Articles Tagged with: social studies
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.

 


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


Archaeology Awareness Month

“What did a Mayan kid my age wear every day?”

“How does math work without the number system I’m used to?”

“How different would my life have been if I was a settler in early America?”

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have a model of a real archaeological artifact?”

“Are there active archaeological dig sites in my state?”

April is the perfect time to ask all of these questions—and get answers! It’s Archaeology Month in Dig-It’s home state of Maryland, and we’re getting ready for a statewide celebration of our rich archeological heritage. There are plenty of opportunities for the public to take part in hands-on, educational, and—most importantly—fun events to learn more about archaeology as a whole, and what it means to our state.

From the first settlement in Maryland at St. Mary’s City to Civil War sites like Lafayette Square in Baltimore City, to the Chesapeake Bay region’s earliest Native American human settlements, our state has a rich tradition of history to celebrate.

Flint Arrowheads

Flint Arrowheads

 

So why is archeology so appealing? And what makes it such a powerful teaching tool? The Society for American Archeology (SAA) says on their website that “it captures our imagination, encourages our curiosity, and stimulates our sense of wonder. It is a great teaching tool that excites and motivates students, and it’s fun!” It’s tempting to think archeology belongs only in history class, but in reality it enriches all areas of study—language arts, social studies, science, even math! And it’s rewarding to more than just students. Maryland’s archaeology month has something for all ages, from academic lectures to family fun days.

Here are a few ideas for how to celebrate Archaeology Month in Maryland.

Discovering Archaeology Day at the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum invites families to spend the day on April 16 exploring on-site exhibits, learning from experts, and identify personal artifacts.
• Historic St. Mary’s City hosts a Maryland Archaeology Month Lecture, “A Brief History of Historical Archaeology in Maryland’s First Capital,” on April 21.
• Create your own event! Find and visit archaeological sites and programs all over the state through resources like The Council for Maryland Archeology and The Archaeological Society of Maryland.
• Visit Josiah Henson Park in Bethesda, Maryland featured by our friends at Archaeology in the Community and learn more about their local efforts.
• Venture out of Maryland and into the ancient world of the Romans and the Mayans with Dig-It’s archaeology games.
• Not from Maryland? Visit the Society for American Archaeology to find out when archaeology month happens in your state.

Dig-It is celebrating by traveling to this year’s annual SAA conference in Orlando, where we will be unveiling a new early-American archeology game. We can’t wait to spend time with the archeology community, advancing our knowledge and sharing our work. Until then, you can get a sneak peak in our video trailer below.

Happy Archaeology Month!


Ready, Set, Pin: Dig-It! Games is Pin-teresting

It’s the end of August and we know where teachers are. They’re in the classroom, cleaning and organizing, decorating bulletin boards and planning out seating charts; they’re in professional development for the district, talking about standards and assessments and training on the newest technologies; and they’re on Pinterest, pinning ideas for units and activities, rules posters and homework sheet templates.

Pinterest Announcement

Since July, according to Buzzfeed, there have been 72 million back-to-school Pins—from lunchboxes to school supplies to homework stations to ways of fighting fatigue. This week, Dig-It! Games launched our Pinterest page with boards for:

  • Ancient Maya Culture Unit
  • Middle School Math: Common Core Activities
  • Roman History Unit
  • Back to School: Middle School Teacher Tips

Part of our mission at Dig-It! Games is to promote cultural understanding through the study of ancient cultures. Our founder and CEO, Suzi Wilczynski, is a former social studies teacher and archaeologist. We specifically develop our games to meet the needs of middle school students, and we know that middle school is a time when students are discovering who they are and determining how they fit into the world. Students are looking to know where they come from to figure out where they’re going. By studying ancient Rome or the Maya culture, students develop analysis skills to lead them to a better understanding of the world around them.

Our hope is that our Pinterest page will serve as a resource for educators to quickly find exciting activities and tips to help teachers better plan the school year and implement game-based learning in the process.

  • Our two flagship games—Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town—were the inspiration for our ancient culture Boards on Pinterest. Within those, you’ll find teacher-created resources, printables, and engaging videos. Because Roman Town is set in Pompeii, there are volcano-building exercises and diorama activities for students to get hands-on with the content.
  • With a focus on math through our Loot Pursuit series (Tulum and Pompeii) as well as 3 Digits, we wanted to introduce some fun math resources that are Common Core-aligned for middle school teachers. In our Middle School Math board, you’ll find lots of free resources from Teachers Pay Teachers that can be used as games for review or center activities.
  • We also want teachers to feel ready to get back in the classroom. Our Back-to-School Board provides tips and resources to get the year started off on the right foot, with decorating ideas and first-day games to get to know students.

As we develop and produce new games, we’ll be updating the Pinterest page to reflect related resources. Follow us on Pinterest to stay informed! (Psst—we’re looking for vocabulary Pins…)


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