Dig It

Activity Overview: 

This project is based on a software program entitled Dig 2. Teams of students create cultures and artifacts of the future. Teams then bury their artifacts for another team to discover, excavate, and reconstruct. This project involves a group presentation, which allows students to present their findings, analysis, and conclusions.


One of my major goals is to have teams of students simulate the work of future archeologists using assorted modern technological tools to study the past. They will experience “hands-on” learning, using multiple intelligences, from the beginning to the end of this project. Ultimately, I want students to realize that even though cultures may differ greatly, there are more similarities than differences. The objective of the project is to present numerous opportunities to use creative and critical skills in order to make connections between knowledge in many subject areas.



This project is based on “Dig 2,” a simulated learning experience curriculum authored by Jerry Lipetzky and published by Interact-Learning Through Involvement, 1998. Integrating additional tools of technology into this project is my original adaptation of Lipetzky’s work. Fourth, fifth, & sixth grade students work as teams to create cultures of the future. This is a compelling learning situation involving numerous hands-on learning experiences. Teams of students create cultures and their artifacts. Teams then bury their artifacts for another team to discover, excavate, and reconstruct. This project is cross-curricular in that knowledge and skills from many subject areas are involved. The project ends with a group presentation, which allows students to present their findings, analysis, and conclusions.


(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)




Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators 

Archeological team preparations of artifacts and rituals; burial and excavation of artifacts. Student teams will create and record cultural artifacts, traditions, and rituals.

Social Studies I. Culture, Early Grades: a, b, c, & d

Grades 3-5:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 9

Student teams prepare for the “big dig” to bury artifacts.

Social Studies II. Time, Continuity, and Change, Early Grades: f

Grades 3-5: 1, 2, 4, 5, & 9

Student teams prepare for the “big dig” to excavate artifacts.


Social Studies III. People, Places and Environment,

Early Grades: a, c, g, h


Social Studies VIII. Science, Technology, and Society, Early Grades: a


Social Studies IX.

Global Connections, Early Grades: a, d

Grades 3-5: 1, 2, 4, 5, & 9



Lipetzky, J. (1998). Dig 2. Interaction Publishers, Inc.

National Association for Gifted Children. Washington, D.C.


Web Site:

National Association for Gifted Children. (1998). http://www.nagc.org



Apple iBooks. Apple. Available: http://www.apple.com.

Apple Power Book. Apple. Available: http://www.apple.com.

Apple PC 5200. Apple: Available: http://www.apple.com.

Apple iMac. Apple. Available: http://www.apple.com.

Sony video-camera. Sony. Available: http://www.sel.sony.com.

Casio digital camera. Casio.  Available: http://www.casio.com.

Fugi 35 mm camera. Fuji. Available: http://www.fujifilm.com.



ClarisWorks 6.0. Apple. Available: http://www.apple.com.

AppleWorks 6.0. Apple. Available: http://www.apple.com.



I used a variety of authentic assessment tools:

teacher observation

check lists

student self-assessment based upon criteria

team assessment

reflective written and oral journals

goal setting & assessment

Lipetzky’s “Dig 2” curriculum guide includes a point system means for assessment, which I did not use.



Nancy Hemphill, Jefferson Elementary, Newton, Iowa



I used this project within a pull out program. My students worked in two and a half hour block periods of time, with each block cycling in a 3-loop. Initially, the project began during the winter months, concluding with the actual digs and group presentation in late April or early May. The project can be done in less time if necessary by reducing the depth of the development of the culture.

I work with students within a time span of a three-year loop. The majority of the students who are with me this year, completed our "Dig It” project last year. For this year’s taping, we are recreating, elaborating, and fine-tuning work they produced last year. Approximately one fourth of my students are new this year. Therefore, this is not a reenactment; it is a new challenge!


While I have presented other learning through simulation activities and projects, I had no previous experience with this particular project. One of the greatest experiences about doing this activity was observing empowered students actively engage as teams to explore and challenge themselves in “uncharted” content areas.   Additionally, I discovered the motivational power technological tools provide when students are at the center of their own learning making their own choices, especially in a problem-based learning situation, such as this one. The students were more motivated when they discovered that a variety of tools were available from which they could choose, rather than having the teacher say “this is the tool that you must use for this purpose.”


Technology Resources:

The opportunities to use a variety of technology tools made a compelling learning situation even more exciting. Students used a combination of PC’s and laptops for word processing, designing of maps, graphs, spreadsheets, computer-generated artifacts, and reflective journals. We used Apple computers because that is what the district provides. In the early stage of the project, only a PC Powermac 5200 was available. It limited the number of students who had access to use it and of course could be used only in the classroom. I requested the use of a laptop within the classroom so that more students would have access and also explained to administrators that I wished to have a means of portable technology to take into the field. Students were so eager to explore technological means to improve their learning within this project, that my request for additional laptops was granted.

