Expanding our usability, Dig-iT! Games is thrilled to announce Excavate! Egypt is now available in Dutch! We’re beyond excited to be able to spread our love of archaeology, Ancient Egypt and gaming with more players and students. Read More
As the new school year begins, think about adding something new to the curriculum. Game-based learning can be intimidating if you’ve never used it before, but it can also be extremely effective. Our biggest game-based learning product, the Excavate! games, offer detailed of archaeological explorations into several different ancient cultures.
If you’re interested in our Excavate! series, but you aren’t sure how to go about incorporating them into your classroom, we understand! Read on for a summary of how the games work, how to teach them, and why you should use them.
Six Excavate! Games, Six Civilizations
Excavate! comes in six civilizations, all covered within world history curriculum, meaning that the series can be used throughout the year. Each game focuses in on 3-4 important spots for students to engage in virtual archaeology. Each of these locations reveals something new about the culture and practices of that civilization.
After choosing a location to start, students use a variety of archaeologist’s tools to uncover the artifacts from beneath the ground. They must be careful not to break artifacts by using the wrong tool; otherwise, they will need to start the dig again. When a stratum (or layer) is completely excavated, students examine their discovered artifacts. Through a series of questions, they determine what each artifact must have been used for and what the artifacts say about that society. With this done, students submit a fill-in-the-blanks report, summarizing their findings.
The process repeats for each stratum, uncovering artifacts deeper in the ground. When a location is finished, the students make a final report on the location as a whole and what they learned. From there, they move on to the next location.
Not only do these games allow students to have fun pretending to be archaeologists, they also reinforce learning through multiple methods. This ensures students understand the key points from each location. By the end of the game, students have gained a basic understanding of a culture as a whole.
Complete Lesson Plans
Each Excavate! game comes with complementary guides and lesson plans to use in conjunction with the game. Game-based learning offers the greatest benefit when paired with a knowledgeable and capable teacher and more traditional lessons.
The basic Excavate! guide walks you through how the game works while the game specific guide provides answers and explanations for the questions asked in the game. This makes sure that teachers are prepared to answer any question that students may have while they play through the game. Along with the guide, we also offer two accompanying resources.
The Inquiry Analysis and Artifact Based questions offer supplementary learning to the digital games. The products work with or without the digital game. Incorporate them, before, duing or after playing the game based on recommendations in the Teacher Guide and what works for you. With these lesson plans, you won’t have to come up with your own. At most, you’ll simply be adjusting what already exists.
Links to all of these can be found on each game’s download page.
For Rome and Egypt, the Excavate! Card Game is also available to help test student knowledge retention. Students find connections between people, places, and artifacts of the ancient civilization, using what they learned during playing the Excavate! digital game.
Not Just for Social Studies
While the obvious place for the Excavate! games would be in a social studies classroom, that’s not the only place that they’ve been used in schools. Teachers from gifted and special ed classrooms have also used our games and given us positive feedback.
Susan Honsinger (a teacher from Florida) used Excavate! in her gifted classroom to pair with their explorations of ancient cultures. The students engaged with the lessons and dived deep into exploring the artifacts.
“I see that the Excavate! games are embedded in student memory, and the facts and images they found there are being referred to in subsequent classes.”
Samantha McClusky (a special education teacher from Arkansas) used the Excavate! games with her class as well. She found that the interactive learning experience helped her students get engaged in the class and work together as a group.
“Learning through the game based format really connects learners of the 21st century to education, and helps them discover things that they may not have been interested in…”
Even if your curriculum doesn’t directly relate to learning about ancient cultures, Excavate! helps teach critical thinking and analysis skills that are useful in any class.
Back to School Special
If you’re considering using Excavate! in your classroom, there’s no better time to grab yourself a copy. Use the discount code BACKTOSCHOOL18 on our online store to receive 30% off any and all Excavate! products. If you’re looking to buy in bulk for a whole set of classes or a whole school, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help set up bundle pricing that works for you.
The Excavate! games also are available to purchase on Apple, Android, and Amazon products in addition to working on the computer. Check out the official page for all options, and contact us for any information you need.
