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DIG Project

What is the DIG Project?

During the 1993-94 school year, two 5/6 CSILE classrooms at Hawthorne Elementary School in Oakland, California, organized their curriculum and a series of project-based activities around the interdisciplinary theme of "ancient civilization."

For the initial extended project, they drew from a simulation curriculum called DIG (developed by Interact), in which students invent their own ancient civilization, creating artifacts, symbols, and values.

The project began in September with the class discussing "what makes a culture." Teacher Gail Whang describes:

First we talked about culture, the different aspects that make up culture, which we call culture universals. So we looked at housing, language and food, transportation, values, government system. We looked at it within our own culture and then we invented our own culture.

Defining the Cultures

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Students documenting their culture and creating artifacts

Working in small groups, students in each classroom created their specific cultural universals based on the overall values and the geographic location that was decided on by the class as a whole.

One class selected the care of the environment as their culture's overriding value or "theme" and they located their culture in the rain forest. The students studied images of animal and plant life on a rain forest laser disc to ensure that whatever they were making was compatible with a rain forest environment.

Once these aspects of the culture were decided, students began generating their cultural universals. Using CSILE as a shared database, students wrote text and created graphics that described and depicted their cultural universals. They created links between entries that were conceptually connected (most often linking a text with a corresponding graphic image).

Many of the Spanish-speaking students entered their notes in their primary language, which they then linked to an English translation.

Throughout this process, students read and responded to one another's emerging plans and ideas using "helpful thoughtful" comments.

Sample CSILE Entries

CSILE entry on "number system":
This is the slaminan's number system. It is a basic 10 number system too. It has a pattern to it. The number of lines increase up to five then it goes upside down all the way to 10.

[Above text entry is linked to an illustration of the number system]

Comment posted on CSILE from the "ritual group":
We all like the number system, but we want to know how the number 0 looks like, and you can do more numbers not just ten like we have right now

Creating Artifacts

As each group created their piece of the culture (e.g., clothing, language, housing), they needed to determine whether it was consistent with the overall culture. This required a high level of coordination and communication between the individual working groups. CSILE facilitated this process by providing students with a means for sharing their developing ideas quickly and easily. Teacher Sonja Ebel comments:

One of the ways we used CSILE...student groups created graphic and text notes to explain what their cultural universal was. Then other students could access that and comment back right away, and say "Wait a minute, you can't make a boat out of a tree because our culture doesn't cut down trees!" So then they entered into a discussion about other materials. Students in this way could analyze and discuss what was being developed.
The teachers feel that CSILE provides support for both collaboration and thinking skills.

In addition to their CSILE entries, students created murals, three-dimensional scenes, and an array of artifacts (e.g., toys, pottery, jewelry) representing the various aspect of their culture.

One of the student groups was charged with the task of creating their culture's rituals--one for rite of passage, one for marriage, and one for death. Using scripts that they had written and wearing costumes based on the clothing group had designed, they documented the rituals on video tape. All of the artifacts, including the video, were buried in a plot outside of the classroom, left as clues for the other classroom to excavate and piece together.

Excavating the Artifacts

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Students performing the burial and retrieval of artifacts

Archaeologists (graduate students from a local university) assisted Hawthorne students with the preparation of topographical maps, and with the burying and retrieval of the artifacts. The excavation site was prepared to scale, with the students staking out the lot and dividing it up.

Once all of the artifacts were buried, the two participating classes excavated one another's sites. Each artifact was carefully removed, cleaned, and recorded, using the tools of an archaeologist's trade.

Once the site was completely excavated, students met in groups to discuss their findings and to begin generating theories about the newly discovered culture. They entered and responded to one another's theories through text notes on CSILE.

As a final activity, the two participating classrooms were brought together to discuss their theories and to present their respective cultures.

The Value of the DIG Project

In addition to the subject areas and the specific technology skills that are addressed within the project, teacher Gail Whang feels that the DIG project has provided students with important insight and understanding into the nature of culture and diversity:

It [CSILE] has given them the tools with which to look at the different cultures represented in our class, which is fabulous. It's like a kid picking up a National Geographic magazine and looking at a culture in the Amazon and seeing something that is so different?-they laugh and make fun of it. Now they look and they know there has got to be a reason...What is the reason they have this ceremony or that jewelry?...So it's given them the tools to look at cultures around the world and within the class, which is a goal for our class, to appreciate the diversity...technology really enhances this...This goal is interwoven in everything we do.

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