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EDUCATORS Teaching Jack with tools to the past

Laurie’s and Bob’s second grader Jack had taught them a lot about ancient Native American tribes and cultures, particularly their stone tools. At Parent-Teacher Night, they found out why.

Jack’s teacher, Mrs. Appleby, used archeology-inspired projects to explore the state standards for learning. Archeology enabled Jack to learn about science, language arts, math, art, and social studies. In the process, he and the class practiced skills in teamwork, individual discipline, and inquiry.

Jack's class had recently learned about a new tribe in social studies class. Mrs. Appleby helped them create a story from archeological findings about what people ate, what they did for work and play, their travels, and other activities.

Laurie and Bob were surprised to see Jack learning science with archeology, too. The class had done units about the seasons, animals, and nutrition (which explained Jack's new liking for succotash) to show the relationships between people and the environment.

For example, an artist from a local tribe visited Jack’s art class to talk about traditional arts and their meanings to his people in the past and present. The next day the students drew meaningful objects from their own lives. Jack drew his kid-sized tool set.

“Jack’s our tool guy,” said Mrs. Appleby. “One day he asked if kids long ago helped their moms and dads fix things, and we knew he’d made his own connection between the past and present.”

“What do you mean?” asked Laurie.

“Archeology is a great learning-by-doing way to teach about the past. It helps students to understand difficult concepts, such as the long ago past. Jack, for example, started asking questions about what people did with their tools and how families worked together. We knew then that Jack saw archeology almost as we did—as its own teaching tool.”

Case Studies

(photo) Flower and leaves of the 'Uala, or sweet potato. (Gerald Carr)
What would Hawaii be if not for the sweet potato? This tasty, toothsome tuber has played a significant role in the history of Kohala culture. Archeology is one way for people to dig into how ancient Hawaiians' cultivation of sweet potatoes affects them today.   more +

Hawaii’s Teleschool program has developed an archeology lesson plan for its 4th grade students. Even if you don’t teach and learn in Hawaii, this lesson plan shows how archeology can express subjects such as environment, history, and anthropology. This and other lesson plans available on the Internet offer starting points for developing projects tailored to your local area.

Students can learn a lot from archeological investigations. This lesson teaches concepts such as the effects of human activity on the environment. It helps students use the past to gain skills for addressing modern problems. By identifying the consequences of human activity on the landscape, it helps them to consider various ways of solving problems. Archeology offers information—real investigators with tangible artifacts and findings—for students to understand that the past is real and relevant.

This lesson plan emphasizes the interdisciplinary quality of archeology, which helps hook students into learning. There’s something for everyone: residential life, agriculture, landscape control, natural science, history, and anthropology.

Students respond to materials to look at, touch, pass around, and point to. If you live in Hawaii, try building your lesson plans using visual and tactile resources from these institutions:


(photo) Indian and cowboy on horseback, celebrating Texas. (Library of Congress)
In the mid-19th century, Native Americans clashed with U.S. soldiers along the western border of Texas. They were displaced as the government speculated the land. Many questions remain about what took place: how did the soldiers succeed in overcoming the native tribes?  more +

This lesson plan by Mary S. Black asks teachers and students to examine this question with archeological evidence. Students compare the ways of life of Indians on the western Texas frontier and U.S. military men at the Texas forts. Together, they look at a pattern seen throughout history, of one group being overcome by the more advanced technologies of another group.

Identifying Native American groups…comparing the types of technology used in the past and present…identifying why the Texas frontier expanded and the effects on Native Americans…these are some of the archeology-based stories that teach students to learn from others’ points of view. The lesson also helps them learn important skills such as grammar, creating presentations, and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of situations.

Learn more:


(photo) Footprint of an ancient American.
The first peoples in North America left an archeological map of their journey. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve preserves clues in the detective story of the peopling of the continent. This lesson plan helps students to appreciate why its archeology is important.  more +

The Footprints to the Past lesson plan integrates information sources in history, ecology, and archeology for an interdisciplinary look at ancient peoples. Students learn about clues from natural and cultural resources for understanding the peopling of the Americas. They learn to use evidence to answer questions such as: What was Beringia, or the Bering Land Bridge? What are the resources of the arctic ecosystem in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve? Who are the Native cultures living in Alaska? What shared cultural values are important for protecting Bering Land Bridge National Preserve?

This lesson plan was a Parks as Classrooms project coordinated by interpretive specialist Jeanette Cross, staff at the park, and local teachers.

Learn more:


(photo) Student learning archeology.
Archeologists have skills. Cool skills. Rockin' Through the Ages uses archeology from Petrified Forest National Park. Students learn about ancient peoples by using archeological concepts and skills. It aligns with the Arizona Statewide Science and Mathematics Standards for Grades 4-8.  more +

Students and teachers check out archeological resources, like petroglyphs and artifacts, to learn skills in science, math, language arts, and social studies. Archeological evidence takes them through the process archeologists go through to make inferences about past human behavior, technology, and culture. Students practice skills used by archeologists such as mapping and recording mathematical data, and learn concepts like brainstorming and cooperation. They do pre-field lessons and activities, a field exploration at Petrified Forest, and a final research project at school.

Learn more:


(photo) Fort Frederica is one TWHP lesson plan.
Need some help? Try an archeology-based Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan. They include introductory materials, histories, educational resources, and assessment activities. Teachers also can find lesson plans by location, time period, U.S. History Standards, and Social Studies Standards.  more +

Find out why the 18th-century British community of Frederica was built and how it functioned as Great Britain and Spain each struggled to control land from Charleston to St. Augustine. Learn about the cultures of the Pueblo village Gran Quivira from the 7th century to the arrival of the Spanish in the early 17th century. Explore how tungsten was mined and used at Johnson Lake Mine at the turn of the 20th century. Investigate Knife River, where anthropologists and artists observed the culture and trading economy of the Hidatsa and Mandan tribes in North Dakota. Tour Mammoth Cave to understand how it has been used by explorers, miners, archeologists, and visitors. Dig into the history of Saugus Iron Works and learn about colonial America's first fully integrated ironworks and daily life for some early European settlers. Find out how archeology revealed the use of an inn at a transportation crossroads.

Also included on the Teaching with Historic Places web site is information on putting together your own lesson plan.

Learn more:



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