Saturday, 20 February 2016

Adventures in Archaeology at Your School


Archaeology is a topic that can be used to teach a variety of subjects. As well as history, it also covers a range of curriculum areas for KS2; including Art and Design, English, Maths and Personal and Social studies.

It is relatively easy to set up and progress a range of excavation activities from table top sand trays to more challenging outdoor digs. Use of unused flower beds or even sandpits can reduce set up time and costs. The range of artefacts can start small and build over time with children bringing in a range of things from home.We hope the lesson plan and activities below are useful. 

We welcome your thoughts and feedback and hope you can add to the discussion with further ideas.

Activity Title: Adventures in Archaeology

Subject: History 
Age Group: KS 1 or 2

Overview of the Activity
Create a mini excavation site in your school for pupils to search for, find, study and record the artefacts hidden within it. 
Learning Objectives
  • To learn about research methods, data recording, handling and interpretation. 
  • To take part in an extended chronological study to learn about significant turning points in British history and their impact on the school and local area.
  • To experience working as part of a team to create something unique.

Equipment Required
Large trays or dustbins (for starter activity), string and pegs, mallets, access to historical books, records, publications and on-line resources, digging and cleaning tools (watering cans, trowels, brushes), white boards, pens, paper, pencils, clipboards, recording sheets, rulers and weighing scales (for measuring artefacts).
Set Up
Identify an area in the school grounds that can be used for the dig. A small patch of unused soil or grass that you can clear the turf from and dig and rake over. The alternative is to build a large box or wooden frame from wood that you can move to a site outdoors and add soil and artefacts to. For young pupils, or as a practice session before you move to the main dig site, you can create simple table top digs in the classroom using trays filled with sand or light soil. Here pupils can practice how to clean and record artefacts that they find.
Main Activity
Spend time looking at pictures and short films of dig sites and the tools and techniques used. 
1. Prepare Your Practice Pit
Fill a large plastic box or small dustbin with soil or sand to a depth of about 40 cm. Place on sheets of newspaper and bury a number of objects at different depths within it. You can layer with different soil types to make it more realistic. 

2. Get Digging
Then, in small groups, start pupils digging. Encourage them to excavate their container by removing a 5 cm layer at a time and carefully working down so as to avoid damage to any artefacts. Lift out the items, carefully clear them of excess soil (using old paint/tooth brushes) and place on a ‘finds tray’. Finally write down the facts about the items on a recording sheet (below). 

3. Display the Finds
Good archaeologists will carefully examine, record and display their items having studied and researched interesting facts about them. Get the pupils to do this and make up labels or fact sheets that can be placed on the display next to each item.

Now pupils will be ready for a larger challenge so you can create a larger dig site using a plot of grass (with turf removed), an unused soil bed or a large sandpit if you have one. Create a perimeter around the site and ensure that pupils do not walk onto any unexcavated part of it. Create a grid system using string (60 – 80 cm squares) so that individuals or pairs can excavate a small area each. Again bury your items and recreate the dig activity above. Ideas for great items to bury are:

Bones (bleached) 
Spoons, forks
Pottery fragments 
Old stones/bricks
Old clothing/shoes
Carved wood items
Try creating artificial items
Old bottles (intact)
You can extend the displaying of the finds into a ‘mini natural history museum’ to have a semi-permanent display with detailed labelling to show parents, other students some time later.
Ask what they enjoyed about the activity.
Ask about what skills they need to use in order to be successful.
Ask what they have learned about each of the artefacts found.
Ask what next with their archaeology. 

Extension Activities
Visit a real dig site and talk to the archaeologists about their work and what they are finding.
Try carrying out a real excavation in a part of the school site that you think might contain historical items. Take a more scientific approach by using a plumb line, removing the root mat and digging in layers and squares. 
Ask for real historical items to be brought to school by parents, historical societies or local farmers and extend the research process into local history, anthropology, human geography, etc.
Artefact Recording Sheet
Archaeologists’ Names:

Date:     Of Burial: Of Discovery:
What is your artefact made from?

What colours(s) is/are your artefact(s)?

Is your artefact in one piece?

How long is your artefact?

How wide is your artefact?

How tall is your artefact?

Describe how your artefact feels in your hands?

What do you think your artefact is?

What do you think your artefact was used for?

Draw your artefact and label any key features.

School Outdoor Learning provide resources, training and solutions to enable schools to fully engage with and utilise their outdoor environments.

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