remains will all serve to tell the story to a skilled excavator. Teams will work together to inter their culture’s legacy in the sands of time (i.e. Bury their artifacts as though they had been deposited there and covered by natural/historical events. This should reflect understanding of geology as well as human impact on strata and contexts etc.)
Phase 4: The reveal
The students will share their account of the culture they invented and buried with the excavators and tour their displays to see how well the young scientists were able to decode the buried clues.
Phase 1: The research
The students will read about how the archaeologist uses science and observation to not only find and excavate ancient artifacts, but how he uses the context of the artifacts to help him to unravel the story of the culture he is studying. They will need to understand the principles of archaeological excavation as well as what facts are crucial for decoding the meaning of the remains they uncover.
Phase 2: The dig
The students will go hands on and excavate a site using what they have learned. They will take turns to be excavators, recorders, photographers, supervisors and all of the potential jobs on site at a real dig. They will create their own plan for how to excavate as well as how to record the information the uncover and coordinate all of this to generate a site report that can be useful for interpreting the history of the studied culture.
Phase 3: The story
The students will attempt to discover what artifacts that they have found. They will place them in a historical context based on their find location, position etc. They will construct a timeline of artifacts and events as recorded in the physical remains. They will then use their knowledge of culture and history to write the story of the site they have uncovered.
Phase 4: telling the story
The students will assemble presentation materials as well as the artifacts they have found into a museum exhibit that can tell the story they have uncovered. It should include photos from the excavation, the artifacts themselves, reconstructions of how they might have looked when used and illustrations of how these artifacts indicate that the ancient people lived.
Bryan Carlson teaches at Fort Worth Country Day School, an independent k-12 school in Fort Worth Texas. He has been teaching Latin for 14 years and he first entered the classroom before he had finished his undergraduate degree at UT Austin. It was there that he discovered his passion for introducing students to Latin and classical civilization. He continued his education during his years of teaching and after completing his MaT at Colorado College he signed up for the Classical Summer School at the American Academy of Rome. The lesson is the product of trying to bring that experience back to the students in his classroom. It is an ongoing project and its development and initial implementation were funded through an American Councils for International Education grant.