If Trash Could Talk

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Ancient trash tells archaeologists a lot about the past. In this activity, learners take a close look inside their trash can and think about the clues it offers about their lives. Learners separate the layers of the trash, make a checklist of the items found and where, and then answer questions to interpret their findings. In a suggested extension, learners examine the trash from another site and compare and contrast interpretations. Use this activity to introduce learners to the work of archaeologists.

Quick Guide

  • Preparation Time: Under 5 minutes
  • Learning Time: 45 to 60 minutes
  • Estimated materials cost: $1 - $5 per student
  • Age Range: Ages 6 - 14
  • Resource Types:
  • Language: English

Materials List (per student)

  • rubber gloves
  • newspaper or plastic
  • items from one trash can
  • paper and pencil
  • Trash Checklist


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth's History
      • Archeology
      • History of Life
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
    • Science as a Career

To use this activity learners need to

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Components that are part of this resource

This resource is part of


American Museum of Natural History

Source Collection

  • Ology


All Rights Reserved, American Museum of Natural History,



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