Investigating Artifacts

Making Masks, Creating Myths, Exploring Middens

Grades K—6

Written by Katharine Barrett, Lincoln Bergman, Gigi Dornfest, Linda Lipner, and Carolyn Willard

There is both great beauty and great math-and-science learning in this sensitive, exciting unit. With its tapestry of anthropology, archeology, and mask-making, Investigating Artifacts is unique among guided-discovery math and science activities.

This unit presents three intriguing activities related to anthropology, archaeology, and diverse Native American and world cultures. Students are immediately involved, hands-and-minds-on, as they sort and classify material objects found on a walk, then make masks from those materials. They create stories to explain natural phenomena and learn how ancient peoples used folklore to explain and represent the natural world.

In a very personal introduction to archaeology, students learn that a midden, in this context, is a term for deposits of artifacts earlier peoples left behind. Teams of students then sift through "artifacts" in shoe-box middens, learning the skills required for excavation, map-drawing, and curatorship. A major scientific thread in all activities relates to inferences that can be drawn from varying evidence.

The guide is filled with information and resources on Native American and world masks, myths, and archaeological sites. There is ample opportunity to introduce broader social-science elements, focus on Native American wisdom, and connect the substantive science in this unit to real appreciation for collecting, preserving, and understanding clues to our varied past.

Time: Six or more 45-minute sessions.

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ISBN: Grade Level Format Price



6 Sessions,
120 pages


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