Chocolate Chip Archeology
A great way to teach the past
from Greg English
Oak Park Middle School
*Ditto paper grid sheets (see below)
*Box of flathead toothpicks
*1-2 Bags of SOFT chocolate chip cookies
(Depending on class sizes)
Step 1) First tell the students that they are going on an archeology dig. Pass out the grid sheets (one per student). Explain that an Archeologist must keep detailed records as to where every artifact is located. They keep accurate records of even the tinniest shard. Have them take out a PENCIL and put their name on the paper because you will want the records when the dig is over.
Step 2) Pass out two tookpicks to each student explaining that archeologists use various tools to do intricate digging around sites. Explain that they will use both ends of the toothpicks, therefore don't break them or put them in their mouth.
Step 3) From a hidden spot, bring out the "dig sites" (the chocolate chip cookies). Place one on each desk inside one of the grids. Explain that they may not touch these with their hands at anytime.
Step 4) Explain that this is their archeology dig site. They may not touch it or turn it over. Now they must look at their site and mark on the opposite grid the location of any seen artifacts (chips). Be detailed. In the space provided at the top of the page, indicate the number of "artifacts" they expect to find when the complete the digging at their site. The teacher should walk around the room and initial each ditto.
Step 5) Tell the students that as they work you will be walking around the room marking their paper to record their work for later grading. Now have them slowly dig out the artifacts without breaking any. Tell them that their grade is dependent on the number of complete artifacts.
Step 6) As the students begin to work, give a short lecture on archeology. No great details just little trivial items, things the kids will remember. Keep reminding them that as they "dig" they should move the artifacts - with the tools - to one side of the paper, and the "dirt" to the other. They must also record where all artifacts are found.
Step 7) Monitor their work. When most finish have them count the found complete artifacts and record the number in the space provide. Write those numbers on the board. The students will then talk about who found the most, why one site has more artifacts than the other, the number of shards, and do they make a whole artifact.
Step 8) At this point have the students carefully fold the sheet long ways and again carefully dumb the "artifacts" and "dirt" into their mouths.
Step 9) While they are doing that pass out a few more whole dig site to eat just for fun. Take up ditto sheets to grade in needed.
Step 10) Do a recap discussing the facts that archeologist use special tools based on the site - shovels, picks, hand shovels, brushes, small ice picks, and even small dental tools to uncover artifacts. Explain that when they start a site they never know just what they will uncover.
NOTES: I have used this hands-on project several times, each with great success. Just be prepared for students to tell their parents about "digging in chocolate chip cookies" in class.