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While the Aztecs, Incas and Mayan did not celebrate Cinco de Mayo, it’s still a great day to learn about MesoAmerican history! Our Excavate! MesoAmerica social studies game updated recently to include a Spanish translation. This new version features the same great gameplay as the English-language version. However, the translation opens this archaeology adventure up to more students across the country and world. With the option to switch back and forth between languages, the game also works well in teaching reading comprehension for both English and Spanish.
The game runs on the web, Android devices, and iOS devices and can be bought for $3.99. However, for the month of May, get the game for free to celebrate this new translation!
Why a Spanish Translation?
By supporting a Spanish translation of the MesoAmerica edition, we hope that more classrooms can experience our biggest game based learning series. With a Spanish translation, the game fits into Spanish immersion schools, language classes, and more! Since we aim for our educational tools to be available to as many different students as possible, we hope the translation opens the doors for more students to experience Excavate! MesoAmerica.
In Excavate! MesoAmerica, students analyze three significant locations tied to the Aztec, Inca, and Maya cultures. As journals record their progress, students progress through three sites tied to Inca, Aztec, and Maya culture. At each location, students make meaning of how artifacts were used through a series of analysis questions and reports. By completing these tasks, students make connections and deduce facts about the people who lived, worked and played there. In this way, you consider the historical context of the primary source artifacts and make connections. During the game, players learn about the significance of jade and obsidian for the Maya, distinguish the role of gods in Incan society, and gain perspective on Aztec engineering.
Why the Excavate! Games?
The Excavate! games are designed by former middle school teacher and DIG-IT! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series takes students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through tim. Using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures. Also, each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.
“The Excavate! games are just great! My students take turns to excavate with the tools, read the instructions and questions aloud, answer questions, discuss ideas, and complete the journaling,” said Samantha McClusky, an educator from Searsy, AR. “They are learning so much, and ask for me to teach them more!”
These educational games fit into grades 3-8 and correlate to Common Core State Standards (and equivalents) for ELA and The National Council for Social Studies C3 Framework. For easier analysis, the game includes the new educational game and app learning analytics standard GBLxAPI, which is improving learning data reporting in educational games and applications. Also, the Excavate! Games recently received high marks from the KOKOA evaluation method.
Now, take the chance to grab Excavate! MesoAmerica for your classroom while it’s free this month!
While learning about MesoAmerica today, check out the real history of Cinco de Mayo (often misinterpreted!): http://time.com/4313691/cinco-de-mayo-history/
You Might Also Be Interested In These Spanish-Language Resources:
Spanish Playground: Spanish for kids! This website features all kinds of activities for every aspect of learning the language.
Espanglish: For those in the DC area, meet up with other adults learning Spanish!
It makes sense that real world events have served as inspiration for many books, movies, and shows. After all, history is a story itself. Video games are no exception to using history as setting or plot, and they can be incredible ways to give detailed looks at ancient civilizations from Egypt to Mesoamerica. Check out this list of video games inspired by the history of the world!
Explore Ancient Egypt
Assassin’s Creed Origins is the latest entry in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series from developer Ubisoft. However, it differs from previous installments thanks to the recent edition of the Discovery Tour. This mode allows the player to simply explore its Ancient Egyptian setting as either a character from the game or as a historical figure like Julius Caeser or Cleopatra.
The mode includes 75 guided tours that were crafted by Egyptologists and covers everything from the Great Pyramids to the daily lives of the citizens of Alexandria. Your character can even participate in the activities of the locals to truly understand how the people lived.
Discovery Tour launched on February 20, as a free update for owners of Assassin’s Creed Origins. You can purchase it as a standalone title for $20 as well.
Discover Mesoamerican Ruins
While heavily fictionalized, Lost Ember is an upcoming game that will allow players to explore Mesoamerican ruins. The developer based the world on the history of the Inca and Maya civilizations. The player takes the form of a wolf who can inhabit other animals. This game emphasizes the diverse wildlife of Mesoamerica.
As players discover new ruins, they also learn more about this ancient civilization. While it will feature its own fictional civilization, the idea of archaeology giving insight into ancient life is very real. Comparing and contrasting the civilization of Machu Kila with the real Mayan and Incan civilizations could also be an interesting activity.
