Lesson Plan

Digging for Clues!

Color photo showing an archeological pit feature with layers of artifacts visible through the dirt.
Archeologists carefully consider the location of artifacts.

NPS photo

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Archaeology, Community, Historic Preservation, History, Social Studies
One class session
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Reading Science and Technology Text RST (6-8).4, RST (6-8).7, Reading History RH (6-8).7
archeology, artifact, history, research


Students will anaylze images to learn about stratigraphy.


Students will understand the importance of identifying soil levels during archeological excavations and the importance of artifact provenience.


Teachers should note that there are two different spellings: archeology and archaeology. The National Park Service uses the "archeology" spelling, but many archeologists prefer the spelling with the additional "a". Both spellings are correct. The Society for American Archaeology posted an article about the spelling of "archaeology" on their website. This lesson uses the "archeology" spelling, but proper nouns (book titles, websites, etc.) retain their original spelling.


  • Copies of Digging for Clues Answers in Stratigraphy worksheet for each student
  • Pictures of stratigraphy during the 2003 excavation at the National Constitution Center


Park Connections

This lesson ties to many places int he park including the President's House Site, National Constitution Center, and Franklin Court.


  • Write a letter to the editor about the importance of archeology and historic preservation. Make it specific to a site in your city if possible.
  • Research other kinds of archeology (besides urban archeology). Examples include industrial, underwater, experimental, and classical archeology. What are the similarities and differences to historical archeology in an urban setting?
  • Look for examples of archeology in popular culture such as movies, books, and television. Then, using your understanding of what archeology is and what archeologists do, write a commentary describing if your example is an accurate portrayal of archeology.

Additional Resources


Learn about archeology at Franklin Court.  This website has information on the basics of archeology all related to Benjamin Franklin and life at Franklin Court.

The Society for Historical Archaeology's website has a special section for kids to learn about careers in archeology.

Find activities, resources, and much more for encouraging a child's interest in archeology as well as encouraging stewardship for archeological heritage.


Cotter, John L., Daniel G. Roberts and Michael Parrington.  The Buried Past:  An Archaeological History of Philadelphia.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.

Hansen, Joyce and Gary McGowan.  Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence:  The Story of New York's African Burial Ground.  Henry Hold & Company, 1998.

Panchyk, Richard.  Archaeology for Kids:  Uncovering the Mysteries of Our Past.  Chicago Review Press, 2001.

Samford, Patricia and David L. Ribblett.  Archaeology for Young Explorers:  Uncovering History at Colonial Williamsburg.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1999.

The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, edited by Elaine Forman Crane.  Northwest University Press, 1991.


Anthropology, Archeological "Context", Archeologist, Archeology, Artifact, Excavation, Feature, Historical Archeology, Material Culture, Post Mold, Primary Source, Provenience, Secondary Source, Stratigraphy, Urban Archeology

Last updated: September 11, 2015