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Peabody Museum Your On-Campus Field-Trip Destination

Learning opportunities for Phillips Academy faculty and students September 2016 - June 2017

A MESSAGE FROM THE EDUCATORS You may be surprised by what the Peabody Museum can offer students and faculty at Phillips Academy. We have programs based on archaeology, anthropology, and Native American history to support what you are already teaching in your classrooms. Our programs, which make use of material from our collection of more than 600,000 archaeological artifacts, are designed to pique students’ interests by offering them an educational experience that cannot be found at any other secondary school in the United States. This document is meant to be a guide and starting point for faculty. We welcome the opportunity to tailor our programs to conveniently fit into your course curricula, as well as create new programs to supplement specific topics. If you have any questions, would like your class to visit the Peabody to take part in one of our programs, or would like to discuss the creation of a new program, please contact the museum’s educators: Lindsay Randall or ext. 4496 Ryan Wheeler or ext. 4493

CONTENTS 4 Art 5 Biology 7 Classics 8 English 9

History 100


Dig Deeper Into the Peabody


History 200


History 300

16 Mathematics 17 Music 18

Philosophy and Religious Studies

19 Physics 20


22 French 23

Introductory Programs

All I Have Weft

Warped Reality

Students explore fantastic and intricate masks from a cross section of American cultures to learn how they were made and used.

Students use bright and colorful Guatemalan village textiles to explore warp-controlled weaving and techniques of traditional dyeing.


Students work with the Peabody’s extensive collection of Guatemalan textiles to understand and appreciate traditional weaving techniques and the cultural implications of personal adornment.

Unmasking Art and Culture

Objects and Meaning in Portable Art

American Indian Pottery

Art has been an important part of human culture since the Aurignacian Period some 40,000 years ago. Utilizing both touch and non-touch objects from the museum’s collections, students learn about the uses and meanings assigned to portable art from various cultures both across the Americas and in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic period.

Intricate designs, a variety of decorative techniques, and fluid, naturalistic shapes are presented to students during an informal survey of the Peabody’s collection of ancient and contemporary American Indian pottery. Highlights include our distinctive Late Woodland vessels of the Southeast and our extensive collection of southwestern pottery, including pieces by acclaimed Pueblo potter Maria Martinez.

Origin and Tenacity of “Race” Race emerged in the 17th century as a powerful concept that linked physical appearance with social status. This lesson explores the intersection of race and science, with a specific focus on Stephen Jay Gould’s critique of Samuel Morton’s 19th-century correlation of human skull size with intelligence. Examples of modern scientific studies of race are discussed, enabling students to become familiar with the origins of the concept of race as well as the inherent dangers in scientific studies of race.

Going Viral

Students learn how and why corn was domesticated, and the implications (both good and bad) that corn agriculture had on human cultures in the Americas. In the activity “It’s Corny,” students examine corn specimens from the Peabody’s collection and rate them based on desirable qualities such as cob size and kernel size.

Diseases were present in the New World long before the arrival of Europeans. Some diseases traveled across the Bering Land Bridge during early migrations from Asia, while others flourished with the advent of farming and sedentary life. Nothing, however, compared to the devastating diseases from Europe that killed as many as 90 percent of all of the Americas’ indigenous inhabitants following the Contact Period. Using detective skills to read excerpts from the Codex Barbarini and examining select artifacts from the collection, students begin to understand the impact of diseases in the Americas and how it has been studied by historians and scientists.

Phillips Academy’s Great Auk The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a flightless bird of the alcid family that became extinct in the mid-19th century. The Peabody’s specimen, donated by Thomas Cochran in the 1930s, is one of only 79 skin mounts in existence today. Students become acquainted with the natural history of the great auk and the factors leading to its extinction. A sampling of other avian artifacts from the Peabody may be included in this course in order to highlight the long and varied relationship between humans and birds.


It’s aMAIZEing!

Human Osteology & Forensics of an 18th Century Execution


Is Abbot Academy’s 19th-century anatomical specimen really a Prussian mercenary executed for desertion during the Revolutionary War? Students find out as they employ contemporary techniques of forensic anthropology to evaluate the physical evidence and compare it to the historical details. Highlights of the cranial, axial, and appendicular skeleton are presented, and additional casts and examples of human bones are made available for students to view and handle.

Mother Nature Knows Best Students develop an understanding of the differences between traditional and Western medicine. The historical uses of plants in both Native American and European societies are explored, as is the way in which Native medicines have contributed to “modern” medicines. Students use the University of Michigan database ( to search for and learn about Native medicinal plants.

