In seventh grade we have been working on developing skills to learn about and understand the past. We have explored the connection between geography and history. We learned that weather patterns, water supply and the landscapes affect the civilizations and the people living there. Knowing the geography of an area can explain why certain historical events happen the way they do.
The students were introduced to some important vocabulary; prehistory, history, archaeology, oral traditions, artifact and excavate. I wanted them to understand the difference between prehistory and history. In a nutshell, prehistory is the period of time before writing and history begins once writing is developed and people can record the events that happen in their civilizations. Archaeologists examine artifacts that have been excavated and draw conclusions about their purpose.
What better way to understand words like archaeologist and excavate then to become apprentice archaeologists on a hot, Friday afternoon. So I donned my Pith Helmut and engaged the students in archaeology.
Imagine that you are an archaeologist in an exotic land. You have been working at a site for a very long time. You and your team of archaeologists have finally stumbled on a site that is full of ancient artifacts. You are now tasked with the job of carefully excavating the fragile artifacts so they can be examined, catalogued and eventually sent to a museum were many people will enjoy them. You must be very careful. The artifacts that were made thousands of years ago could break very easily. If they break, you may not be able to identify their purpose and learn about the civilization. The more whole artifacts that are excavated the better chance you will have to draw conclusions about the civilization.
Granted the activity was about my students, especially the second language learners and Special Education students, understanding the words archaeologist, artifact and excavate, but I see the potential of a creative writing or research assignments to extend the learning.
***** On Monday, I checked to see if they remembered the definitions for archaeologist, excavate and artifact and was happy to discover that the students did! Whoo Hooo!!