Uncovering the Past

This module is designed to help the Cub Scout explore the wonders of archaeology.


General Information about this activity:

  • When?: 04/07 at 06:30pm

  • Instructor: Katie McCabe

  • E-Mail address: mccabk@rpi.edu

  • Pre-reqs submission: send directly to mccabk@rpi.edu

  • Zoom link for activity: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89238412594

  • Bio-sketch: Katie is currently a senior biology major at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is also currently a 1/C Midshipman in the NROTC program there. Katie will be holding the meeting with the aid of a few of her fellow Midshipmen: Jonathan Beck, Jillian Kasun, Christopher Kang, Matthew Farr, and Michael Mendez.


What is a pre-requisite? It is an activity you should complete before the meeting! Here is a list of pre-requisites you should do to complete this Award. If you do not have time to complete it before the day of the activity, do not despair! You can always send your work later to your instructor at the address listed above!

  1. Choose either A or B and complete ALL the requirements.

    1. Watch an episode or episodes (about one hour total) of a show about anything related to archaeology. Then do the following:

      1. Make a list of at least two questions or ideas from what you watched.

      2. Discuss two of the questions or ideas with your counselor.

    2. Read (about one hour total) about anything related to archaeology. Then do the following:

      1. Make a list of at least two questions or ideas from what you read.

      2. Discuss two of the questions or ideas with your counselor.

  2. Complete ONE adventure from the following list for your current rank or complete option A or option B. (If you choose an adventure, choose one you have not already earned.) Discuss with your counselor what kind of science, technology, engineering, and math was used in the adventure or option.

    • Wolf Scouts: Collections and Hobbies

    • Bear Scouts: Beat of the Drum

    • Webelos Scouts: Looking Back, Looking Forward; Project Family

    1. Some of the objects archaeologists find have been preserved in various ways. Experiment with preserving a hot dog with baking soda. Measure each dimension, then completely surround and cover the hot dog in baking soda. Let sit in a safe place for seven days, and measure again. Then cover the hot dog again, let it sit another seven days, and measure it a third time. Make note of any changes in size, shape, color, and other properties. Compare it to a hot dog that has not been preserved. Discuss your experiment with your counselor.


    Note: Do not eat the hot dog, and make sure to store your experiment in a safe place and dispose of it properly when you are done.

    Useful Links

    1. Use plaster of paris to create a “rock” mold at least half an inch thick. Once it is set, create a dark surface like a patina on the rock, possibly by using tempera paint. Use a carving tool, such as a screw or push pin, to create one or more petroglyphs on your rock.


    Search online for ”plaster of paris petroglyphs” for instructions.


Pre-req submissions

Finally, have your cub scouts SEND their pre work directly to Katie to her email address: mccabk@rpi.edu before April 5th to allow us to create a truly interactive and personalized learning experience. If you are late that is OK, please still fill it out up to our scheduled class. Feel free to contact the instructor if you have any question.

What will we do during the meeting?

  1. Explore. Do EACH of the following:

    1. We will look up the definition of the word archaeology and discover what an archaeologist does on a dig site, and what other activities are involved in their work.


      Archaeology is the study of the human past by recovering and analyzing materials that people left behind.

    2. Discover the differences between physical remains, artifacts, and ecofacts. Discuss with your counselor examples of each that archaeologists can find for a prehistoric people group.


      • An artifact is any object made by a human being. Usually, it refers to an object that has cultural or historical interest.

      • An ecofact, or biofact, is any organic material that has been recovered and has cultural or historical significance. This might be bones, animal horns, plants, and so on. If the item has been manipulated or modified by humans, it becomes an artifact.

      • Physical remains are things left behind that were part of an animal- for example, body parts or fossils of body parts.

  2. Look around your house. Make a list of 10 artifacts from your home that serve as clues to the way you live. Discuss what you discovered with your counselor. *We will take time during the meeting for a miniature scavenger hunt for the scouts to find potential artifacts in their houses.


    Artifacts could include anything found lying around the Scout’s house. A dog crate could indicate the family has kept domesticated animals. A hammer could indicate they know how to use tools. Ask the Scouts to pretend they have never seen a particular item before, and what might they think it is.

  3. Be an archaeologist! You will create your own layers of artifacts and ecofacts. Gather some small items that would show future archaeologists how you and your family lived. Use a plastic bottle or glass jar as the vessel and Play-Doh sand, dirt, etc., to form layers. Place the gathered items in different layers. Think about which layers would hold the older items compared to newer ones. Show it to your counselor, and discuss with your counselor why you chose these items and what they would show archaeologists about how you lived. Excavate your items when you’re done.


    Parents*: make sure you have a tall, clear cup or jar, some small items, and playdough or sand ready for the scouts to build their layers. Put down some cloths or newspaper to avoid any mess during the excavation portion.

4. Visit a place that has items that have been excavated, such as a museum, dig site, historical society, etc. Talk to someone who works there about the displays. If you can’t visit in person, use resources in your school or local library or on the internet (with your parent’s or guardian’s permission and guidance) to take a virtual visit. Discuss with your counselor what you saw, how the archaeologists helped uncover those items, and what questions you had.


We will do this virtually!

  1. Discuss with your counselor what you have learned about archaeology while working on this award.

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