Lesson Plan

Middens and Math: “Crashing the Gates” with Florence Hawley Ellis

Florence Hawley Ellis
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.7, 6.RI.7
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Essential Question

Who was Florence Hawley Ellis? What were her methods to study and preserve archeological resources? Why is her legacy important to both women’s history and archeological preservation?

Este plan de clase con actividades incluido también está disponible en español.


“Crashing the Gates” is a series of lesson plans about three of the earliest female archeologists who worked with the National Park Service. Students will learn about Florence Hawley Ellis, one of the first female archeologists who worked with the National Park Service. This lesson plan emphasizes her original methodologies and why her work was so important to both women’s history and cultural resource preservation.


In the last two centuries, societal gender biases have proved challenging for American women. Around the turn of the 20th century, this was especially true for women seeking to enter the traditionally male-dominated field of archeology. Those that did often had their work become overshadowed by that of their male counterparts. This lesson plan focuses on Florence Hawley Ellis, one of the early pioneers who cracked the traditional “women’s work” ideology and paved the way for future female scholars by becoming a successful archeologist in her own right. She and the other two women featured in this lesson plan series made important contributions to the field of archeology and their original methods are still used today.

“Crashing the Gates” is a series of lesson plans about three of the earliest female archeologists who worked with the National Park Service: Ann Axtell Morris, Florence Hawley Ellis, and Bertha Dutton. The lessons within this series accomplish three goals. First, they contribute to the wider theme of women’s history by noting the difficulties these three and other 19th- and 20th-century women faced when choosing a career path. Second, they promote the National Park Service mission of resource management and education by teaching about women’s lasting impacts on cultural resource preservation and public education. Third, through activities based on archeological methodologies, they enhance students’ own analytical skillsets. After completing these lessons, students will have learned who these three women were, applied some of their techniques, and gained understanding about why their work was so important. These lessons can be completed as a series or stand-alone lessons.


Students will need pencils or pens and scrap paper.


Download Florence Hawley Ellis Student Handout

Download Answer Key: Archeological Excavation

Download En Español: Matemática y basurales: rompiendo barreras con Florence Hawley Ellis

Download En Español: Florence Hawley Ellis

Download En Español: Hoja de respuestas: Excavación arqueológica


Step 1: Provide each student with a printed copy of the file, "Florence Hawley Ellis Student Handout."

Step 2: Have students read the provided background information about traditional 19th- and 20th-century women’s roles, archeology as a field, and Florence Hawley Ellis and her methods either out loud or silently. After each section, talk with the students about the main points.

Step 3: Have the students complete the activities focusing on archeological methods. Review their answers as a group.


Archeology: the study of people within the past

Artifact: an object made and used by people within the past

Context: where an object was found in the ground including depth and surrounding objects

Ethnography: scientific study of people and culture, especially through direct observation

Feature: as opposed to portable artifacts, these are the non-portable parts of an archeological site such as walls, hearths, or trash pits

Midden: trash mound containing layers of artifacts and soil

Sequence: timeline of ecological events created by studying tree ring patterns

Supports for Struggling Learners

Teachers can ask students to read the text out loud. After each section, teachers can review the main points with the students.

Enrichment Activities

Ask students to research one of the following women and write their own short biography of them.

  • Sarah “Sallie” Pierce Brewer Harris: the first permanent female Ranger in the Southwest, one of many National Park Service’s “Honorary Custodians Without Pay” who lived at and interpreted archeological sites.
  • Jean McWhirt Pinkley: chief of interpretation at Mesa Verde and one of the managers for the largest-ever National Park Service archeological excavation
  • Virginia Sutton Harrington: the first female Ranger-historian employed by the National Park Service who championed archeological education for the public at Jamestown Fort

Additional Resources

“Biographical Sketch.” Florence Hawley Ellis Papers. University of New Mexico. 17 June 2015.

Browning, Kathleen D. “Exploring the Implementation of the Act: Women in Federal Archeology.” Implementing the Antiquities Act: A Survey of Archeological Permits 1906-1935. National Center for Cultural Resources, National Park Service, 2003.

Ellis, Florence Hawley. “Across Some Decades.” In Ethnohistory, Fall 1971, vol. 18, issue 4, pp. 295-308.

Hawley, Florence M. “The Significance of the Dated Prehistory of Chetro Ketl, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.” Dissertation. Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1934.

Irwin-Williams, Cynthia. “Women in the Field: The Role of Women in Archeology before 1960.” In Women of Science: Righting the Record. Edited by Gabriele Kass-Simon and Patricia Farnes. Indiana University Press, 1993, pp. 1-41.

Joiner, Carol. “The Boys and Girls of Summer: The University of New Mexico Archeological Field School in Chaco Canyon.” In Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 48, no. 1. Spring 1992. Pp. 49-66.

Kaufman, Polly Welts. National Parks and the Woman’s Voice: A History. University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

The Museum Collections of Chaco Culture National Historic Park. National Park Service.

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Explore other lesson plans in the "Crashing the Gates" series:

Art and Archeology: “Crashing the Gates” with Ann Axtell Morris

Scouts and Shovels: “Crashing the Gates” with Bertha Dutton

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Last updated: April 2, 2020