Past Lifeways

Past Lifeways is an experiential, STEM-based program for 3rd-12th grade students that allows them to explore the environment and daily life of past peoples of the Illinois Valley through the lenses of archaeology and related disciplines. Students participate in several fun, educational activities that teach them archaeology, ecology, biology, physics, and geology.

CAA educators and archaeologists work with teachers to choose activity sessions that complement teachers’ instructional goals and meet education standards. In addition to offering our standard activities, the CAA is always happy to develop new programs to meet your students’ specific educational needs. Past Lifeways is an educational experience your students won’t forget!

Past Lifeways students enjoying an Ecology Hike.

Program Options

Day Visit

Visit the CAA for a single day and participate in two to four activity sessions

  • Select the activity sessions that fit your curriculum
  • Tailor session content to meet your student’s learning level and travel guidelines
  • Pack your lunches and join us for an educational day of STEM-concepts!

Group size: minimum of 8 students and 1 adult

Overnight Program

Join us for an overnight program! Overnight programs offer students a more immersive Past Lifeways experience.

  • Participate in activities unavailable to single day visits: Night Hikes, Fire Making, and Campfire & Storytelling.

Group size: minimum of 8 students and 1 adult

Multi-Day Program

This is the ultimate Past Lifeways experience. Spend several days in Kampsville experiencing ours programs, which can include field trips to local ecological and archaeological sites and more in-depth activity sessions.

  • Select length of activities and field trips
  • Design content to work with your student’s needs and your curriculum
  • Perfect for your school’s Challenge Week, Mini Course, or Interim Studies session
  • Shuttle service to and from area transportation hubs is available for additional cost

Group size: minimum of 8 students and 1 adult

Flintknapping is always a popular activity. Participants learn to make chipped-stone tools such as arrowheads and spearpoints.

Past Lifeways Activity Sessions

Choose the activities that best fit your group’s needs from our list of standard sessions or work with our staff to design curriculum for you.

Archaeological Scene Investigation (indoor): Through technology, subsistence, settlements, social structure, and environment, students learn about culture as they examine a box of information to determine what prehistoric culture is represented by the evidence. This activity involves critical thinking skills as well as group work.

Archaeological Survey and Mapping (weather permitting): Students learn how archaeologists use grids to map archaeological sites. Highlights mapping, math, and teamwork skills.

Animals in Archaeology: In a combination of games, hands-on activities and discussion, students learn about the important role animals played in the daily lives of prehistoric people as well as how archaeologists are able to interpret animal evidence to better understand the environment and culture of the people.

Basketry & Weaving: Students learn how native people gathered plant materials from their environment and used them to make cordage or weave and color baskets, belts, mats, and more. Students are led through the process in order to make their very own creation. Project selection is based on seasonal availability of plant materials.

Ceramics: Ceramics provides an introduction to prehistoric pottery production—how production changed through time, what tools people used, and ceramic form and function. Students make their own pinch or coil pots using local clay; if time allows, students gather their own clay from a local creek.

Context is Everything: In order to interpret an artifact, an archaeologist must know the context in which it was found. Students are given a box with artifacts that might be found in the same type of context. Students work in groups to determine the information the artifact groups offer.

Ecology Hike: Explore the unique geography and rich resources of the Lower Illinois River Valley with the eyes of a person searching for food, medicine, and other materials needed for daily life. Each hike, which can last from 1-3 hours, introduces students to the concept of “reading” the environment around you. Discussions of modern impacts on the environment, seasonal availability, and conservation are just a few topics covered on this interactive hike!

Fire-making: The ability to start a fire without matches, lighter fluid, or other modern methods may prove to be a real challenge, but students sure love giving it their all as they compete against one another to see who can start their fire first (using either flint and steel or a bow drill). We like to end this activity with a campfire and s’mores, who wouldn’t? (Weather permitting)

Flintknapping: Introduces stone tool technology: How were stone tools made? From what materials? What types of tools are discovered at archaeological sites? Multi-Day students also explore such topics as use-wear and material collection. Students make their own stone tool.

Orienteering: Introduces students to the methods used to navigate a landscape including sun, stars, landforms, compasses, and maps. Students will take part in games and tasks that will aid them in reading and using a compass and topographic map.

Storytelling: The use of stories is an ancient method of sharing information across time and space. Students will learn about the essential elements of a story as they compose their own tales to share histories, morals, or life lessons based in their own cultural paradigm.

Village Construction: Shelter is a basic human necessity. When studying shelter we learn about communities, values, societal organization and technologies utilized. As an indoor activity, students work in groups to build a model wigwam using math skills and team work. As an outdoor activity (Kampsville campus only) students work with plant materials to aid in the construction of either a wigwam or wattle and daub structure. 

Village Daily Life: Presented through games and hands-on activities, the many facets of ancient village life are explored in this session. Activities may include structure-building using replicated ancient tools, gathering seasonally available resources, planting and harvesting, ground stone tool manufacture, cattail mat weaving, and more! Multi-Day students complete larger projects, and have more in-depth discussion of the role that family and community played in daily life.

Program-specific Curriculum: We will work with you to develop activities for your group to meet your specific educational needs.

Ancient peoples lived in variety of different structures around the world.. These students are building a wattle-and-daub house.

Plan Your Group’s Visit

Contact us by email or phone (618-653-4316) to schedule your group’s visit today.

All visiting groups must complete a contract with the CAA before their trip.