wpe20.jpg (4764 bytes)ARCHEOLOGY
By Jennifer Berget
University of Idaho


ITV Series: Bill Nye the Science Guy -Archeology #306


This lesson is intended to teach students about the purpose and process of archeology, as well as demonstrate how it applies to their own lives, through a simulated archeological dig.

Learning Objectives: 

  • By the end of the unit students will be able to explain at least one purpose of archeology as assessed by the classroom teacher through student's science journals.
  • The students will be able to demonstrate the archeological process as assessed by the classroom teacher through archeological simulations.
  • By the end of the lesson students will be able to make and explain one connection between archeology and their own lives as assessed by the classroom teacher through student reflections.


  • 10 Ziplock baggies of broken modern items
  • 10 corresponding folders
  • 10 corresponding grids marking where each object within the bag was found.
  • Overhead
  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil

Previewing Activities 

Teacher will write "Indiana Jones" and "bones" on an overhead and ask students what type of career they associate with these terms.

Have students brainstorm for 30 seconds a list of words that automatically come to their minds when they think of archeology.

Have students pair with their partner (pre-assigned) to discuss each student's list. In the meantime the teacher will go around and add words and corresponding student names to original overhead.

Discuss words and how the students thought they related to archeology.


Defining Archeology:

Based on discussion have students write what they think the definition of archeology would be.

Share with their partner (it's okay for students to change their definitions after discussing with their partner.)

Ask students to give definitions. Lead discussion to "Archeology is the study of ancient people and their culture."

Focus for Viewing: 

To give students a specific responsibility while viewing students will be required to list the processes archeologists go through in order to facilitate a class discussion.

Determining what archeologists can tell about ancient people:
Ask students to brainstorm what they think archeologists can tell about ancient people. Write suggestions on a large piece of chart paper. While writing, have students chorally say each word aloud as you write it on the paper (avoids the void created while teacher is writing.)




wpe20.jpg (4764 bytes)

Viewing Activities:

Start video segment at the beginning and stop right after Bill Nye lists what archeologists can learn about ancient people and their cultures:

a) how they lived
b) what they knew about the world
c) what they knew about science

Ask students if we should revise/edit our original list. Do so as necessary.  Have students explain in their science journals at least one purpose of archeology. Tell students that they'll be watching a short segment on the process archeologists go through. As they watch the video they will need to list the steps archeologists go through on a piece of paper. Start the video where left off and stop at "The Carbon Dating Game." Begin writing a list on the chalkboard starting with "unbury" and have students volunteer the next step. By the end should havethe following steps recorded:

  1. Unbury
  2. Record location
  3. Collect and clean pieces
  4. Catalogue and label pieces
  5. Reassemble pieces
  6. Reconstruct big picture

Post-Viewing Activities

Explain the Archeological Simulation: 

  • Tell students that they will be working in groups of 3 to conduct their own simulated archeological dig. Explain that the simulation will begin with step c. They will be given ziplock baggies filled with pieces of artifacts that their group had previously collected. A folder will be included with a diagram of the grid and a marker where they found each item.
  • Their job will be to collect (from the front of the room) the artifacts, catalogue and label the pieces, reassemble the pieces, and write a report with their view of the "Big Picture." The big picture should include how they think the people lived, what they knew about the world, and what they knew about science.
  • In addition, each student will be required to include a reflection, making and explaining one connection between archeology and their own lives as well as making a poster presentation for the class of their findings. 
  • Go over the grading rubric, and peer assessment forms.   Assign groups and hand out the ziplock bags and folders. Let students proceed for the remainder of the time. This activity will continue over several days.
  • Presentations: Let students set up their posters around the room. Let students rotate through the posters and conduct peer assessment forms for each group.
  • Closure: Review definition of archeology, what archeologists can discover about ancient people and their culture, and the archeological process.


  • Write a letter to an archeologist
  • Make a time capsule
  • Write a story/Make a movie
  • Publish findings on the classroom website 
  • Research an ancient civilization and analyze the archeological evidence available for that civilization.
  • For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource!   You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites!  Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! 
  • Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!  Look for a localized version of Mathline and Scienceline on IdahoPTV next year!
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