Category: Excavate!
Personalizing Learning with the Excavate! Series of Games

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

Teacher uses Excavate! social studies games with special education students

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

Teacher uses Excavate! social studies games in special education classroom

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 Byzantium (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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Teacher’s Game Review of the Excavate! History Series

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.

Social Studies teacher review for Excavate!

Social studies teacher review of Excavate!

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.

Teacher review of Excavate!

Teacher review Excavate

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!!

Teacher review game Excavate

Teacher game review Excavate

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

If this account hasn’t convinced you to try out our games, maybe last week’s blog post which highlights students’ feedback and reviews will. Please don’t hesitate to reach out (elisab@dig-itgames.com) for more information!

Learn more about our Excavate! series
Check 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.


Game Reviews are Pouring In For Excavate

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!

“I think you should use it in the future because it was fun for me, so I think that it would be fun for other students too. Also you get to learn a lot, and you are having fun while you’re learning so overall it makes the class really 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 is a fun game, you learn about Greece, and you get to participate in the digging of the artifacts.”

“…it was very entertaining. It didn't bore me, in fact I played it multiple times, it was exciting digging up old artifacts and finally, I wasn't just using one tool you had to use multiple tools.”

“...the activities were fun to play and pretend like we were there...the digging activity was fun and interesting to pretend like we actually were digging up the artifacts...they have you act like your digging up artifacts and writing down facts like some people have as a real job.”

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.

“You should continue to use this game in the future because it is educational, but you need to make sure that the kids read everything in the analysis questions and the journal. Another reason you should continue is because it teaches kids how to examine artifacts, and lastly what things went on in Greece.

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:

“Yes because the future classes will love it. It’s fun to play. It’s cool!

Try Excavate! Greece for Yourself!

Get the Game

Uncovering Ancient Rome: Did You Know?

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:

An artifact featured in Excavate! RomeGladiator 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.

An artifact used in Ancient RomeBaths 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.

An example of a jug used in Ancient RomeSecond 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!

An example of a birdcage from RomeFor 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?

A promotional image for Excavate! Rome

 

 

 


Experience Mesopotamia, Don’t Just Teach It!

Students often ask when they will use what they are learning in school or how a topic actually relates to their own lives.  This can be particularly challenging while teaching about the daily life of Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago.

An image of a chariot, technology invented in Mesopotamia

We usually start with the contributions of the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians.  They were amazing civilizations since they developed agriculture, invented the wheel, created city-states, organized militaries and laid down the law in the form of Hammurabi’s code.  We can even refer to top 10 lists of inventions that show that these civilizations were great and that they built the foundations of our modern life.  While it is obvious that we owe a debt of gratitude to their inventiveness, we still need to approach teaching these civilizations in a way that engages the modern student.

One approach is to focus on lesser-known aspects of these civilizations like the History Channel’s list of “9 Things You May Not Know About the Ancient Sumerians.”  You can impress students by highlighting that women were rulers, their cities were the size of modern cities and that they loved beer. However, in the end it may still feel like another list of irrelevant facts.

Another approach is to change how the information is taught.  Crash Course has created a great library of quick and informative YouTube videos. These can be used as a great preview at the start of a unit.  Their Mesopotamia video astutely proclaims that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world monocular.”  You may grab student’s attention with pithy animation videos, but you may want to utilize interactive digital experiences too.

A stone image of Hammurabi, a king in MesopotamiaAlthough the selection of online interactives about Mesopotamia is not very robust, there is a variety in the types of experiences to be had.   There are basic interactives that essentially bring to life maps from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s textbooks.   There are also interactives that put students in the decision maker’s position like Philip Martin’s interactive Hammurabi’s code. In this interactive, students have to choose the appropriate punishment based on the codes.    The British Museum has an extensive interactive Mesopotamia site in which students can explore the geography, religion and technology of Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer.  Finally, students can also try their hand at playing the ancient game of Ur.

