Archaeological Study

By Sarah Rooney, October 2, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

210 minutes for classroom activities and 120 minutes for homework


This lesson introduces the difference between archaeology and anthropology, while specifically studying the evolution of different products.  The student’s assignment will be to trace the progression of a certain tool or product, and then come up with ways to improve the product for a specific area and/or region.  Students will use the design process to develop a new product or tool.  This lesson incorporates standards for both history and geography, which are required for the state of Pennsylvania’s social studies’ curriculum.  

National Standards


Standard 46. Level IV. Understands long-term changes and recurring patterns in world history

1. Understands the importance of the revolution in tool-making, agriculture, and industrialization as major turning points in human history


Standard 15. Level IV. Understands how physical systems affect human systems

2. Knows how humans overcome “limits to growth” imposed by physical systems (e.g., technology, human adaptation)


Standard 17. Level IV. Understands elements of production planning

3. Designs, produces, and tests prototypes of products  

Common Core State Standards:

Anchors for Reading

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.Research to Build and Present Knowledge:


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will be able to:

  • understand the evolution of different tools and or products used throughout history
  • understand the needs of people in different geographic regions through different time periods
  • design a product that is based on the needs and resources available to a group of people



  • handouts
  • blank paper
  • pen and/or a pencil
  • LCD projector
(Note: If a student chooses to build a model, the student must provide materials.)


  • anthropology: the science of human beings; especially the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture
  • archaeology: the scientific study of material remains (as fossil relics, artifacts, and monuments) of past human life and activities
  • prototype: an original model on which something is patterned


1. Students will be introduced to archaeology and anthropology by the teacher bringing in an archaeologist to give a presentation.  The presentation will include a comparison of archaeology to anthropology, a job overview for archaeologists, and a presentation of various artifacts.  Several of the artifacts should be the same tool, but from different time periods, or from different geographic regions.  This portion of the lesson will take an entire 45-minute class period.

2. The next step will be the first step in the design process, which is to identify the challenge.  Students will be asked to think of the next “step” in the “evolution” of the product.  For instance, what problems do we still face in different regions with a particular product or tool?  Examples of a product might include more advanced products such as toilets or ovens, or even something as simple as a cup or pitcher.  Students should be thinking of the people using the product, and what the needs of that group of people would be.  Students will be shown examples from, and  The time that it takes to complete introducing the project and reviewing examples should take about twenty minutes, as students will be given the opportunity to ask questions.

3. The second step of the design process is to research and brainstorm.  Students will be placed into groups of five.  Students will brainstorm together different products that could be improved upon.  The students will have to choose a region in the world that will be researched.  Two students who have access to the internet and a printer will do research on two of the products the group comes up with.  One student will research the two products and bring in the findings, and the other student will research the region.  The region needs to be researched in terms of resources.  The in-class time for this step will be about twenty-five minutes.  Students are not given a lot of time in class, as most of the actual research will be done at home.  Students should commit about sixty minutes of research to the project.

4. Students will meet after the research is complete to choose one of the two products which will then be used for the group’s project.  Students will then brainstorm ideas for a revised product.  an>Students will be given about twenty minutes in class to revise different ideas for the product based on the research given.

5. The third step of the design process is to design a solution.  Students will be required to design a product using the resources available in that region.  The students will need at least twenty-five minutes to work on this portion of the project in class.

6. The fourth step of the design process is to test ideas.  Though this may not be possible due to limited resources, students will present either a drawing or a model of the new and improved product and a written description of how the product works and how it solves a problem with the current product.  The actual creation of the prototype and/or drawing will completed at home, and students are expected to spend at least sixty minutes on this portion of the project.

7. Student groups will then put together a complete presentation that one student will present to the class.  Students will be given thirty minutes to put together their group presentation.

8. The fifth step of the design process is to evaluate.  The students in the class will evaluate the product based on functionality and total presentation:

  • Does the group present a solid design based on the needs of the people?
  • Is the new product realistic in its design?

Students will spend one 45-minute class period listening to presentations, and presenting their own product ideas.

9. Due to lack of resources, students will not be required to build their ideas, though it is the final step of the design process.  If a student has the resources available to them, then they may do so, but no extra credit will be offered. 


Students will be graded on their own evaluations of other student’s projects.  The students will also receive a grade based on the teacher’s evaluation of the presentation, the group’s research, and the written component that the group will put together.  When a teacher grades using an evaluation method, differentiating instruction is done according to how well the student performed compared to what is expected from each student.  Students will also be working on skills within their group that fit their individual skill set.

Enrichment Extension Activities

The lesson plan is crosscurricular with engineering and design.  To further extend this lesson, students may take the opportunity to research the process of presenting a product or prototype to a community figure with the idea of the student’s product being produced.

Teacher Reflection

The students really enjoyed coming up with their own design ideas.  Many students were very ambitious in terms of their designs, and were encouraged to choose more basic tools and/or products. It was evident after assessing the students that many of the students took the lead and therefor did most of the work and learned the most.  Several of the students finished the project, yet did not have as clear of an understanding of the objectives. Students need to work on research skills and on public speaking.  Many students also need to work on "working together." Students really enjoyed having the archaeologist come in.  It was successful because they were well prepped before he came in, and came up with appropriate questions to ask him. Next time, I will put fewer students into each group.

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