Utah Archaeology

3rd & 4th Grades


Created by &emdash; Anne Crowther & Julia Greene


Jay Monson, course instructor, USU

Completed as part of the requirements for El Ed 4050, Fall Semester, 1999.


Significance of Utah Archaeology

Studying the past cultures of those who made areas of Utah their home, exploring the artifacts these cultures left behind, helps students develop a sense of where they fit along the span of human existence. Students are able to gain a deeper understanding of who they are through exploring the cultures or civilizations that where here before. As students learn about archaeology and archaeologists, they come to realize the richness of Utah heritage and the importance of preserving archaeological sites for future learning and enjoyment.


Goals and Unit Objectives

A) The first objective is to introduce fundamental concepts of archaeology to the students. The goal is to have students understand the importance of the past, its culture and chronology, and to make inferences from observation.

B) A special focus on Archaeology in Utah is the next objective. Students will use timelines to see the chronology of ancient Utah People beginning with the Paleo-Indian era to the more recent Navajo people. A detailed look at the Anasazi will be highlighted.

C) Students will understand some of the processes of archaeology &endash; finding, excavating, analyzing, and interpreting data from archaeological sites. We also hope the students will enjoy making their own "fossils".

D) Most importantly, our fourth objective is to teach the value of archaeology. Background information will be given to help the students examine their own beliefs about saving and respecting the past.


Essential Questions

1) What do we want students to know?

a) Students will understand observation and inference and know the difference.

b) Students will understand the purpose of Archaeology, understanding human cultures.

c) Students will gain a respect for artifacts, traditions, and cultures.

2) What life skills does this lead to?

a) Students will gain a better understanding of time, realizing that current history is only a tiny portion of the bigger picture of time and human history.

b) Students will become more respectful, ethical human beings.

3) What contributions have ancient cultures made?

a) Students will appreciate traditions enriched by ancient Utah cultures.

b) Students will know different art forms used and created by ancient Utah cultures.

c) Students will appreciate a connection with the past.



Lesson Plan

Students had a great time with this!

Fossils -- Evidence of Past Life

Adapted from Fossils lesson plans (p.6) by Dr. Donald R. Daugs





3 - 4


Students will explore different types of fossils and learn that fossils are evidences of past life.


Activity 1:

1) Children's Books about Fossils (see References and Resources at the end of this lesson plan.)

Activities 2 & 3:

1) Various leaves (with prominent veins)

2) Paper (enough for each student)

3) Pencils and Crayons

4) Plaster of Paris & water

5) Homemade Play-dough

6) Shell Macaroni

7) Cornstarch

8) Styrofoam Trays -- 4 - 5 inch square (one pound hamburger packaging)

9) Popsicle Sticks (one per student)

10) 4 - 5 Large Spoons



1) Gather enough leaves for the entire class before class.

2) Make play-dough ahead of time. Students will need their own portions of play-dough to make their fossils with.


Play-dough Recipe

3 cups flour 3 cups water

1 & 1/2 cups salt


3) Mix Plaster of Paris (into a mixture that can be spooned or poured into the imprints -- about 2 parts powder to 1 part water).

** Plaster of Paris sets extremely quickly!! Wait until the students are waiting in line - ready - before mixing!! **


Concept Exploration:

Activity One:

1) Discuss ways we learn about past life on our planet. Lead students into naming fossils as an evidence of life.

2) What are fossils? Invite students to browse through books on fossils such as: What is a Fossil? by Meish Goldish, Eyewitness Books: Fossil by Dorling Kindersley, and If You are a Hunter of Fossils by Byrd Baylor.


Concept Development:

Activity Two:

1) Students will make their own fossils (leaf-rubbings, along with imprint and cast fossils using macaroni).

2) Pass out paper and box-lids with leaves to each group. Have students make rubbings of the leaves. Place the leaf under the paper, then hold the pencil/crayon flat and rub over the leaf.

3) Pass out Styrofoam trays, play-dough, and macaroni. Have students flatten the play-dough onto the Styrofoam trays and divide the play-dough into 3 - 4 portions with the Popsicle sticks. Have students press the macaroni into one of the portions of play-dough. This is like an imprint fossil.

4) In another portion of the play-dough, have students press in some macaroni. Dust this imprint with cornstarch, then spoon the Plaster of Paris into the molds. Allow the mixture to set up. Then remove the hardened layer. This is like a cast fossil.


Concept Application:

1) Students will use their remaining portions of clay create their own fossils.

2) Have students review the kinds of fossils they have made and how different fossils might be made.


Possible Extension:

Students could create "new" fossils in the extra sections of play-dough that might be the result or residue of twentieth-century life forms.



As students are getting their cast fossils filled with Plaster of Paris, have them explain the different fossils they have made and see if they can use proper terminology.



Be sure to have at least one other adult present to help with this activity (parent volunteer, aide, university student, . . .). This lesson could be more effectively accomplished if spread over two days.

Day 1 - Lesson through making imprints in the clay. Introduce all terms (fossil, imprint fossil, cast fossil).

Day 2 - Fill one or more of the imprint fossils (depending on student choices) with Plaster of Paris. Finish the rest of the lesson. 


References and Resources:

Baylor, Byrd. (1980). If You are a Hunter of Fossils. Illustrated by Peter Parnall. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. (ISBN 0-684-16419-1).

Daugs, Donald R. Fossils. No copyright.

Goldish, Meish. (1989). What is a Fossil? Illustrated by Ivan Dieruf. Milwaukee: Raintree Publishers. (ISBN 0-8172-3535-3).


Reference Materials

Utah Archaeology

Books - both Reference and Children's Literature

Aston, M. & Taylor T. (1998). The Atlas of Archaeology. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc.

Baylor, Byrd. (1976). And It Is Still That Way: Legends Told by Arizona Indian Children. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. (ISBN 0-684-14676-2).

Daugs, Donald R. Fossils. No copyright.

Diehn, Gwen & Krautwurst, Terry. (1994). Science Crafts for Kids: 50 Fantastic Things to Invent & Create. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. (ISBN 0-8069-0283-3).

Ferguson, W. (1996). The Anasazi of Mesa Verde and the Four Corners. Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

Smith, S.J., Moe, J.M., Letts, K.A., & Paterson, D.M. (1997). Intrigue of the Past: Investigating Archaeology: A Teacher's Activity Guide for Fourth through Seventh Grades. Utah: Utah Interagency Task Force on Cultural Resources.

Teacher Created Materials, Inc: Sterling, Mary Ellen. (1994). Thematic Unit Archaeology. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials, Inc. (ISBN 1-55734-296-2).



Utah State University Anthropological Museum
Old Main
Utah State University
Logan, Ut 84322-0730

(435) 750-1000

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