Lost Ember is yet to be released, but you can find out more about it on the Mooneye Studios website.
Understand Greek Myths
Greek mythology inspires many stories in books, movies, and games. Even Rome and Byzantium based their own myths on the Greek gods. Age of Mythology from Microsoft Studios is one such game which covers Greek myths as well as Egyptian and Norse myths.
Through its story, Age of Mythology lets players experience the fabled city of Atlantis, fight the Trojan War, and accompany Odysseus on his adventures. The gods and goddesses play an important role as well as different cities focus their worship on different gods, just as they did in ancient times. While the game is certainly not education-focused, it can get kids interested in the myths of Greece.
Age of Mythology is an older game, but it’s still available to buy through Steam. Find out more on its website.
Let Your Students Discover World History Through Educational Video Games
These entertainment-focused video games aren’t the best for classroom learning. For that, look no further than our Excavate! series of games. Our six civilizations cover a wide variety of world history curriculum. Put your students in the shoes of archaeologists and let them enjoy C3-aligned gameplay.
In Excavate! Egypt, students analyze artifacts from Giza, Alexandria, Karnak, and the Valley of Kings to understand the lives of ancient Egyptians. Excavate! Mesoamerica features sites from the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations and explores each unique culture. Meanwhile, Excavate! Greece compares and contrasts Athens and Sparta while also letting students learn religion at Delphi and sports at Olympia. Our other civilizations include Rome, Mesopotamia, and the Byzantine Empire.
Explore World History with Educational Video GamesDiscover Excavate!
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In the late 400s AD, the Roman Empire came to an end after a long time of fracture and fragmentation. What survived after the fall became known as the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire. While certainly not as famous as Rome, the Byzantine Empire wielded formidable power up to the Middle Ages in Europe. Today, it remains an important part of world history curriculum. However, what are some teaching tools that can be used to get students excited about learning Byzantine history?
Check out this list of resources to discover new ways to spice up lesson plans!
Artifacts & Museums
While actually taking students to a museum can be difficult, many museums put their collections online where they are easily viewed. Using these artifacts, teachers can encourage their students to do research about ancient civilizations and learn about the culture by drawing conclusions about their stuff.
The Met provides essays about the history as well as the art of the Byzantine Empire. Along with its provided writing, the website hosts online features from Helen Evans on the art of the time. Students explore the artifacts and receive additional information on the development of art from an expert.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Greece provides an English site complete with pictures of their collection. The museum’s collection numbers more than 46,000 artifacts which date from the 2nd to the 20th century. Students can take close up looks at the detail in some of the pieces as well as read the history and use of each one.
Lesson Plans and Teacher Materials
Mr. Donn is a great source for all units of world history, the Byzantine Empire being no exception. His website offers free powerpoints, maps, and templates which can be helpful for putting together lessons on the subject.
If you want to focus on one aspect of Byzantine history in particular, we recommend Justianian and Theodora. These two are the most famous leaders of the empire. As part of one of our series of Women’s History Month blogs, we collected resources for teaching about powerful female leaders of history. Theodora featured on this list. For lessons about her, head over to that blog to get the resources you need.
Multimedia Teaching Tools
To really bring something engaging to lessons, consider making use of videos or games to draw in student interest. By mixing traditional lecture with these media sources, all kinds of learners are served and can connect with the material. Otherwise, they miss out or stay uninterested.
Extra History makes awesome series on all sorts of topics, but they have entire playlist of Justinian and Theodora, the two most famous rulers of the empire (as previously mentioned). In addition to their policies and reforms, the videos cover their origins and more personal aspects of their stories.
Of course, our own Excavate! Byzantine just came out recently, and it serves as a great tool for teaching about the daily lives of Byzantine citizens. Students dig up artifacts and analyze them in order to draw conclusions about Byzantine culture. This includes religion, economy, home life, and governmental structure. Apply C3 skills in this middle school social studies game that brings the ancient civilization of the Byzantine Empire to life through archaeology. For your convenience, Excavate! Byzantine works for Apple, Android, and HTML5.
