Articles Tagged with: Excavate!

Snow Days, Game Days *Update*

February can be the snowiest month and this year is no different. Schools are more cautious than ever about student safety and this results in a ton of delays and cancellations. As a teacher, this can be incredibly frustrating as end of year testing is looming. As parents, you are scrambling to find something for you kids to do all day. Hopefully this post will help.

Communication tools for teachers on snow days

Communication tools for teachers

It’s easier than ever (almost too easy) to be in communication with the school community. These are some tried and true student/family communication apps:

  • Remind – After signing up for text message alerts, teachers can easily send mass emails to their families. It also has a chat feature (and there’s no exchanging of phone numbers).
  • Email – Teachers, if you don’t have your parents set up as groups in your emails, please do so! It’ll make your life so much easier!
  • ClassDojo – easy way to see information about the student and communicate with the teacher.
Students go out and play on snow days

Playtime in the snow!

We all have seen the research that says kids don’t get to play enough. Some of the best memories are made on snow days when everyone is snowed in together. So tell your students to get out there and build forts, throw snowballs, make snow angels and maybe do some science experiments. Then come back in and warm up with some indoor activities.

Our educational games can help teachers keep students on track on snow days

Let them play video games!

Last year we wrote this blog post for teachers about using video games to keep students active in material. Having a resources page on either Google Classroom or your LMS, or your website is always a good idea. Keeping it relevant to the current lesson is also a good idea, but not always necessary. Video games pass the time quickly and can encourage curiosity and love of learning. Check out our Excavate! Series of games to allow your student to become an archaeologist and also our ExoTrex series for the older kids.

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Enjoy the snow!

Having students show what they did and learned on their snow day can be so much fun and very inspirational to other students. Using a platform like FlipGrid or Google Slides allows students to share their experiences in their own words. We all know the importance of  fostering an environment of curiosity and fun so that students continue their love of learning.

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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
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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!

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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.


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.

 


Can Spring Break be *gasp* educational?

It’s the bright spot at the end of a long, gray winter for millions of Americans – Spring Break. If you are looking for sunshine and clear, blue water then look no further than the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Tulum all are very popular locations for an amazing getaway. What most people don’t know is that this area is also incredibly rich in history and culture and offers a chance to explore an ancient civilization. Get a head start on that exploration by playing our games featuring ancient Maya!

While the area around Cancun is spotted with ancient sites, the biggest and most well known is Chichen Itza. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the massive Maya pyramid known as El Castillo. You can wander the well-preserved massive complex of temples and ball courts and even catch a light and sound show every night. There are many tour companies and options to visit Chichen Itza and typically you can add in another site (Tulum, Coba, Ek Balam) . Be prepared as these tours are typically all-day affairs, but well worth it! Some of them will include tour guides, but some will not.

There is also a little-known site right in the Hotel Zone of Cancun called “El Rey”. The entry fee is a whopping 50 pesos (about $2.50 USD) and you can climb and explore all of the ruins. You can also pay about $5 for a guide to show you around and explain the details. This is a great option if you don’t have the time or money to go to a bigger site.

If you decide that this is a the right opportunity for you and your family, consider preparing your kids to see these sites and be even more engaged. Currently, Dig-It Games has 3 games about the ancient Maya: Mayan Mysteries, Excavate!, and Loot Pursuit: Maya. All of these games will let children explore the sites and artifacts. This way, they will have some knowledge of Maya traditions and the location even before setting foot at the site.

Allow your child to be the expert and guide you through the sites. The amazing part of game-based learning is they won’t even realize how much information they are acquiring. They’ll be so excited to show you what they learned! Check out our game store for more.


My Student Blew Me Away!

Developing games to support our mission of bringing the benefits of game based learning to the classroom is often a challenge.  What should be the next game we create?  How do we balance education with fun? How do we help teachers get the professional development they need to use games in the classroom effectively?  The encouragement we get from our users, reviewers and testers give us constant reasons to face these challenges, but it is the personal success stories that remind us why we do what we do.

This article is about Lisa Lewis, an education consultant that only recently decided to explore game-based learning.  She chose our top selling game, Mayan Mysteries™, to use with one of her students.  Mayan Mysteries has been recognized by reviewers as a best-in-class educational product, including a run as the #1 featured product for ages 9-11 on the Apple App store.  Here, Lisa shares how the experience of using Mayan Mysteries was not only eye opening for her, but also such a rewarding way of learning for her student.  If you ever thought the value of game-based learning in the classroom was a myth; this story might make you realize it is time to explore.

From: Lisa Lewis – Education Consultant

To: Dig-It! Games

A student I tutor, who is currently a 5th grader reading on a 3rd grade reading level, and is riddled with all types of learning challenges, showed me a thing or two the other day.  I thought I would try something different with him and I introduced him to Mayan Mysteries on my laptop.  Thinking to myself, there is no way that this student will be able to read, let alone comprehend the detailed information, I was hesitant to give it a try.  But I also thought how would I know if I didn’t give it a try.  The main question in my head was “How is he going to be able to maneuver his way through unfamiliar territory?”  I certainly was not going to be any help, because this was so far from my own comfort zone.

As the student logged into Mayan Mysteries, I could tell he was intrigued by the graphics.  His face lit up, as it has never done with me before.  He is so accustomed to our structured lessons each week.  We practice old and new vocabulary words, we read a text together and talk about it, and then we write using a prompt and a graphic organizer.  I didn’t scaffold anything for the student about Mayan Mysteries.  I merely said, “see what you can do”.

As he entered the Mayan civilization, he clicked through a few things to get to the actual listening and game part.  He listened intently to the voice as it read the very complicated text to him.  He watched with bated breath and totally disregarded anything I said to him.  I was merely giving him encouraging thoughts as he continued to listen.  Once the reading section was completed, the student proceeded to click on things and move them around on the screen according to the directions he was given.  Once he had everything in the places he believed they should be, he clicked something and the words “You Were Successful” came up on the screen.

 

ArtifactID1

He continued on for another two parts of the game and was once again successful with both parts.  I stopped him for a moment to say congratulations.  I also asked him how he knew what to do.  He couldn’t really tell me how he knew what to do.  I was assuming it was merely instinctive for him to know what to do.  I told him I was proud of him for maneuvering his way through the three parts that he had gone through.  I told him I knew it wasn’t easy, but that he did a great job.

DigginPuzzleartifactfound

I asked him what he thought of the game.  He said it was different than most of the games he had played.  I also asked him if he learned anything.  He said yes, but had a difficult time elaborating about what he had learned.  This is pretty typical of this student.  He usually gives one or two word answers and has a very slow processing time, as well as a severe memory issue.  He cannot recall for me what he has done earlier in the day at school, unless it is related to his Chrome book or what he has done during recess.

I consider this to be a big Aha moment for me and for the student.  He realized that he could accomplish something new and different.   He also realized that video games could be both educational and fun.   I learned that after all these years working in large groups, small groups and individually with children, that kids can still blow me away with what they can do when it comes to technology.  Just another teachable moment for me!


Learn more about game-based learning from our FETC 2016 workshop slides


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