Kentucky Project Archaeology

By Karen Stevens
Kentucky Heritage Council

What is Archaeology?

What pictures come to mind when you hear the words archaeologist or archaeological site?

Project Archaeology notebook and worksheet. (Photo by Karen Stevens, 2019)

These questions were just a warm-up for my inquiry-filled days at the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy (PALA) in Bozeman, Montana earlier this summer.

What is Project Archaeology?

Project Archaeology is a national heritage education program. Its mission is to use scientific and historical inquiry to foster understanding of past and present cultures; improve social studies and science education and literacy; and enhance citizenship education to help preserve our archaeological legacy. It provides a diverse and robust set of curricular materials that can be used in science and social studies classrooms, museum settings, and beyond!

This professional development leadership academy prepares educators to teach Project Archaeology’s inquiry-based curricula to their communities. As part of PALA, I got to spend those few days learning and experiencing the curriculum of Project Archaeology with teachers, museum educators, and archaeologists from around the United States- from Colorado to Arizona to Georgia and more.

One of the things that made PALA both fun and educational was our immersion in Project Archaeology activities. We built shelters from paper and straws to withstand the weight of a stack of books. We investigated shelters using REAL archaeological evidence. We even practiced being effective citizens in local government concerns. I was so immersed as a student that I completely forgot to take pictures!

Luckily, I was able to snap a few during our field trips, which included their own inquiry-based activities. This included a visit Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, an archaeological site and Montana State Park. This site includes a high limestone cliff that was used by Native Americans to stampede herds of bison off the cliff for food, clothing, shelter and provisions, for 2,000 years.

Madison Buffalo Jump (Photo by Karen Stevens, 2019)

While there, we learned about the site and got to explore the landscape. We even saw a double rainbow!

Double rainbow over Madison Buffalo Jump. (Photo by Karen Stevens, 2019)

We also got to visit the Museum of the Rockies to practice inquiry-based activities like Artifact Analysis and Reading a Building. During our Reading a Building activity, we explored the Historic Farmhouse found in one of Project Archaeology’s Investigating Shelter curriculum guides.

Archaeologists DON’T dig dinosaurs… but we still enjoy visiting them at museums (bottom, Photo by Karen Stevens, 2019).
A Historic Farmhouse (top left, Photo by Karen Stevens, 2019). Project Archaeology Investigating a Historic Farmhouse Cover (top right, Project Archaeology).

So, what does Project Archaeology have to do with Kentucky?

Curricular materials developed through Project Archaeology include inquiry-based activities and lessons that bring archaeology to life through a hands-on approach. Materials for these curriculum are shared with educators through 1 to 2 day workshops that are held throughout the state, and are ideal for Grades 3 through 12. At least one investigation has been developed specifically for Kentucky (Project Archaeology: Investigating a Shotgun House), and we look forward to adding more in the future!

Project Archaeology curriculum guides cover a wide array of topics and many can be used for U.S. and World History lesson planning. These guides provide ready-made curriculum for educators and, in addition to teaching history, integrate the Kentucky Academic Standard’s Inquiry Practices of Questioning, Investigating, Using Evidence, and Communicating Conclusions.

If you, or an educator you know, is interested in learning more about Project Archaeology, workshops, & curriculum alignments with Kentucky’s NEW Academic Standards, please contact Karen Stevens (

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