As you can see, there are many resources to engage your students online. However, all of these are missing a core component which is key to engaging students deeply.  Our understanding of history is always evolving based on new archaeological findings and the development of new scientific tools.  Why not engage your students in the process of discovering and debating what actually happened?

An image from Dig-iT Games' Excavate! Mesopotamia

History is discovery.  Here at Dig-iT! Games, we are committed to the discovery of history through archaeology.  We have just released Excavate! Mesopotamiaan interactive video game which provides a different way to look at Mesopotamian civilizations. The game challenges students to excavate artifacts, analyze them and then synthesize what they have learned. Students must closely examine artifacts and discover the purpose and significance of each one. This leads to a deeper understanding of the daily life in ancient Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer.

History is contested.  For example, new technologies have afforded insight into the possible role that shepherds played in trade in Mesopotamia. Previously, historians believed that nomadic shepherds were instrumental in facilitating international trade. They would travel widely in search of greener pastures for their sheep and goats.  But, new technologies have afforded new findings that are sparking controversy.  It’s possible shepherds actually stayed closer to cities to supply milk and fur and were out of the trade networks.  This article from Science Magazine highlights the debate. This is a great way to share with students the process of discovering history and the necessity of being critical of sources and processes used to reach conclusions.  Encourage critical thinking skills over the belief that history is a closed case!

We hope you find these resources helpful in engaging your students in the study, exploration and intellectual discussion concerning Mesopotamia.


World History | Teaching Ancient Egypt in 2018

Teaching about ancient Egypt has never been easier – a quick Google search for Ancient Egypt lesson plans yields millions of results. A teacher can also look at TeachersPayTeachers and find over 3,200 resources to buy and use. It’s easy to understand why – ancient Egypt is a fascinating topic that is taught in every World History curriculum. What person (both student and adult) doesn’t like to learn about mummification and pulling brains through the nose? Therefore, while ANOTHER list of Egypt resources might not be necessary, let’s talk about how to use the amazing technology we have to bring this ancient civilization to life.

One of the leaders in educational VR lesson plans is Nearpod. They have their own VR headsets included with a purchase of class sets of their produce. The virtual field trips they offer include the Washington Monument, Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. In the Egyptian lesson, students explore the Tomb of Ramesses VI and learn about hieroglyphics.

Another great option is the British Museum as they hold the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt. The museum has done a great job of putting their entire collection online where you can search the artifacts, and they recently made their entire Egyptian Exhibit a 360 experience! Students are able to walk through the exhibit and explore the artifacts. Check out vr.britishmuseum.org for more information.

Describing Egypt is a wonderful website that is being developed to tell the story of Egypt’s long and interesting past. Right now, they have seven different tours focusing on the tombs of the 30 Dynasties era – making it possible to walk through the tombs and temples of some of the most important sites in ancient Egypt.

Discovering EgyptInteractive Lessons on Ancient Egypt is a website by Mark Millmore who is an artist with an intense interest in Egyptology. He has developed incredible 3D renderings of the temples of Egypt. They are also available as an iPad app. He even has an Egyptian hieroglyphic typewriter that students will love to play around with.

If you are looking for an interactive experience where your student becomes the archaeologist, look no further than our Excavate! Egypt. Students have the option to travel to four important locations along the Nile.

  • In Alexandria players will learn about the importance of education and trade in the Great Library.
  • In Karnak players explore the great Temple of Karnak and understand the power of the Pharaoh.
  • In Giza players gain an understanding of the people who built the Pyramids by exploring the worker’s village.
  • In Valley of the Kings players discover tools and items used in mummification and the tombs of the Pharaohs.

In each site, players use virtual archaeology tools to dig for artifacts. Once uncovered, players move to the analysis tent where they answer multiple choice questions that force them to look closely at the artifact. Finally, players are asked to gather their new information together in a field report to summarize what they’ve found.

