Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Completed Shoebox Dig ready to take home.

Shoebox Dig was just one part of Historic Preservation Matters!
We were knee deep in boxes last week, not moving but outreaching!  As part of the Historic Preservation Matters! event in Fernandina Beach (Nassau County), FPAN helped out by offering workshops for kids and adults.

 Youth programs focused on a theme: boxes.  In one room, planner Adrienne Burke and representatives from the Amelia Island Museum of History presented Box City, a packaged kit to help students understand planning and permitting.  Like a live action Sim City.  Kids selected a kind of building they wanted to construct and stood in line for permits.  After a permit was assigned they selected a spot on the grid placed on the floor and broke ground.  Well, broke construction paper.   After a visit to the materials table kids constructed police stations, airport, ice cream shop, and residential homes out of prefabricated cardboard cubes and strips of colored paper.  Once they finish constructing, the building is inspected and signed off on.  Students learn there is limited and designated space for components of a community.  Every grid had space for industrial, residential, and business.  Parking is a consideration, and it was great to see planned green space pop up in the form of parks.

Permits approved, Inspector signed off!
Close up of police station.
Pre-fab boxes can be purchased as a kit.
Construction tools and building supplies.

Because the theme of boxes was already in the works by the museum and Fernandina planning department, we embarked on a new activity: shoebox digs.  I had heard from teachers before the affordances of students making sites in boxes.  I looked up Shelby Brown's lesson plan on shoebox dig but had to make many modifications.  

Public archaeologists may be interested in the  modifications we took from the AIA lesson plan.  As written, we did not have time to prep the shoeboxes for the students to dig.  The AIA lesson also does a fair job explaining not to use actual cultures but to construct fictional layers to emphasize trade and migration.  We decided up front that the students themselves would construct their own sites.  I believe firmly in the power of reverse mapping and digging to emphasize site formation processes.  I also think it gives an entirely different message: digging a site versus building a site. 

Shoebox dig as it was being built emphasizing site formation processes (Spanish layer shown here).
Volunteers help get forms and bag ready to go home with completed shoebox digs.

The other major diversion was the decision to represent actual cultures in northeast Florida.  We decided instead of four layers we would have three: Timucuan prehistoric, Spanish mission, and present day layers.  I went shopping and found craft objects to represent five artifacts typically found in archaeological sites.
Controversial:  The one thing I did I’m sure will draw an opinion from the PubArch crowd- I started with a foam sticker of a dinosaur.  The kids affixed the dinosaur to the bottom of their box.  I emphasized how archaeologists know when to stop digging (hit culturally sterile subsoil), the fact that 65 million years separates humans from the dinosaurs, and that if they dug deep enough in their box to find a dinosaur they no longer need an archaeologist but a paleontologist.  I initially thought I’d use the dinosaur sticker in the younger group and experiment not using it in the older group, but because we combined grades on the day I didn’t get to experiment.  Feel free to rage in the comments section if you disagree.  I can see both sides- including the dinosaur brings imprinting: I went to an archaeology program today and a dinosaur happened.  However, it did serve several instructional purposes and I hope helped emphasize the point of separateness.  
Artifact bag handed out, sorted (non-cultural, prehistoric, historic, modern), then placed in by layer.
We used a mix of playground and paver sand with blue and orange added.

I declare the activity a success!  

  • Students sorted artifacts by material types and learned how humans met their basic needs over time through the materials presented.
  • I’d like to try an experiment: send 10 archaeologists into Hobby Lobby to find representative craft materials and you will end up with 10 different sets of materials.  Very interesting…
  • We could talk about what artifacts were missing based on their expectations of what would be in each layer- correct some misconceptions while emphasizing not every site has every suite of artifacts.
  • We used lollipop stems to represent kaolin pipestems and my modern artifacts collected from my yard included a cigarette butt.  From this we talked about tobacco use as a historical fact, where you would find pipestems historically and pretty much in the same locations today (by windows and doors), and the fact that while a cigarette butt shows up in my yard, I’m in fact not a smoker and interpretations based on the presence of that one artifact would be misguided.
  • I think it was significant to use real cultures.  The first thing they said when I asked about the first European visitors to Florida and what layer would represent them, the kids informally responded “Pilgrims!”  No, no.  Here in Florida the Spanish arrived 100 years before the Pilgrims landed up north, and that event took place 500 years ago as of next year.  In their very own community they will have Timucuan and Spanish layers.
  • Stratigraphy is always a bear in simulated excavations.  We added colored sand to purchased bags of sand.  The perception from the public was why pay for sand, which is readily available from the beaches.  We splurged on the $3 bags of playground and mortar sand and I maintain I’m glad we did.  For one, harvesting beach sand is illegal.  Even if permission was granted to collect sand, the moisture and critter inclusions can’t be controlled.  Could be a dog walked by in its recent history…I’m just sayin.  Playground sand lasted longer by volume.  Paver sand was so fine it collapsed into smaller volume but it did take the coloring better.  In the end we used playground sand with blue sand added, paver sand with orange sand added, and the top layer was the playground sand with other additives.
  • I spent many hours anxious about how much sand we’d actually go through.  I estimated two pounds of sand per student but I think that estimation was based on me weighing topsoil.  I would say 200 lbs of sand will fill 30 shoeboxes comfortably.

Cost: craft items in bulk turned out to cost about $1/student and probably 50 cents per student for sand.  Shoeboxes were donated but if you have to buy shoes your cost will go up considerably:)
Activity sheets sent home, see below.
Completed box with modern surface finds from my yard and house borrowed from Box City.

