AIA Lesson Plans

The AIA wants to help K–12 educators bring the fascinating material culture and methodological approaches of archaeology into their classrooms as a springboard for teaching scientific methods, critical thinking and writing, and analytical skills across the curriculum.

AIA Lesson Plans

The AIA creates and provides teacher resources relevant to archaeology. These projects focus on ancient material culture and stress archaeological approaches and ways of thinking. Background information for the teacher will specify the nature of the evidence that survives. Some projects can be adapted for use with college students and adults. Our goal is to put students in the shoes of a variety of ancient people and enable them to compare ancient and modern lifestyles. We also aim to place them in the role of archaeologists, historians, and researchers who must observe closely and interpret critically. In carrying out projects, students will learn what evidence survives and understand how gaps in available information limit our understanding.

AIA Lessons and Projects... AIA Lesson PlansAIA Lesson Plans

  • are founded on material culture and written evidence from the ancient world.
  • require critical thinking and promote the experience of authentic processes and approaches.
  • encourage students to ask, "What is the evidence?" and "How do we know?"
  • permit interdisciplinary and cross-curricular connections.
  • provide teachers with templates to follow or adapt, including detailed instructions, pitfalls to watch for, bibliographies, student handouts, and grading rubrics, as relevant.

Current AIA Lesson Plans and Projects

Lesson Name Type/General Category Grade Levels Description
Archaic & Classical Style (pdf) Mini Lesson

Ancient Cultures

Grades 6-10 In this lesson, students learn how to identify representations of people executed in the Greek Archaic and Classical art styles. Students make their own identifiably Archaic or Classical image while learning how archaeologists and art historians identify artistic characteristics from particular cultures and periods throughout history.
Aztec Codex (pdf) Mini Lesson

Ancient Cultures

Grade 7 (can be modified for grades) Students learn about Aztec culture and daily life through a study of the codices this civilization produced. While creating their own replica of an Aztec codex, students will learn about the artistic style, glyphic writing system, and history of this Mesoamerican culture.
Trash Talks (pdf) Mini Lesson

Techniques & Interpretation

Grades 5-12 Students become archaeologists as they study materials left behind by modern humans. By sorting through and categorizing trash, students learn that archaeology is the study of ancient people through an examination of used and discarded objects, and that scholars must work together to understand the evidence they uncover.
What Will Survive? (pdf) Mini Lesson

Techniques & Interpretation

Grades 6-10 This lesson requires students to think about what kinds of objects will survive in the archaeological record. Students will evaluate their classrooms and homes and decide which items will survive many years into the future and which will be lost, opening their eyes to the fact that there are always holes in the material record, and that archaeologists must fill in these blanks with hypotheses about the past.
A Greco-Roman Feast: Dining and Reclining Regular Lesson

Ancient Cultures

Grades 7-12 A Greco-Roman feast can be a great deal of fun and a wonderful cross-curricular, interdisciplinary project. Students are meant to develop a better appreciation for the art of dining in the Classical world, with good food, quizzes, games, and performances to make the experience as authentic as possible.
Art of Illumination Regular Lesson

Ancient Cultures

Grades 5-12 This cross-curricular project combines English, World History, and Art History to introduce students to Medieval European culture, art, and religion. Students will create their own illuminated text based on roles and characters from Medieval times.
Cargoes from Three Continents: Ancient Mediterranean Trade in Modern Archaeology Regular Lessons

Ancient Cultures

Grades 6-12 The 21 teaching plans and related materials are designed to help educators understand Mediterranean trade between 1600 B.C. and A.D. 200. The lessons were derived from a 1997 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for Teachers organized by the AIA and originally published in 1999 as a book for teachers of ancient history and classical studies. Students can partake in a variety of activites, from model ship-building and ancient monetary calculations to making a mock museum exhibit of an archaeological shipwreck.
Dolls in Tunics and Teddies in Togas: A Roman Costume Project Regular Lesson

Ancient Cultures

Grades 5-12 In this lesson, students learn about Roman dress and its association with class, status, and gender as they sew and dress dolls or teddies in Roman garments. They can then write and perform a play using their newly dressed dolls as puppets to better understand the daily life of the Roman people.
Greek Vase Painting Regular Lesson

Ancient Cultures

Grades 8-12 (also effective with college students and adults) Students step into the world of Greek Black and Red Figure vase painting and create an image in each artistic style, burnishing clay and using black slip, brushes, and needles. An associated trip to a museum to see the real thing is ideal.
Layer Cake Archaeology Regular Lesson

Simulated Dig

Grades K-2 This lesson combines the joy of eating cake with the basic techniques and principles of archaeological excavation. The cake serves as a small archaeological site, with appropriate layers and edible "artifacts" for the students to uncover. Students learn about stratigraphy and the importance of teamwork as they work to excavate the layers.
Mystery Cemetery Regular Lesson

Simulated Dig

Grades 5-10 This lesson is perfect for Halloween! Instead of sitting, students move around a small 3-D cemetery of skeletons and burial goods as they analyze and debate the gender, age, and status of the individuals. Then they identify and correlate attributes to group the burials into logical categories. The analysis reinforces critical-thinking skills and illustrates the difference between observation and inference, and reveals the importance of context.
Rosetta Stone Regular Lesson

Ancient Culture

Grades 6-10 A lesson which teaches students about the development of scripts in Mesopotamia and Egypt and how cuneiform and hieroglyphs were finally deciphered through the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. In this hands-on project, students make their own Rosetta Stone as they learn about ancient cultures of the Near East.
Schoolyard Dig Regular Lesson

Simulated Dig

Grades 6-12 Students become archaeologists and uncover part of a single-layer (one-period) site. This "blind" dig is a full-scale simulated excavation (held outdoors) in which students learn about the importance of recording information, stratigraphy, horizonal excavation, and context.
Shoebox Dig Regular Lesson

Simulated Dig

Grades 3-6 Students uncover the stratified layers in a shoebox in this "blind" dig that mimics a real excavation. This is a manageable, compact, and fun (although sometimes messy!) dig in which students learn some basic excavation concepts, including horizontal excavation, stratigraphy, teamwork, and preserving context.
Transparent Shoebox Dig Regular Lesson

Simulated Dig

Grades K-2 The shoebox dig is created in a transparent plastic box with a lid. The teacher tells a story about two or more cultures, and the students help create the layers and deposit the artifacts representing the cultures, paying attention to stratigraphy and keeping layers separate from one another. Since the shoebox is transparent, students can see the layers being formed.

Submit a Project Proposal

Teachers wishing to submit lesson plans and project proposals should review the Lesson Plan Guidelines prior to submission. Queries in advance of submission may be submitted to education@aia.bu.edu.

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