In addition to the video game, we have created the Excavate! Card Game. Players must use their knowledge of the people, artifacts, and locations of Egypt to make connections. It’s a fun way to let students use their creativity and show what they really know. Check it out here!

We hope this list provided some fresh inspiration for your unit on Ancient Egypt. We’d love to hear about any other cool tools your use!

 

 


Excavate Series Expands Greece, Rome and Playing Cards

Today, Dig-iT! Games formally announces the expansion and updated improvements to the Excavate social studies games series with six civilizations on world history. Existing civilizations Egypt, Mesopotamia and MesoAmerica have been updated with additional content and C3-aligned gameplay for an enriched overall learning experience. New civilizations include Rome, Greece and Byzantine (coming soon). Available on multiple platforms for desktops, tablets and phones, these games are designed by former middle school teacher and DIG-IT! Games CEO, Suzi Wilczynski, to take kids on archaeological adventures through time and around the world, that are both entertaining and educational.

New Playing Cards

The series has also been expanded to include Excavate! playing cards for classroom and family fun. Each card deck includes People, Places and Artifacts cards that complement the video game or can be played separately. This is a perfect way to get the conversation going without screen time. An excellent gift option for your child, grandchild or a favorite teacher to introduce the ancient cultures. Game decks are available for the Rome and Egypt civilizations. Standard game play is for 3 to 5 players ages 9 and above.

Six World History Civilizations

“We are pleased to be adding three new world history civilizations to this popular series and updating the content to align to C3 standards to make a more effective teaching tool” says Wilczynski. “Excavate™ provides a high-quality resource for educators across their full World History Curriculum and the new card decks add an additional option for cultural game play, creating a complete multi-media game experience for the middle-school classroom.

Read the complete press release here


Excavate! Mesopotamia

Looking for resources to teach your Ancient Civilization course? We are happy to present the newest game of our Excavate Series; Excavate! Mesopotamia. This game will engage learners with a simulation of an archaeological dig. Kids and adults will have fun exploring the sites of Ancient Mesopotamia and examining artifacts left behind by the people who lived there.

Develop map skills and learn about locations:

Mesopotamia means “the land between rivers” and this interactive game takes players through five different sites in Mesopotamia: Ur, Nineveh, Persepolis, Babylon, and Nimrud. Students discover the important historical figures, technological advances, and the important buildings from each of the locations. All information is found in the student’s journal which can be accessed at any point in the game.

Explore archaeological tools and information about dig sites:

Players choose the correct tool such as a sieve, pick, brush, or trowel. Each tool is explained, but be careful! If you use the wrong tool you might break or lose the artifact! Click or drag the tool around the pit to uncover an artifact from the area. Fun facts about archaeology can be found while you are digging. Students can learn more about stratigraphy, tools, and soil while they are playing.

 

Use deductive reasoning:

Students analyze each artifact by answering a series of multiple choice questions about the material, location, and function. If they are successful in completing all of the artifacts, the next location will unlock. Students are able to access all of the information about the artifacts by returning to their journal and reading about them. Example of artifacts included in the game are: The Royal Game of Ur, Stele of Hammurabi, the Tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a statue of Penelope from Persepolis.

How to use in class:

This is the perfect game to introduce basic archaeology and artifact analysis. It’s great to play individually or as a class to discuss culturally relevant objects from these ancient lands. Students are able to explore and take ownership of their own learning because they can also play at home and bring back information for class.

Comparing civilizations:

Use this game along with Excavate! Mesoamerica and Egypt to let students compare and contrast each civilization and their artifacts. This could be a great lesson when discussing where people settled and the tools they used and why. Look out for more locations to come!

Let us hear your thoughts!

Find the game here. Have an idea for an ancient civilization that you can’t find enough resources about? We’d love to hear what you’d like to see in a game! Send us an email or contact us on Twitter or Facebook to let us know what you think! Check out the full press release here.

 


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