Hominid Cranial Morphology Hominid Cranial Morphology––Can you tell the difference between the skulls of an ape, Neanderthal, and Homo sapiens? This interactive lab gives students the opportunity to explore, handle, compare, and contrast 14 skull casts from apes and hominids spanning the famous, 3.2-million-year-old “Lucy” to modern humans. Students learn about cranial capacity, the evolution of the human body and brain, sexual dimorphism, and which features of each skull are unique to its particular species.

Roman Pottery: Curate Your Own Exhibit Students are challenged to research a collection of Roman pottery using online and library resources. During their research, students encounter Latin words and phrases that they incorporate into their final exhibit text. The result is an exhibit curated by students and based on their findings, including details of Roman culture and history.



Anthropology of Gender Many cultures recognize three or more genders—a stark contrast to modern binary Western views that closely link sex and gender. In this lesson, students explore the Native American concept of “two-spirit people,” or people who are seen as having both male and female spirits within them, through the life of 19th-century two-spirit Zuni We’wha, providing a context for assessing broader theories of gender cross-culturally.

Blubber: It’s What’s for Dinner! Similarly to the Bedouin and Mongol people, effective use of natural resources has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the hostile environments of the Arctic and Subarctic. Working in groups, students examine Inuit artifacts to determine what the objects are, how they were used, and from what material they were made.

European and Native American concepts of geography and land tenure are highly disparate, setting the stage for misunderstandings during the Contact Period in the 17th century. Students learn to read two very different maps—one European and one Native American––looking for similarities and differences that are manifest in material culture, and the consequences of these differences when these two very different cultures meet.

Pecos Pueblo The history of Pecos Pueblo spans more than 700 years and serves as an example of pre-Columbus life, initial contact with conquistadors, subjugation, missionization, and revolt. Through all of these tumultuous times, the people of Pecos have been able to retain their strong cultural heritage. Exhibit displays, the Pecos Pueblo diorama, and additional objects introduce students to this extraordinary story in vivid detail.


Maps and Dreams



The trebuchet, a catapult-like machine used to hurl massive projectiles, was one of the most commonly used siege weapons during the Middle Ages. Students are introduced to the history of the trebuchet and how it was employed, and they use the museum’s two replica trebuchets to launch projectiles at a target. Working in teams, students change variables on the trebuchet to optimize its range and accuracy.

Un-BELIZE-able Achievements The ancient Maya were a complex society who had advanced knowledge of mathematics, calendrics, astronomy, and engineering. Their understanding of the world rivaled that of contemporary civilizations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe.  In this lesson, students engage in a variety of activities to better understand the complexity of the Maya by learning how to write their name, calculate their birthday, solve math problems, and so much more! This class also has extension activities for double periods.

Going Viral Diseases were present in the New World long before the arrival of Europeans. Some diseases travelled across the Bering Land Bridge during early migrations from Asia, while others flourished with the advent of farming and sedentary life. However, nothing compared to the devastating European diseases that killed as many as 90% of all of the Americas’ indigenous inhabitants following Contact.

String Theory: When Worlds Collide Students learn how the exchange of plants, animals, and diseases impacted both the Old and New worlds. Through the use of numerous color-coded strings and labels, which are strung across the room, students also begin to visually understand how a majority of the exchanges occurred disproportionally and how they affect us today.

Modern fiction often omits the complex nature of combat in the Middle Ages and how difficult it was to wage. Students explore the evolution of different styles of medieval armor by handling reproduction chain mail, gauntlets, a helmet, a crossbow, mace, a halberd, and a broadsword. The lesson concludes with a “Siege Shootout” in which students use miniature replica crossbows to shoot foam projectiles at cardboard knights.


You’ve Got Mail!

TARPS When a culture leaves no written record, historians rely entirely on material culture that was left behind. In this interactive lesson, students examine a recreated archaeological dig from the Shattuck Farm site, located in Andover on the banks of the Merrimack River. Canvas tarps are sprinkled with genuine artifacts to represent excavation units. Students are given information about how to look at and interpret artifacts in context. Then, based on their observations, they are asked to deduce what activity was taking place in their unit. When they have finished presenting the evidence, the diorama that depicts the late prehistoric site is shown so that students are able to see a 3D representation of what the archaeological evidence was showing.

Cultures in Contact


In this historical simulation, students are introduced to some of the issues and conflicts that created and fostered tensions between English colonists and Native Americans in New England during the 17th century. Students explore differences in how Puritans and Native Americans viewed land ownership, religion, and gender roles, and they participate in a scenario that is an important part of the history of Andover and is depicted on the town seal.

