Blogger Kary Henry

Dig It! Homeschool & Archaeology

The ALSC blog has a category of posts labeled “Children’s Librarians Are Experts.” This label recognizes the many and diverse talents of children’s librarians. I employed a version of this when I asked my talented and awesome colleague, Cristina, to run archaeology programs for our homeschool students. The homeschool students absolutely loved getting to learn from a real archaeologist. Cristina loved leading a program about a passion of hers. And I loved not having to lead a program getting to watch a colleague shine!


Cristina created a fantastic presentation for the students to begin the program. She began by exploring the definitions of “archaeology” and “archaeologist.” She challenged the students to explain what an archaeologist looked like. Not surprisingly, Indiana Jones came to mind for some of them! Sharing photographs of herself and her colleagues on site in Italy helped dispel the myths they believed.

Her presentation continued to dispel myths when she addressed artifacts. A slide in her presentation asked the question “What is an artifact?”:

  • Arrowhead
  • Cell phone
  • Both
  • Neither
  • Something else

Of course, the students thought the correct answer was “arrowhead,” but Cristina taught that an artifact is anything made or modified by people. The correct answer was “both!”

After sharing more photos from her experience in Italy, Cristina went on to teach the students about how to conduct a dig, using their mock dig kit.

  • Survey your brick and decide on a starting point.
  • Use your wooden pick to carefully pick or jab at the brick.
  • If you hit something, stop digging!
  • When you find an artifact, use your brush to remove extra dirt.
  • Is it an artifact? Record it!
    • Draw, Describe, Measure
  • Place the dirt in a bowl or plate to sift through before throwing out.

Mock Archaeological Dig

You can purchase archaeological “bricks” to excavate, but Cristina created them herself. She used rectangular silicone molds, Plaster of Paris, sand, and water. The “artifacts” included pebbles, fake ancient coins, fake gems, and fake bones. First, she mixed the ingredients in a bowl. Then she put a bottom layer of that mixture into the molds. Finally she finished filling the molds with the mixture and the artifacts. It was important to spread the artifacts around so they’d be in different layers of the brick. This encouraged the students to dig around the entire brick. It took about 24 hours for the bricks to dry. Each student received a brick, a paintbrush, and a wooden pick (sort of like a large cuticle stick). The students were so enthusiastic about their bricks and really enjoyed being archaeologists for a while!

Not all of us have access to an actual archaeologist, but the program could be replicated using books from your collection or videos in lieu of the presentation. In addition, think about the many talents your colleagues have. What are their passions? Did any have careers before they came to the library world? Tapping into the wealth of knowledge around you is a sure way to offer a successful program for your young patrons!

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.

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