|Archeology project digs into farm history
Sheep’s wool, pieces of harness and antique clothing aren’t typically found in a classroom, but they become valuable teaching tools in Barbara Linsley’s 5th-grade middle school class each spring.
A strong believer in hands-on learning, Ms. Linsley fills her classroom with some 60 farm artifacts and antiques from her personal collection for an archeological project to study life on a mid-1800s Upstate New York farm.
“It provides an understanding of how people lived at that time and of the importance of the scientific process-the need to document and share information correctly,” said Ms. Linsley, a history buff who lives on an old farmstead in North Brookfield.
The three-day project is a puzzle that students must solve by applying what they have learned in four core school subjects: history, science, math and English Language Arts (ELA). In the process, they gain new knowledge and experience in those areas.
To begin, Ms. Linsley forms the class into several teams containing four to five students each. Every team receives a piece of graph paper containing the foundation outlines of a house and barn.
They also receive a bag containing as many as 20 artifacts that might have been found on a farm in the mid-1800s. Objects include wool or other animal products, farm tools, books, catalogs, journals, clothing, kitchen utensils and pieces of harness or wagon, among other items.
Each artifact comes marked with a set of geographic coordinates. The teams sketch, weigh and measure their artifacts using metric standards before plotting their location on the graph paper.
The teams then analyze each object, discussing its potential relevance to the farmstead based on its geographic location and possible use. From those discussions, they hypothesize how a family on that farm might have lived: the animals it owned; the crops it grew; the duties, skills and education of individual family members; and its overall economic status.
The teams then unite for a class symposium to compare their findings and determine whether further research is needed. Once that is done, students set up a museum-style display in the room and write their own three-day journals pretending they were living on that farm and using those artifacts.