“The little Spots allow’d them”: Landscapes and Slavery in New England In Colonial New England, enslaved men and women were able to utilize the architecture and landscapes that their owners had built in order to create a space for themselves that was free from constant surveillance. In this unit, students explore how landscapes can shape human behavior. A hands-on project using archaeological data from Isaac Royall’s Ten Hills Farm in Medford, Mass., illustrates the concept.

AlterNATIVE Uses Students use two adze-like tools, one made of stone and the other of metal, to learn how to read material culture as text. By thoroughly investigating the objects, they learn the complex story of the fur trade and the relationship between Native Americans and Europeans in New England.

Beyond Reason: The Impact and Influence of the Age of Enlightenment in an Andover Cemetery The Enlightenment influenced the political ideology and discourse leading up to the American Revolution and the formation of the United States of America. The Enlightenment, however, was not strictly a theoretical concept. Students visit a local cemetery and examine the changing motifs found on gravestones, discovering how the ideas of the Enlightenment were physically manifest in daily life. (Extended-period lesson)


The Trail Where They Cried

Westward Expansion

The forced removal of the Cherokee people from their ancestral land profoundly affected their society, and choices made by various individuals, both tribal and non-tribal, had a significant impact on the experiences of specific groups of the Cherokee tribe— an impact that the Cherokee people still feel today. Through the use of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” activity, students begin to understand the complex nature of this traumatic event.

Students learn about the aggressive 19thcentury federal policy of westward expansion and its devastating effect on Native people. Topics such as the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the reservation system, the Dawes Act, the Ghost Dance, and the Battle of Wounded Knee are covered and illustrated using artifacts from the Peabody’s collection.

Digging Deeper into The Peabody Massachusetts Archaeological Society Talks

Join us every 3rd Tuesday at 7:00 pm from September to May for FREE monthly presentations by leading History and Archaeology experts.

Work Duty

One of our premier programs where students work in all aspects of museology from cataloging collections to curating their own exhibits.

Independent Projects

Students are encouraged to use the collections and staff expertise in Abbot Independent Scholars research.

Behind the Scenes Tours View our hidden treasures with a guided behind-the-scenes tour.



Students apply their theoretical knowledge of sines, cosines, and tangents to a practical problem: can they use trigonometry and old maps to reconstruct the location of Samuel Phillips’s Mansion House? The Phillips Academy founder built the house in the 1780s, but it burned down in 1887. Each phase of the project adds complexity, beginning with only a tape and then expanding to include a simple surveying instrument. At the end of the project, the students, working in small groups, compare their maps and discuss how they surmounted challenges. (Requires at least three periods)


Radiocarbon Dating

Working with museum staff, students use statistics to investigate aspects of the Peabody’s collections in a hands-on manner, and then create a poster based on their work. Past topics include the use of ceramic sherds to test the validity of southwestern ceramic chronology. Faculty may select topics in conjunction with museum staff. (Multiday or long-term project)

Students join an experiment already in progress. Each station has a funnel with a block of ice suspended above a beaker. Students are challenged to plot volume against time to predict the zero point when the experiment was begun. The resultant plot is the foundation for a discussion of isotopic decay, the basis of carbon-14 dating.

Music and musical instruments have been around for at least 35,000 years. Students examine musical instruments from the Peabody’s collections, such as bone flutes and turtle shell rattles, and use bow drills to create their own bone flute from a turkey bone. In this way, students develop an appreciation of music cross-culturally and learn how difficult it is to make a seemingly simple musical instrument.


Bones to Beethoven: Music in the Archaeological Record


Beyond Reason: The Impact and Influence of the Age of Enlightenment in an Andover Cemetery The Enlightenment influenced the political ideology and discourse leading up to the American Revolution and the formation of the United States of America. The Enlightenment, however, was not strictly a theoretical concept. Students visit a local cemetery and examine the changing motifs found on gravestones, discovering how the ideas of the Enlightenment were physically manifest in daily life. (Extended-period lesson)

The Atlatl: An Ancient Hunting and Warfare Device The atlatl, a device for throwing long, slender darts, was one of the most important technological inventions of Ice Age people. Used across the globe, it was the primary weapon employed for hunting and warfare in the Americas until it was replaced by the bow and arrow. Because it acts as a handheld catapult, an atlatl greatly magnifies the force with which one can propel a dart for hunting. In this lesson, students use modern atlatls in a safe and controlled environment, practicing both long-distance throwing and accuracy.


