Off We Go to Archeology Camp!

I was approached by one of our 6th grade teachers wondering if I had any ideas on how she could liven up their unit on prehistory and early man. After some looking around for ideas and sharing back and forth, we landed on the idea of doing an Junior Archeology “Camp” for one of the days, a hands-on “dig” during the follow up session and then, a sharing and reflecting day.

For our Junior Archeology Camp we broke the kids into 3 groups and had them rotate through 3 stations:

  • Station 1: Guided Tour of the Lascaux cave paintings in France– I’m lucky enough to have both a SmartBoard hooked up to a projector as well as a second projector that can be hooked up to a laptop and used with a pull down screen we have in the library. We used the laptop and screen to display the virtual cave walk through on the pull down screen and discussed the images we both saw and didn’t see in the caves and what that might tell us about early man. My clerk ran this one but if, you didn’t have a third person, you could probably set this up as a self guided experience.
  • Station 2: Fossil Exploration– This interactive website shows different fossils and walks you through what archeologists were able to learn by examining the fossils. At this center each student viewed the site on their own iPad while being guided by their classroom teacher.
  • Station 3: Identifying a skull– This interactive site lets you examine skull fossils of known types of early man and then, gives you mystery skulls to try to identify. I ran this one and we used the library SmartBoard to view the skulls so everyone could see them and the details we needed to be looking for could be projected on a larger scale.

For the hands on dig, I used this lesson on trash can archaeology. I picked 3 different classrooms in different parts of the building and collected some of their “artifacts” every day for a week or so. I made sure I didn’t collect any perishable food waste, tissues, or papers with students names and/or sensitive information. We also all wore gloves during the activity because a) hygiene and b) that seemed like something good scientists would do. Instead of having them record their findings on the worksheets included in the lesson, I had them use the iPads and the Seesaw app to record annotated pictures and videos on their findings and providing the answers to the questions. There was some hesitation when I first showed them the cans of artifacts and began explaining what they were going to do but they got over it fast and seemed to really enjoy themselves. Students I normally don’t hear much from in class were so excited for their turn to be in a picture of video for their team’s Seesaw journal.  

*Optional for crazy people like me* I spent the entire day of the archaeology dig pretending I wasn’t me and was instead Prof. Aneras Nordlaw, archaeology professor from Cambridge, visiting to get the junior archaeologists help on an important dig site (unfortunately, Ms. Waldron couldn’t be there that day because she had to take her car into the shop). I refused to answer to Ms. Waldron and introduced myself to every class as Prof. Nordlaw. (The last 6th grade class was so mad at their teacher because she told them when they got to the library a special guest speaker who waiting for them). Also, I did my best to dress like a smart professor who also maybe doesn’t have to dress up and do presentations very often-I even snagged a visitors badge from the main office and rolled my hair under so it looked shorter. And you can’t see it in the pictures but that cardigan has (sequined) elbow patches.  

Finally, the last day they came down I pulled up each team’s Seesaw journal on the Smartboard and they shared their findings with the rest of the class and we had some whole class reflection time. Overall, the lessons went really well and all the classes got into it! I think having a deeper understanding of what archaeologists do helped them bring a new layer of meaning to their prehistory and early man unit and allowed them to connect with the material in a deeper way.

2 responses to “Off We Go to Archeology Camp!”

    • They really did have tons of fun! I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about the dig part (and some of them definitely looked skeptical when I brought out the cans 😂) but they got over their apprehension so quickly and really got in to it! It was one of those assignments where classes were so on task the teacher and I didn’t have much to do besides walk around and facilitate! If we do it again next year I’ll have to let them know how lucky they are to be doing this version with me instead of the real deal somewhere else. 😂

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