Hyla Students to Excavate “Ancient Civilization”

Seventh graders gain rigorous archeological skills and heighten cultural awareness
Press release – November 29, 2010

Bainbridge Island, WA – On Wednesday, December 1, and Thursday, December 2, seventh graders from Hyla Middle School will dig up a “lost” civilization. With shovels, sifters, toothbrushes and other archeological tools, they’ll sleuth for clothing, pottery, parchements, sacred relics and tools – artifacts created and buried in secret by the other half of the class.

The outdoor dig, or “dig days,” on Hyla’s campus is the highpoint of a rigorous archeology unit that plunges students from September through December into science, history and culture. Taught to every seventh grader by Hyla history teacher Jennifer Williams and art teacher Laura Jones, the course is designed to heighten awareness of both past and modern day cultures.

“We want students to discover how culture develops, what influences its development, how it’s expressed through art and artifact, and what scientific techniques are used, including carbon dating and analysis, to unearth the pieces and reconstruct the story,” said Williams.

Williams and Jones designed the course specifically to engage the seventh grade stage of cognitive learning and social development. Students interact and collaborate in experiential games, research, creating artifacts, and excavation.

“Seventh graders are extremely social, that’s where they are developmentally – we marshal that and use it as a learning advantage,” said Jones.

At the beginning of the course, the class was divided into two groups. Each was assigned a different “geomorphic template,” or part of the world. After researching that region’s environment, each student group created their own civilization from the ground up, inventing religion, language, government, commerce and family life. Neither side of the class has known what the other was creating. On “dig days,” each will unearth the other side’s artifacts.

“Finding the artifacts is really exciting,” said Hyla student Conor Sweeney, who participated in the dig as a seventh grader last year. “It feels just like being an archeologist.”

Following the dig, students will scientifically analyze the artifacts and reconstruct the lost civilization’s story. Then, the course will cluminate with a formal museum show of the artifacts for parents and students in Hyla’s library.

“Learning this way is so much more interesting,” testified eighth grader Natalie Adams, recalling her experience. “It made me like history.”

Hyla Middle School is an independent, co-educational school for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Located on Bainbridge Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, the school engages students in a strong academic program specifically designed for the learning stages and social development of middle school students. Its experiential learning environment, founded on close, caring connections between teachers and students, helps students grow as individuals with integrity.