No, Indiana Jones was not recently visiting classes at Polk County Middle School, but plenty of young archaeologists were busy unearthing artifacts from the 1700s.

Eighth graders in Eric Eaton’s North Carolina history classes were culminating their investigations of how we study history and how historians gain clues to our past through a hands-on history lab.

Students began in the classroom with learning the basics of archaeology such as stratigraphy and observing details in artifacts. Interestingly, students used chocolate chip cookies to learn how to grid, map and carefully excavate artifacts.

Students moved out of the class and to the field to unearth a simulated dig site in 1750s colonial Williamsburg, Va. and to study artifacts from an 1800s farmstead in Polk County. Once they began digging, shouts of, “Oh, cool! What is that?” could be heard as dirt was being moved and artifacts uncovered and studied.

“Students gain a deeper understanding when they get hands-on experiences,” Eaton said. “We often think history can only be studied by reading a textbook. I want to show students that learning history can be kinesthetic or active and beyond a book.”

Students will use the knowledge they gain from their dig to analyze artifacts and documents throughout the year as they go deeper into their study of North Carolina and the United States.