Additionally, all the Excavate! games come with supporting teacher materials for using the games in class. For a complete lesson, make sure to check out the Teacher Guide, Artifact-Based Questions, and Inquiry Analysis Questions.
Hopefully, these resources will help in putting together new lessons on the Byzantine Empire for middle school students. If you have any questions about our products, know that you can always contact us.
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A Byzantine Empire Game for the Social Studies Classroom
Our latest expansion to our long-running Excavate! social studies and archaeology game series arrives today! Play Excavate! Byzantine on the web, Android devices, or iOS devices for $3.99. If you want more than one civilization, contact us to request bundle pricing.
Byzantine brings out total number of games up to six. Previously, the Excavate! series included Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, MesoAmerica, and Greece. Like its predecessors, Excavate! Byzantine includes C3-aligned gameplay and companion teacher resources. For specifics, you can find out more on the main page for the game.
Analyze Artifacts and Discover the Byzantine Empire
Dig-It! Games CEO Suzi Wilczynski, a former middle school teacher, designs the Excavate! games. Through engaging gameplay and challenging analysis, the series aims to take students on entertaining and educational archaeological adventures through time and around the world. By using archaeologists’ tools, players uncover real artifacts from ancient cultures.
First, the game gets players immediately in the dirt, evaluating the proper tool to use while learning about the scientific process of excavation. Through this, players learn concepts such as stratigraphy, context and the importance of proper recording. Next, analysis takes center stage as players learn about the significance of the artifacts they collect and gain a deeper understanding of ancient people through what they left behind. Each civilization includes 3D artifacts and detailed illustrations of ancient life to immerse the user in each unique culture.
“We are pleased to be adding this new world history civilizations to the popular series after recently updating our previous content to align to C3 standards to make a more effective teaching tool” says Wilczynski. “Through its expansive content and flexible applications, Excavate!™ provides a high-quality resource for educators across their full World History Curriculum.”
Explore and Experience Byzantine Life
Excavate! Byzantine takes students to the Hagia Sophia, the Imperial Palace, an oikos (or house), and a market to discover how the people of this civilization lived. While they analyze artifacts, students learn about the role of religion, family, military, and trade in the empire. In this way, students not only learn about life in the Byzantine Empire but also stretch their critical thinking skills.
Teachers, we also provide several helpful resources for creating lesson plans around Excavate! Byzantine. Look through the Teachers Guide, focus on Inquiry Analysis, and quiz your students with these Artifact Based Questions. Because we want to make the use of these games as easy as possible, we have similar resources for each of the games in the Excavate! series.
If you want more information, read the full press release here.
Play Excavate! Byzantine Today!get it now
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We are back this week with another blog post from a great educator, Samantha McClusky. She is a Special Education teacher in Searcy, Arkansas. Below, she describes how she uses video games to promote personalized learning in her classroom.
The Magic of Interactive Lesson Plans
I teach in a self contained special education classroom, for students with behavior and social issues. Students are grades 7-12, with varying levels of academic achievement. I always look for new ways to teach my students, that meet their diverse needs. I love finding interactive materials to use through the use of my Smart projector and computer.
Dig-It! Games has had many interactive learning games that we have used with great success. Just a couple of years ago I utilized the Mayan Mysteries game in my classroom. I use the game from one computer and project it using the Smart Projector. Students gather around the board and get up and take turns during the game, answering questions, discussing scenarios, and reading instructions. They take turns to complete sections of the game and work together as a group to solve puzzles and answer questions.
As I teach students with varying levels of academic achievement, participating in these interactive learning experiences really helps them achieve with a whole group effort and the individual input helps them have pride in the groups successes!
Using Video Games in Special Education
The Excavate! games are just great! My students take it in turns to excavate with the tools, read the instructions and questions aloud, answer questions, discuss ideas, and complete the journaling. They are learning so much, and ASK for me to teach them MORE! We continue the learning by connecting the Excavate! game to unit lessons based on the same country, time period, and culture. As a class we have explored Ancient Rome for example, continuing our discovery through reading of texts, watching documentary based film, looking at math and science connections, and discovering the world through geography and history.
