Alcatraz Uncovered

Grades 5th - 8th

Please see link at bottom of page for Alcatraz Uncovered introductory video.

Composite images of Alcatraz as an army gun battery, a federal prison, and a welcome sign during the Native American Occupation.

Alcatraz Uncovered excites your students about history's mysteries by using Alcatraz Island as your archeological case study. Besides being a popular national park site, Alcatraz served as a military post from 1854 to 1933, a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, the site of an American Indian civil rights protest from 1969 to 1971, nesting site for thousands of birds annually, and the subject of many Hollywood movies. Students will search for clues from each historic era and draw conclusions about daily lives and cultural perspectives, and contemplate issues facing individuals within each of these time periods.

Alcatraz Uncovered uses the Understanding by Design framework, incorporates Common Core Standards and Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies.

Please click here for the Alcatraz Uncovered Understanding by Design grid.

Program Description

Alcatraz Uncovered is framed by the Essential Question – "How can archeology deepen my understanding of a place?"

Alcatraz Uncovered in structured in three parts:

  • Classroom Preparation – lessons delivered by the teacher and NPS staff with resources provided by the park addressing observation and inference using artifacts and historic photographs
  • Field Session – the island experience in which students conduct an archeological investigation
  • Classroom Assessment – opportunities for students to demonstrate what they have learned through essays and inquiry investigations

Click on the links below to view and download PDF versions of the Alcatraz Uncovered curriculum:


Last updated: July 5, 2022

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Building 201, Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123-0022


415 561-4700

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