Activity Plan for Leave What You Find
Exploring Natural Settings and Archaeological Areas
This activity should take about 60 minutes.
What Your Group Will Learn
After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to help
participants learn about the value of leaving natural features and cultural
artifacts undisturbed, participants will be able to
- Describe the characteristics of an archaeological or
historical (cultural) resource.
- Discuss what happens when cultural resources are removed
from a site.
- List at least three ways of enjoying cultural resources
without taking them home.
Your participants will imagine themselves as part of a futuristic science
mission returning to Earth to uncover the secrets of our planet's ancient
inhabitants. Participants will try to construct a picture of a vanished people
based upon the objects they find.
Gather old camping items such as a tent peg, old frying pan, piece of rope,
burnt wood, blackened rocks, a child's toy, an ax, and a bullet shell, or cut
pictures of these items from magazines or newspapers. Use your imagination to
add other items. Have one object for each person. If conducting this activity
inside, you may want to place the items on a bedsheet to protect floors.
- Read the entire lesson plan and the Background on the
Principles of Leave No Trace thoroughly.
- Scatter artifacts (camping items) in an area away from the
view of the group (preferably outside), and dump the trash in one place.
Grabbing Your Group's Attention (10 minutes)
Explain to participants that they are traveling in the year 2172 on
spaceships returning to Earth. They are on a science mission to find out how
earthlings lived hundreds of years ago. You may want to use a prop, such as a
model spaceship, to embellish the story. Two different science teams will visit
Earth. What will they find?
Steps for Teaching the Activity (30 minutes)
Beam Me Down
Break the group into two science teams. Explain that two teams will take
turns visiting the planet. One team will "beam down" to observe the
site while the other waits inside.
Have the first team view the objects and site without picking up the
artifacts. Tell team members to remember their initial impression of the site
and be able to describe what the people who lived here were doing.
After viewing the site, have each member of the first team pick up one or
more of the objects and hide it so it is not visible. This leaves only half the
objects to tell the archaeological story when the second team arrives.
Beam down the second science team, and have its members look at the site and
the remaining artifacts. Have each person from this team pick up an artifact.
Tell them to remember their initial impression of the site and be able to
describe what the people that lived here were doing.
Do the following:
- Have both teams sit down together. Ask members of the second
team to describe their impression of the site and past civilization. Ask
participants: What did you learn about this past culture based upon the
artifacts you found?
- Have the first team show the artifacts they removed from the
site. Ask members of the first team to describe their impressions of the
site and civilization. Ask participants: What did you learn about this
past culture based upon your evaluation of the site when all the artifacts
Return to the site and discuss what later explorers might think about this
site. Ask participants the following:
- What impression would you have now that all of the artifacts
- How has the value of the site changed since all artifacts
have been removed?
- How has this activity helped you understand the efforts of
Wrapping Up the Activity (30 minutes)
Your participants are great scientists! Your group knows the importance of
leaving items that they find in their natural setting. A group discussion will
help determine how well each person has learned the value of this lesson.
- Discuss the idea that the items discovered by the group
represent artifacts and evidence about our culture. Similarly, the artifacts
we sometimes find in the outdoors provide valuable information about people
who lived here long ago.
- Have participants relate the objects they found on their
science mission to something that might be found on public lands (from
Native Americans or pioneers). Have the group summarize why it is important
for people to leave what they find. Clarify the difference between objects
of historical value and common trash or debris. If necessary, remind
participants that it is against the law to remove or destroy cultural
- Talk about what people do with artifacts when they take them
home. Generally the artifact sits on a shelf or in a drawer. How much
pleasure does it bring when it is removed from the site? Have the group
brainstorm ways to enjoy and learn from an archaeological site without
taking the artifacts home.
- Important: Discuss how leaving what you find applies
to plants, animals, and the outdoor setting in general. Picking flowers,
removing antlers or petrified wood, cutting tree branches, building lean-tos
and chairs, moving rocks and stumps, carving on trees and stone, and digging
tent trenches are all examples of ways people detract from the natural
outdoors. Use the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace to lead
Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!
- Visit an archaeological site. Discuss what might have been
found there 1,000 years ago, 100 years ago, and 10 years ago.
- Tip over a garbage can. What do the contents tell you about
the people? Which contents are likely to remain unchanged for hundreds of
years? What will people in the future think about our culture when they
examine our garbage?
Teaching Leave No Trace