About Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture

Sunflowers at the Mississippian Garden at Parkin Archeological State Park. Photograph by Jodi A. Barnes 2016.

Sunflowers at the Mississippian Garden at Parkin Archeological State Park. Photograph by Jodi A. Barnes 2016.


The curriculum consists of five lessons to be taught over the course of one week. The lessons introduce archeological thinking with an examination of pre-agricultural American Indian societies who occupied the southeastern United States many thousands of years ago. They trace the origins of agriculture and its effects on diet and foodways, land use, and community organization through time. The fifth lesson addresses the dietary impacts of European exploration and colonization in Arkansas and the South, and a bonus sixth lesson gives students an opportunity to explore the Columbian Exchange that altered food-producing economies around the world. Each lesson is approximately one hour in length and aligns with ADE 5th grade “History Standards for Era 1: Beginnings to 1820” (ADE 2014:15). The lessons use the 5E’s Instructional Model (Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, Evaluation) and focus on a temporal comparison of plant use in the southeastern United States that draws specific examples from Arkansas.

The lessons in this curriculum model the processes of archeological inquiry pertaining to plant-based foodways. Students will look at archeological evidence, including site maps, artifacts, and seeds, and their relationship to each other (context) to reconstruct and interpret the past. Students use archeology to discover how diets changed when people shifted from hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods to growing their own food through gardening and agriculture. In a bonus lesson, students can explore the effects of European colonization in the Americas by mapping
the exchange of plants on a global scale. This curriculum provides hands-on activities and guided investigation of three archeological sites in Arkansas (Rock House Cave, Toltec Mounds, and Parkin) in which students learn scientific literacy while gaining new knowledge about Native American plant-based foodways in the southeastern United States.


Common Core State Standards and the Arkansas Social Studies Curriculum Framework

This curriculum provides many opportunities for students to practice English Language Learning per the Common Core State Standards with social studies and science content. It is aligned with Arkansas Department of Education Social Studies Curriculum Framework, and addresses each of the four primary strands (government and civics, economy, geography, and history) along with many of the associated rubrics. Archeology is inherently interdisciplinary, as archeological inquiry allows students to integrate knowledge across subjects: social studies, science, art, and literacy. The lessons engage students in discussion, collaborative work, and learning and using domain specific words in context. Students read non-fiction texts for content, perspective, and key ideas and employ the graphics provided to enhance their understanding. The lessons encourage students to evaluate sources of information, draw and build upon ideas, explore issues, examine data, and analyze events from the full range of human experience to develop critical thinking skills essential for being productive citizens.


Achieving Scientific Literacy: The 5Es

An important part of social studies education is the ability to actively engage students in ways that promote success in using new information to build knowledge and understanding. Archeological inquiry provides young students with an engaging way to learn social science practices and their underlying concepts. As a scientific endeavor, archeologists ask questions, plan and conduct investigations based on those questions, collect data both quantitatively and qualitatively, and construct interpretations and explanations based on evidence. This curriculum is organized around the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study 5E Instructional Model (1987) that promotes an inquiry based approach to learning, where students are actively engaged in acquiring knowledge in ways that promote student success. The 5E Instructional Model includes 5 phases: engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, and evaluation and follows the natural way we learn in everyday life.

The 5E model emphasizes teaching for deep understanding of big ideas or broad concepts rather than acquisition of isolated facts. This is referred to as enduring understanding (Wiggins and McTighe 1998:10). These enduring understandings, or lesson objectives, are supported by “essential questions [critical thinking questions] that facilitate student learning rather than memorizing facts.”

Each lesson in this curriculum is based on the 5E model. A lesson is framed around a lesson objective (the enduring understanding) and critical thinking questions (essential questions). A lesson begins by sparking initial curiosity and engagement. Engagement connects students’ past and present experiences, creates interest, generates curiosity, and uncovers students’ current knowledge and misconceptions. To begin, the teacher asks a question, shows something interesting, or poses a problem. The teacher accesses the learners’ prior knowledge and helps them become engaged in a new concept through the use of short activities that promote curiosity and elicit prior knowledge. The activity should make connections between past and present learning experiences, expose prior conceptions, and organize students’ thinking toward the learning outcomes of current activities. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside of the classroom.

Next is an exploration that provides students with a common base of activities within which current concepts, processes, and skills are identified and conceptual change is facilitated. Learners complete activities that help them use prior knowledge to generate new ideas, explore questions and possibilities, and design and conduct a preliminary investigation. It offers opportunities for creative thinking and skills development. In the lessons, students make observations, record observations and ideas, make connections, and ask questions. The lessons encourage students to work in groups and the teacher to act as a coach or facilitator.

The next phase of the model is explanation where students focus attention on a particular aspect of their engagement and exploration experiences and demonstrate their conceptual understanding, process skills, or behaviors. This phase also provides opportunities for teachers to directly introduce a concept, process, or skill. Learners explain their understanding of the concept. Students describe their observations and come up with explanations. They listen critically to others’ explanation, develop vocabulary, and learn to apply and interpret evidence. Teachers guide students’ reasoning, ask appropriate questions, and direct students to additional helpful resources.

For the elaboration phase, teachers challenge and extend students’ conceptual understanding and skills. The lessons provide new experiences for the students to develop deeper and broader understanding, more information, and adequate skills. Students apply their understanding of the concept by conducting additional activities. Students use information to propose solutions and extend their learning to new situations. The teacher helps students broaden their understanding and extend their ideas to other situations so that they can draw broader conclusions.

The final phase is evaluation. This phase encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities and provides opportunities for teachers to evaluate student progress toward achieving the educational objectives. Everyone involved evaluates. Students demonstrate understanding of a concept or skill (what has been learned) and evaluate their own progress. Teachers evaluate students’ and their own progress, and rely on alternate strategies of assessment.


Teaching materials are available to help you use this curriculum in your classroom.