Past Lifeways Program

Students on the Past Lifeways Ecology Hike

Past Lifeways is an experiential, STEM-based program for 2nd-12th grade students that allows them to explore the environment and daily life of past peoples of the Illinois Valley through the lens of archaeology and related disciplines. Students participate in several fun, educational activities that teach them archaeology, ecology, biology, 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!

Program Options

Student perfecting her stone tool

Day Visits
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 10 students

Plan your trip!



One Day-One Night 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.

Plan your trip!



Multi-Day Programs
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, sessions, 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

Plan your trip!


Past Lifeways Activity Sessions

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.

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.

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.

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!

Museum Quest: Our museum holds pictures, artifacts and replicas documenting the lives of past peoples of the Illinois Valley. Students are given a fun and mildly challenging list of questions to help them tour the museum and gain a basic familiarity with archaeology and past peoples of the Lower Illinois Valley.

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 steal or a bow drill). We like to end this activity with a campfire and s’mores, who wouldn’t? (Weather permitting)

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.

Cemetery Survey (historic time period focus): A lot may be learned about people without digging. This activity introduces students to historic cemeteries and what we can learn from them. This activity uses skills in a variety of subject areas such as math, English, art, and history.

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

Archaeological Site 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.

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.

Timeline: The passage of time is sometimes difficult to grasp when one is too young to have sufficient experience with it. This activity requires the students to build a timeline of their lives and world events. They will learn more about each other as they also see themselves in relation to the world, learn about B.C. E. (B.C.) numeration, and the concept of data selection for historical reporting.

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

Join us! If you’re interested in learning more about the Past Lifeways Program, or if you would like to book a field trip, please contact our office: (618) 653-4316 or


Plan Your Group’s Visit

If you are interested in attending our program, contact the CAA Director of Education, or 618-653-4316. All visiting groups must complete a contract with the CAA before your trip.