See the lesson plan below:

Title:                      Florida Shoebox Dig
Date:                     May 19, 2012
Unit:                      Historic Preservation Matters workshop for kids
Time allotted:    1 hour 30 minutes (5 minute introduction what is archaeology, 20 minutes prehistoric levels, 20 minutes historic levels, 20 minutes assignment set up, 20 minute demonstration of digging example shoe box).
A.       Objectives
a.       Students will learn archaeological concepts such as stratigraphy, superposition and using the scientific process.
b.      Students will be able to make interpretations based on artifacts.
c.       Students will reflect on how they will leave archaeological markers in their own time.
d.      Students will know there are historical resources beneath their feet as they stand in Fernandina.
B.       Implementation
a.       Hand out resource bag to students and have them place their shoeboxes in front of them on the table.  Explain to students we will not be excavating a site today, but rather creating one.  We will build the site layer by layer so they can take it home to excavate.
b.      (optional) start with the dinosaur sticker.  Have them remove the backing while you tell them its important they know when to stop digging.  In this case it will be at the bottom of their shoebox, but in the real world archaeologists stop when their soil is sterile—or clean—of human occupation.  When they hit the dinosaur they’ll know to stop because archaeologists don’t dig dinosaurs.  Emphasize 65 million years separate humans from dinosaurs and that archaeologists only study people.  They can call our friends the paleontologists who study dinosaurs and many, many more kinds of animals.  Add a magic layer to emphasize the separation of the two layers.  This approach can be controversial and not included—we are experimenting with both approaches and would love to hear your experiences should you try or omit.  Model this for students in your own clear box (I used a clear, rectangular canister from home but a pet store would also have clear square fish bowl or cricket habitat)
c.       One by one have students identify artifacts for their prehistoric layer.  Ask open ended questions about how the artifact may have been used, emphasize basic needs, trade, or change in technology when appropriate.  When finished placing the 5 contents, cover artifact with colored sand.
d.      Repeat with historic layer artifacts.  Talk about examples of these artifacts found around Fernandina and emphasize ties to Spanish culture through mission system (bell) and diversity of other cultures present.  Pour a different layer of sand over the historic artifacts.
e.      Add the final layer and tell the students their site is not quite complete.  Have them think about artifacts they may find in their yard or around their home.  Show artifacts recovered from my yard and demonstrate burying them in the top layer as they will do at home.
f.        Give the students directions for doing their dig at home.  Give them artifact count sheet and ask them to draw a picture that represents their site to send back to the Center and posted to our blog (one can always dream).  Make sure to remind them to carefully remove the artifacts layer by layer with a spoon or other tool.

C.       Materials
a.       The original AIA instructions suggests making up a fictitious culture but we decided to represent what would be beneath their feet in Fernandina.  I think five archaeologists walking into Hobby Lobby would produce five different list of representative artifacts, but we tried to have at least 5 artifacts per layer that would promote discussion on meeting basic human needs, address change over time, and emphasize trade.  Materials are broken down into prehistoric and historic layers.  The final layer the students will add at home.
                                                               i.      General:
1.       Shoebox, one per student
2.       sand (2 lbs per box to be made up: 40 lb bag for 20 students)
3.       premade Ziploc bags full of prehistoric and historic materials
4.       take home analysis sheet and artifact bags
5.       Clear box for demonstration purposes- made by you during lesson
6.       Plate for students to empty contents into and sort
7.       Cups and bowls for distributing sand
8.       Empty buckets and 5 containers to distribute sand
                                                             ii.      Prehistoric layer materials:
1.       black beads to represent charcoal (2-3 per student)
2.       shells (5-10)
3.       Sinew (2-3 inch strand)
4.       Broken terracotta pieces (3 packs of 5 mini pots hammered upon)
5.       Limestone rocks to represent chert (5-10 pieces)
                                                            iii.      Historic layer materials:
1.       Broken lollipop sticks to represent pipe stems (2-3 fragments)
2.       Broken glass (5-10 pieces of mosaic glass)
3.       Glass beads (5-10)
4.       Straight pins or nails (5)
5.       Bell
                                                           iv.      Example bag of artifacts from my yard:
1.       Glass pebble for fishbowl
2.       Electric wire, probably from a car
3.       Cigarette butt (not actually a smoker but no shortage of these)
4.       Plastic Easter egg half shell
5.       Garden tag from herb garden

D.       Extra time
a.       Start excavation on the demonstration box.  Can have students take turns pulling artifacts.  Can map on poster board where artifacts are found.
b.      Discuss how unique our layers are in Florida.  If we made the shoeboxes to represent other places in the world or in the country, how their layers may differ.  Can also get into complexity of prehistoric layers or urban archaeology (Kathy Deagan had 7 layers and 200 individual contexts identified in St. Augustine dig)

E.        References
a.       Shelby Brown “Simulated Digs: Shoebox Dig” electronic resource.  Viewed on AIA Education Department Website May 15, 2012. http://www.archaeological.org/pdfs/education/digs/Digs_shoebox.pdf

Shoebox Dig Recording Sheet
Site name: ______________________________________________
Excavated by: ___________________________________________

Layer 1
Describe soil (color, texture):
Artifacts (describe and give count of each type):

Layer 2
Describe soil:

Layer 3
Describe soil:

Archaeology isn’t what you find, it’s what you find out.  Draw a picture to show what you found out about your site and your community.


We would love to hear from you!  Send us your form or email a picture of you with your site and we’ll post it to our blog!   Sarah Miller, 74 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32085 semiller@flagler.edu

text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff
For PDF of lesson plan contact us: northeast@flpublicarchaeology.org

Please post your thoughts below!  Tried something similar?  Have issue with anything included or omitted?  We invite conversation!

- Copyright © Going Public - Skyblue - Powered by Blogger - Designed by Johanes Djogan -