Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Diggin' Ditches

OK, so not really ditches, but third grade's been digging all the same! We've had many discussions about art history, and then we started talking about how do we know this stuff, anyway??? They all know about people who dig up dinosaur bones (paleontologists) and I explained that the people who dig up remnants from people's civilizations are archaeologists.  I reserved the archaeology kit from my local art museum, and it has items like this in it:

Screens for sifting dirt.

Buckets and shovels for digging.
The kit comes with 8 shovels, but only 5 buckets,
so I add some from my classroom.

Brushes for cleaning off findings.

Magnifying glass to look closely-
I actually use some cheap-o ones from
my classroom, I worry about them
dropping them outside.

I set up a dig site outside.
I try to turn in a work request, so someone will come and plow it up for us.  I've used the same dig site for several years (it's convenient) but I think I'm going to move it for next year (to an area that gets some run-off, I think we'll find more interesting things there).

We got a LOT of rain over the weekend, so ignore the wet papers
that blew in there.

Rain made our sign a little wiggly.  It says
Before we go out and dig, we watch a YouTube video or two of dig sites, I use this one, this one, and sometimes this one.  They're all really short.

We also make books to record and save our findings:
We decorate our covers with tools we'll use
and things we want to find.

A baggie is our first page to keep the treasures
we find.  Five blank pages let us record
our teammates' findings.

Students dig in groups of 3 or 4.  Only one person is in the dig site from a team at a time.  Everyone has a job (and they rotate every couple of minutes).  Someone's digging, someone's holding supplies, someone's helping to sift dirt and look for artifacts. . . it's a fun couple of days (unless it's rainy, and we don't get to go out).  I've done this activity for 10 years or so, and sometimes (when I first started) I'd place things in the dig site for them to find.  But it felt so. . . artificial, so I don't do it anymore, and you know what? Third graders are sooooo very excited with rocks or whatever ("Look!  I bet it's a FOSSIL!")
And this is the closest I hope I ever get to digging ditches!


  1. What fun! I love the way it gives the children a bit of hands-on experience, but also covers the importance of recording finds. Do you catalog and display what they've found afterwards (like a museum?) Maybe it would be fun to take a found object (aka fossil) and build a fictitious creature or artifact around it! So many possibilities :)

  2. Oooo, great ideas, Elizabeth! I usually just let them take them home in their books, but maybe I should take it a little further.

  3. This is such an awesome idea! I would have never thought of something like this! Guess I need to go to my administrators/board and ask to have an archaeological site dug somewhere on school campus!

  4. Your students will love it, I promise you! I have sixth graders who talk about how much they loved doing it in third grade!


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