Students used digital cameras, 35 mm cameras, and camcorders to record their work. These records were later included as “proof of product” for authentic assessment and were also displayed during the student presentations.

Artifacts and cultural rituals were recorded using both film and digital cameras and camcorders, audio tapes, and CD players. I chose wireless laptops to take to the dig site. I selected particular types and models for their “easy to use” features and for size and weight. They must be suitable for the hands of children, yet sophisticated enough to produce a quality product.

A Super iMac was recently provided to allow students the means to combine digital recordings and more sophisticated technology presentations for future projects similar to this one.

Teaching Strategy:

I chose this strategy because I believe problem-based learning that allows students to work together as teams, using multiple intelligences and incorporating brain-based learning practices, results in numerous opportunities for improved student learning. My basic strategy is to seek learning experiences that allow students to work in teams and to be challenged in new and unusual circumstances that allow for student-centered learning, that incorporate many “hands-on” opportunities, and that require the use of both creative and critical thinking to solve problems. Using these strategies will ensure that students will arrive in class eager and willing to learn!  Student-centered learning empowers students and engages them at very high levels of productivity, especially when they have free and easy access to appropriate technological tools. I make extensive use of the multiple intelligences and research derived from the study of how the brain learns. Frequently, my students groan when the clock on the wall tells them that our day must conclude.


School Background Information:

  • The population of Newton, Iowa is 15,579 people. Rich with tradition and progressive in its vision, Newton is best known for being the home of Maytag. The school district has five K-6 elementary schools, one 7-8 middle school, and one 9-12 high school. 

  • Thomas Jefferson Elementary School is home to 334 students. Among all the students enrolled in the school, 97% are White, 2% are African American, and 1% are Asian. 

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity http://www.intime.uni.edu/model/modelimage.html

(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks.  Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education model that I feel are evident in this activity are all eight of the Principles of Learning. I especially point out the Active Involvement of each student: none are “passive” learners.  Informal Learning is also ongoing in this project. Direct Experience is also very obvious as students role-play as members of an archeology team embarking upon an exploration. Within the concept of integrating technology into direct learning, this project requires students to use technology tools, not “just observe the teacher” demonstrate the tool. The entire concept of creating their own culture, complete with language, values, a numbering system, artifacts, a dig, and using tools of technology resulted in a very Compelling Situation.

Our classroom is an example of an indoor Enjoyable Setting. The Iowa country, the dig site, was an appealing outdoor classroom. Students were given at least three opportunities per class session for group and individual Reflection, assessment, and feedback. In conclusion, Direct Experience is evident when one considers that the underlying principles of the study of archeology are making Patterns and Connections with all other fields of knowledge.

In the area of Information Processing, this project exemplifies Interpretation of another team’s culture and artifacts. Communication among team members and communication of recorded information to others are key to the project’s success. Products are self-evaluated, and evaluated by teams and others as well.  Again reflective thinking, critical and creative problem-solving, and the ability to analyze and synthesize connections and patterns are abundant with this project.

The elementary Talented and Gifted Department in our district is highly focused on teaching “process” rather than a heavy concentration on subject content. However, this project certainly is rich in both process and content.  Content Standards are as wide in scope as is the study of archeology. This is a cross-curricular project that provides opportunities to include all eight subjects commonly taught in elementary school, as well as that of career technical education. My students discussed the many career opportunities this project involved such as geologist, museum curator, archeologist, journalist, photographer, historian, media specialist, environmentalist, medical specialist, etc.

Elements of Democracy can also be found in this video.  Working as teams, students learned to be tolerant and accepting of others’ ideas, opinions, and products. Critical Thinking and Decision MakingThinking Together and Making Meaning, and Power Sharing and Empowerment are three aspects vital to the degree of motivation and engagement that is demonstrated repeatedly and consistently by my students!

Students Characteristics:

A key student characteristic within this project is that of learning to work with a team of peers. First students must learn to work with others rather than individually. Then, the student must learn the concept of being a team member, with each member of the team having a specific task or responsibility. Some students more readily adapt to working within a team setting than others. Factors such as natural leadership, shy personalities, and willingness to express ideas vary from one student to another.

All of my students demonstrate the potential to be highly able in both logical and creative thinking. This open-ended project affords them nearly unlimited avenues to expand these abilities. The diversity within my class comes from teaching across the district. My students come from each of the district’s elementary buildings and represent all of our city’s social and economical levels

Evolution of the Activity:

The first time I did this activity was last year. Since I am with my students for a three-year loop, I probably will not repeat this project for at least another three years. However, during our reenactment of it, students seized the opportunity to further embellish, elaborate, and make refinements of their earlier work. Additional pieces of technology hardware were added for the reenactment. If the project were repeated, additional types of technology hardware and software would be desired.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology http://cnets.iste.org/students)