The Dig-It! games are like a springboard that students stand on and then leap from to WANTING to discover MORE. Learning through the game based format really connects learners of the 21st century to education, and helps them discover things that they may not have been interested in by just reading a text, or writing a research paper! It brings the learning to their level and excites them to take the learning even further.
Want to Learn More About Our Educational Video Games?
If you want to find out how to use our educational video games in your classroom, feel free to reach out! We believe that the engagement and excitement that video games bring to education can open the eyes of even the most reluctant learner. Find our library of games here. Our Excavate! series consists of Rome, Egypt, MesoAmerica, Greece, Mesopotamia, and Byzantine (coming soon). Also check out our other blogs about interactive lesson plans for ancient civilizations. Email our Education Team if you have any questions!
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As word about our Excavate! Series spreads, we have been honored to be in contact with amazing teachers who put it to the test. Below is the story of how we met our friend, Susan Honsinger, a gifted, computer, and math teacher at Saint Mary, a K-8 Catholic school in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She also talks about how she uses the series with her students. Here’s her review of the social studies series.
Using Games in the Classroom
I first discovered Dig-It! Games in a workshop about game-based learning at FETC in 2015. I was impressed at the demonstration of the Mayan game activities and thought, “This would rock in a social studies classroom setting!” However, I was teaching other subjects at the time and didn’t get a chance to try it out.
Last spring, when brainstorming our 3rd – 5th grade gifted course outline for this year, I remembered Dig-It! Our gifted class this year meets once a week for 90 minutes, and the students have been exploring various ancient civilizations. They’ve done research online and in books, and created posters about the elements that make up every civilization, and how those elements are found in their chosen civilization.
Dig-It! Games’ Excavate! series – Mesopotamia, Rome, Egypt, Greece, and Maya (at that time, now MesoAmerica) – were a perfect way to get a little deeper into the cultures through exploring the artifacts that are dug up in the course of the game and they actually meshed with the chosen civilizations for our crew. We spent some time near the beginning of our project playing through the games – with a little guidance, even the 3rd graders were able to easily navigate through the game. They loved collecting artifacts and finding out more using the journal feature.
After we played the games, I left them available as a free time choice, and students tried out other civilizations! I really saw the connections happening when our class started creating displays and “artifacts” from their culture to present later this year. They were working with much more detailed, authentic visions of the items from their culture and making their own reproductions more detailed.
I really saw the connections happening…
Susan Honsinger, Teacher
I’ve heard students talking about artifacts they found and how those are used as they’re working on their projects. One interesting note – we had a new student join the group, and the co-teacher suggested she play one of the Dig-It! Games to explore one of the cultures she was observing in the classroom. She loved it, and a passing student said, “That looks even cooler than the Maya game!” (He had played an older version.) So the new games are noticeably visually richer just to someone walking past!!
I’m a fan of using games to reinforce learning, even if it’s bingo with order of operations on paper (which I did today with my 6th grade). However, when something is really rich in information and visually engaging as well, that’s a double-win. I see that the Excavate! games are embedded in student memory, and the facts and images they found there are being referred to in subsequent classes. Playing these games solidified their learning in a major way, and I’m so pleased!! I’d recommend any of them for a social studies unit, particularly from 4th through 8th grades.
Read More Excavate! Game Reviews
Learn more about our Excavate! seriesCheck it out
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More on Dig-iT! Games: We continue delivering game based learning products to social studies educators and students that make world cultures come to life in a fun and educational way. Expand your world history lesson plans with games from the leader in ancient civilization education products. Your students will thank you for it.
Students deliver their game reviews on Excavate! Greece and confirm that game based learning belongs in the classroom.
One of the great things about working at Dig-iT! Games is that we hear from some of the toughest customers: students! As teachers incorporate our Excavate! games into their classes, we have been hearing some insightful and encouraging feedback from their charges. Recently, we received some game reviews from a group of energetic sixth graders in Maryland, after they played Excavate! Greece. When their teachers asked if they should incorporate the game into their classes in the future, the students were highly enthusiastic.
Games in the Classroom are Fun!
“Fun” is definitely a core component of the game and also very important to this student!
