Third Grade Excavates “Fossils” at Lower School

Dig 3 One of the best things about studying the art and science of archaeology is being able to get your hands dirty and actually dig stuff up. On November 4, Ross third graders got to do just that, building on lessons about fossil formation that are part of their Cultural History unit on evolution. The class brought learning to life by burying student-made artifacts in the garden at the Lower School so that the aspiring Indiana Joneses could subsequently excavate them, putting skills into practice that they’d only heard about remotely.

View pictures of the grade 3 archaeological dig Dig2

The class divided themselves into teams, and each planned a site for another team to excavate. The students had to think of a way to leave artifacts that would tell something about a community to their fellow archaeologists. It was left up to them to determine their site's "story." The artifacts the students eventually uncovered told tales of a maritime fishing village and of a more modern-day society.


Working with small paintbrushes, students located items such as an animal jawbone and bits of pottery buried at various depths. They carefully uncovered the fossils and shards, deftly excavating the pieces and fitting them together in a recreation of the type of work done by professional archaeologists and paleontologists.

As they processed the site, Lower School Science Teacher Bryan Smith talked to the students about important things to note, emphasizing that the location of the artifact in the ground can be equally important as the find itself. Using a printed grid, the teams documented the “where” and “what” of the artifacts to help during later analysis. They eventually removed and cleaned their finds, and then pieced together the story they told.


“This is an important part of the lesson. The real-life excavation helps the students understand the significance of the science associated with discovering details of ancient life and society,” Bryan said.