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Lesson 5.7

Subjects: science, social studies, language arts.
Skills: application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation.
Strategies: brainstorming, decision making, planning, communication, discussion, research skills, writing, problem solving, values clarification, debate, role play.
Duration: approximately 2 to 4 weeks, working 2 to 4 hours each week.
Class Size: any; groups of 3 to 5, preferably 4.

Spear point from North Carolina, ca. 9000 BC.

In their study of archaeological resource conservation, students will use a problem-solving model to identify a problem and solve it creatively.


For each team, a copy of "Decision-Making Sample" and the "Review of the Problem" masters; a copy of the "Decision Making" activity sheet. For each student, a copy of "Rules for Brainstorming."


The growing concern about destruction of archaeological resources (sites and artifacts) lends itself to a creative problem-solving model. Problem solving is a skill students will need for future success. Students use their creative and critical thinking skills to find useful solutions to current and future problems. When possible, students should be supported to carry out their solutions. In recent years, students across the country have been influential and instrumental in finding and implementing solutions to problems by using problem-solving models. Teachers may wish to experiment with the following model. Listed under "Sources," below, are two books for those who want more detailed information on using a problem-solving model.

Problem solving is most frequently done in groups of four students. It can also be done as a whole class under the guidance of the teacher. The more this process is used, the more competent teachers and students become.


1. Creating Awareness: Make students aware that a problem exists. This can be facilitated by teaching students about archaeology and reading "A Review of the Problem."

2. Researching the Problem: Research is essential to problem solving. Students who have experienced many lessons from this teaching guide will have sufficient background for solving archaeological problems. These lessons together with reading the "Review of the Problem" may be adequate preparation for completing the process. Additional research may be done if the students think they do not have enough information.

3. Brainstorming Problems: Students will brainstorm a list of specific problems related to the overall problem of archaeological resource destruction. This will help to clarify the problem. Encourage students to list as many problems as possible (10 to 25). For example:

4. Identifying the Underlying Problem: The students now select the one problem from their list that they think is the most important. "It should be one which, if solved, might solve many of the other problems on the list as well. It may appear individually on the list or it may be a combination of a number of problems on the list" (Crabbe 1988, p. 40). The problem is most easily solved if it is stated as a question beginning with the phrase "How might we?" or "In what ways might we?" and contains one main verb. For example:

5. Brainstorming Solutions: "Once the underlying problem has been identified and written, the teams should begin their quest for solutions. This is the time for truly creative brainstorming. Students should stretch their minds as they look for actual ways to resolve the issue they have described" (Crabbe 1988, p. 44). Students should follow the "Rules for Brainstorming" in Appendix 3. Examples of solutions include:

6. Choosing and Evaluating the Best Solution: Students should review their list of solutions and write their 10 best solutions on the "Decision Making" activity sheet. From this list they should choose their best solution (see "Decision Making Sample" activity sheet). This is done by establishing a set of criteria by which to judge each solution. The criteria should be stated as questions, be problem specific, and establish lasting effects. Here are some examples:

7. Describing the Best Solution: In paragraph form the students describe how they will carry out their solution. They should answer the questions: Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

8. Carrying Out the Solution: When possible provide students with an opportunity to carry out their solution. Example: If their best solution is to create an educational display for a visitor center in a national park (or other location), allow time for the construction of the display and arrange for permission to show it.

Activity Sheets for Lesson 5.7

"Review of the Problem." For a PDF version of this sheet, click here.

"Decision Making Sample." For a PDF version of this sheet, here.

"Decision Making." For a PDF version of this sheet, click here.

"Rules for Brainstorming." For a PDF version of this sheet, click here.


Bouchard, T. J. 1977. "Whatever Happened to Brainstorming?" In Guide to Creative Action, edited by S. J. Parnes, R. B. Noiler, and A. M. Biondi. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. [The "Rules for Brainstorming" are adapted from this source.]

Crabbe, Anne B. 1988. The Coach's Guide to the Future Problem Solving Program. Laurinburg, N.C.: The Future Problem Solving Program.

Lewis, Barbara A. 1990. The Kid's Guide to Social Action. St. Paul: Free Spirit Publishing.

Smith, Shelley J., Jeanne M. Moe, Kelly A. Letts, and Danielle M. Paterson. 1993. Intrigue of the Past: A Teacher's Activity Guide for Fourth through Seventh Grades. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior. [This lesson is adapted from "Take Action--Save the Past" on pp. 131-135, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.]

Ward, H. Trawick, and R. P. Stephen Davis, Jr. 1999. Time Before History: The Archaeology of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. [The image in this lesson's main heading is taken from Figure 2.1.]

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