In addition, many other students echoed that Excavate! Greece was not only fun but also somehow different from other learning games…
…You can interact, it’s not boring as other learning games, and it teaches you by doing something fun.
…it is fun learning and not boring. It is not just one part, so you’re not bored. You can learn a lot in a short period.
…I think students would be more eager to learn if they think that they get to do something fun.
Based on these game reviews, it looks like there may have been an underlying expectation that educational video games were boring to play. We are glad to see that Excavate! Greece breaks that mold, but let’s dig a little deeper to find out what is making this game so fun for students…
It looks like the digging mechanic in Excavate! is a hit!
Learning through Games
Some learning video games are really fun, but educators must evaluate if they meet standards and facilitate valuable learning experiences. Our Excavate! games are packed with rich curriculum-aligned content. Student performance outcomes are aligned to the C3 Framework of Social Studies State Standards. However, the real question to ask is whether students recognize they are learning while playing…
…it teaches us about ancient artifacts, it teaches us about how the cultures lived, and it teaches us what they had in their time.
…you learn about ancient artifacts and how [people] used to live.
…it is a really fun way of learning about ancient objects.
But take heed, students will have to do some work in the game to get the biggest benefit. Take advice from this experienced player.
Teachers are always reminding students to read directions and informational text, but it is heartening to see that this student recognized that it was crucial for success in playing Excavate! Greece.
We hope you will take a moment to play Excavate! Greece now and in the future after reading these Excavate! reviews. But don’t take our word! We think the following student summed it up succinctly when asked whether the game should be incorporated into the class again:
Ancient Rome has fascinated and intrigued people for centuries. It’s easy to understand why: tyrannical leaders, wars, gladiators, and the rise of a vast empire. Hollywood has helped to fuel this fascination with interpretations of stories and people from this time period. However, many times movies and TV shows stretch the truth a bit to make things even more interesting. Here are a few great facts you can bet on to be true:
Gladiator Recovery Shake
Gladiators might have had a special “recovery” drink. According to this article from NPR, the bones of gladiators were found to have a higher level of calcium. While the cause isn’t totally known, Pliny the Elder was quoted as writing, “Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.” Many believe that the ashes of charred plants were mixed into a drink that helped to boost their calcium to build stronger bones.
Baths Are for More than Bathing
The baths were for more than just bathing. Public bath houses were a large part of ancient Roman daily life. Romans would progress through a ritual of dipping in pools of differing temperatures. In place of soap, they (or their slaves) would rub oil on their bodies and scrape the dirt away with a tool called a strigil. Other than a way to get clean, the baths offered an opportunity for people to network with each other and relax. This article from LiveScience discusses some of the items found in the drains of Roman Baths. Jewelry, plates and cups, animal bones, and even scalpels have been recovered showing evidence of more than just bathing.
Second Floor with a View
Who doesn’t love a penthouse view? In modern apartment buildings, the higher the floor you live, the more expensive it becomes. The top floor is supposed to have the best view and the largest space. Take this idea and flip it around when it comes to Roman apartments. These buildings, called Insulae, were built quickly and cheaply to house the ever-growing population of Rome. Though most contained only five levels, some reached up to nine. The fear of collapse and fire was real since it happened often. The top floors were usually the most cramped and did not have running water!
For the Birds
Wealthy Romans lived in individual houses called Domus. One interesting aspect of daily life of wealthy Romans was that they had pets! Dogs were very popular with Romans. The Greyhound and Maltese were two very popular breeds. Birds were also prized – many Romans domesticated nightingales, magpies, and ravens because they could be taught to speak. However, many exotic species were imported such as peacocks and parrots and kept is beautifully decorated cages.
These facts can all be discovered in Dig-iT! Games’ new Excavate! Rome game, along with many more that reveal the complexities of Roman society. Players take on the role of archaeologist and choose which location to dig in (the Colosseum, Baths, Domus, or Insula). At each site, they will uncover and analyze precious artifacts that tell the interesting and intriguing story of ancient Rome. In addition, we have our Excavate! Card Game for ancient Rome that allows students to put their knowledge of ancient Rome to the test. What facts do your students love to learn about the Romans?