Building Blocks and Equinox: Archaeoastronomy of the Ancient World Ancient civilizations around the world had sophisticated knowledge of the movements of celestial bodies and were able to expertly mark important calendar days by building structures to create alignments. Students use modeling clay to create structures that mark significant solar events, such as the Summer Solstice, and learn basic concepts of archaeoastronomy and problem-solving skills.


The trebuchet, a catapult-like machine used to hurl massive projectiles, was one of the most commonly used siege weapons during the Middle Ages. Students are introduced to the history of the trebuchet and how it was employed, and they use the museum’s two replica trebuchets to launch projectiles at a target. Working in teams, students change variables on the trebuchet to optimize its range and accuracy.


Mexican Day of the Dead: El Día de los Muertos Students delve into the popular and fun-filled Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The pre-Columbus roots of the holiday are explored, along with Spanish and Catholic influences. In October and November, a large altar featuring modern Mexican crafts will be on display and samples of traditional Mexican drinks and/or candies will be available. This unit is best utilized during an extended period, but it is possible to complete in 45 minutes.

The Ancient Maya Students encounter the Americas’ most advanced pre-Columbus civilization: the Ancient Maya. Students are introduced to the geographical and political nature of ancient Mesoamerica, including the Maya and their neighbors. Through Maya art, architecture, religion, warfare, and responses to cultural collapse and the Spanish conquest, students come to appreciate that the Americas were inhabited by advanced people that rivaled European art, science, and technology. Original and reproduction Maya artifacts are shared.

Astronomy of the Ancient Maya Class begins with two scenes from Mel Gibson’s 2006 film Apocalypto. Details from the film set the stage for an investigation of the complex world of Maya cosmology, where sacrifice, the movements of celestial bodies, calendars, art, and culture intersect. Maya artifacts and replica codices from the Peabody’s collection are presented, giving students an introductory understanding of the complex nature of Maya religion, time keeping, and astronomy.

Despite the attempts of the Spanish to conquer the people of Mesoamerica, we can see that “the culture of the conquered, conquered the conqueror” when we look at aspects of the Spanish language that are unique to this region. Indigenous languages continue to influence the Spanish spoken in Mexico and other Central American countries, resulting in local versions of Spanish that are rich in loan words. Students explore how and why Aztec and Maya languages continue to influence Spanish today in a manner in which few other indigenous languages have impacted a European dialect.

Upper Paleolithic Quiz Students learn about the Peabody’s collection of Upper Paleolithic artifacts from France, including collections acquired in the 1920s from Louis Didon. A quizgame format allows students to test their knowledge of French as they solve riddles involving real Paleolithic artifacts, some more than 200,000 years old. Prior to class, students may peruse electronic copies of vintage correspondence regarding the collection, as well as a brief biography of Didon in French.


Nahuatl You Say Next? The Influence of Indigenous Languages on Mexican Spanish


Tarps: A Mock Excavation Students are introduced to basic archaeological concepts, such as context, and develop their powers of observation and deduction. Then they make observations and interpret an archaeological site through a simulated excavation of a 500-year-old site located on the banks of the Merrimack River in Andover. Based on their observations, students deduce what activity was taking place at the site.

Pseudomorphs Students are handed objects and asked to identify which are natural formations, which are genuine artifacts, and how they arrived at their conclusions. This is a short activity that will not take a full class period. It is best used in conjunction with other units.

Much more goes into making an arrow or spearhead than one may think. How did ancient people create these artifacts? What materials did they use and how did they obtain them? What tools did they use and what techniques did they employ? All of these topics are covered in this fun and interactive unit. After instruction, students use antlers, hammerstones, and raw flint to test their own knapping skills.

NAGPRA and Early American Human Remains: A Debate The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 is civil rights legislation that requires museums to return human remains and culturally sensitive artifacts to Native American tribes. In this unit, students participate in a classroom debate, re-creating the current controversy surrounding the Spirit Cave Man. One team represents the Paiute-Shoshone tribe, making a case for repatriation of the 9,000-year-old mummified remains, while the other team argues the case presented by the Nevada State Museum and the Bureau of Land Management, contending that the remains should not be returned. Students should prepare for the debate in advance by reading articles and court documents.


Making Stone Tools: The Art of Flint Knapping

Peabody Museum Curriculum Catalog  

Learn more about the programs offered at the Robert S. Peabody Museum at Phillips Academy.

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