Uncovering the Past

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Uncovering the Past

This patch is worn as a temporary emblem
on the right uniform pocket.
Last updated:
Level:Wolf Cub Scouts, Bear Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts

The BSA's STEM Nova Awards program is designed to introduce and encourage further study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) by Cub Scouts, Scouts, Venturers, and Sea Scouts. Youth may earn all STEM Nova awards for their program. The Supernova awards are designed to inspire further study. It is recommended that you complete at least two STEM Nova awards before starting the requirements for the Supernova award.

Youth may complete any STEM Nova award with a parent or unit leader’s guidance. However, Supernova Awards mentors must be approved by the local council. (Note: Lion Cubs and Tiger Cubs are not eligible to participate in the STEM Nova Awards program.)

This module is designed to help you explore the wonders of archaeology. Uncovering the Past is part of the Science category.

Uncovering the Past requirements

  1. Choose either A, B, or C and complete all requirements.
    A. Watch an episode or episodes (about one hour total) of a show about anything related to archaeology. Then do the following:
    1. Make a list of at least two questions or ideas from what you watched.
    2. Discuss two of the questions or ideas with your counselor.
    Some examples include—but are not limited to—shows found on PBS (such as NOVA), Discovery Channel, Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, TED Talks (online videos), and the History Channel. You may choose to watch a live performance or movie at a planetarium or science museum instead of watching a media production. You may watch online productions with your counselor's approval and under your parent's supervision.
    B. Read (about one hour total) about anything related to archaeology. Then do the following
    1. Make a list of at least two questions or ideas from what you read.
    2. Discuss two of the questions or ideas with your counselor.
    Books on many topics may be found at your local library. Examples of magazines include but are not limited to Odyssey, KIDS DISCOVER, National Geographic Kids, Highlights, and OWL or owlkids.com.
    C. Do a combination of reading and watching (about one hour total) about anything related to archaeology. Then do the following:
    1. Make a list of at least two questions or ideas from what you have read and watched.
    2. Discuss two of the questions or ideas with your counselor.
  2. Complete ONE adventure from the following list for your current rank or complete option A or B. (If you choose an adventure, choose one you have not already earned.) Discuss with your counselor what kind of science, technology, engineering, and math was used in the adventure or option.
    Wolf Cub ScoutsBear Cub ScoutsWebelos Scout
    Collections and HobbiesBeat of the DrumLooking Back, Looking Forward
    Project Family
    Option A:
    Some of the objects archaeologists find have been preserved in various ways. Experiment with preserving a hot dog with baking soda. Measure each dimension, then completely surround and cover the hot dog in baking soda. Let sit in a safe place for seven days, and measure again. Then cover the hot dog again, let it sit another seven days, and measure it a third time. Make note of any changes in size, shape, color, and other properties. Compare it to a hot dog that has not been preserved. Discuss your experiment with your counselor.
    Note: Do not eat the hot dog, and make sure to store your experiment in a safe place and dispose of it properly when you are done.
    Useful Links:
    Option B:
    Use plaster of paris to create a "rock" mold at least half an inch thick. Once it is set, create a dark surface like a patina on the rock, possibly by using tempera paint. Use a carving tool, such as a screw or push pin, to create one or more petroglyphs on your rock.
    Search online for "plaster of paris petroglyphs" for instructions.
  3. Explore. Do each of the following:
    A. Look up the definition of the word archaeology and discover what an archaeologist does on a dig site, and what other activities are involved in their work. Discuss it with your counselor.
    Archaeology is the study of the human past by recovering and analyzing materials that people left behind.
    B. Discover the differences between physical remains, artifacts, and ecofacts. Discuss with your counselor examples of each that archaeologists can find for a prehistoric people group.
    An artifact is any object made by a human being. Usually, it refers to an object that has cultural or historical interest.
    An ecofact, or biofact is any organic material that has been recovered and has cultural or historical significance. This might be bones, animal horns, plants, and so on. If the item has been manipulated or modified by humans, it becomes an artifact.
    Physical remains are things left behind that were part of an animal—for example, body parts or fossils of body parts.
    C. Look around your house. Make a list of 10 artifacts from your home that serve as clues to the way you live. Discuss what you discovered with your counselor.
    Artifacts could include anything found lying around the Scout's house. A dog crate could indicate the family has kept domesticated animals. A hammer could indicate they know how to use tools. Ask the Scouts to pretend they have never seen a particular item before, and what might they think it is.
  4. Be an archaeologist! Choose A or B:
    A. Much can be discovered about a group of people based on the items they throw away. With a parent or guardian's permission and guidance, look through the items in a medium-sized trash can that contains at least a few days' worth of trash. Draw conclusions about the people in that location and how they might live, based on what they throw away. Determine which items are artifacts and which are ecofacts. Discuss with your counselor how the relative age of the artifacts be estimated based on their location in the trash can.
    You may want to have the Scout wear disposable gloves, especially if the trash can contains food remains. The Scout could lay out a plastic tarp or sheet on the floor, then spread the trash out in order from what was at the top of the can to what was at the bottom. Can the Scout tell when one day ended and the next began? Is it possible to estimate how many days' worth of trash there is? You could ask the Scout to take pictures and bring them to discuss with you.
    B. Create your own layers of artifacts and ecofacts. Gather some small items that would show future archaeologists how you and your family lived. Use a plastic bottle or glass jar as the vessel and Play-Doh sand, dirt, etc.. to form layers. Place the gathered items in different layers. Think about which layers would hold the older items compared to newer ones. Show it to your counselor, and discuss with your counselor why you chose these items and what they would show archaeologists about how you lived. Excavate your items when you're done.
    The lower the level, the older the item would be.
  5. Visit a place that has items that have been excavated, such as a museum, dig site, historical society, etc. Talk to someone who works there about the displays. If you can't visit in person, use resources in your school or local library or on the internet (with your parent's or guardian's permission and guidance) to take a virtual visit. Discuss with your counselor what you saw, how the archaeologists helped uncover those items, and what questions you had.
  6. Discuss with your counselor what you have learned about archaeology while working on this award

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Please note any errors found in the above requirements on this article's Talk Page.


Worksheet A FREE workbook for Uncovering the Past is available here! (PDF or Word) with the maps, charts, links, diagrams, and checklists you need! Or click here to print just the Uncovering the Past requirements. usscouts.org has PDF and Word versions of workbooks for Scouts BSA ranks and merit badges, Cub Scouting ranks and adventures, and STEM Nova awards.

External links

STEM Nova Awards Program Advancement
Award Overview:STEM Nova awards
Worksheets:Nova & Supernova Award Worksheets
Cub Scout
Nova:Science: Science EverywhereDown and DirtyNova WILD!Out of This WorldUncovering the PastTechnology: Tech TalkCub Scouts Can CodeEngineering: Swing!Up and AwayMath: 1-2-3 Go!Fearful Symmetry
Supernova:Dr. Luis W. Alvarez Supernova Award (Wolf/Bear only) • Dr. Charles H. Townes Supernova Award (Webelos only)
Scouts BSA
Nova:Science: Shoot!Let It Grow!Splash!Mendel's MinionsTechnology: Start Your Engines!Hello, WorldEngineering: Whoosh!Up and AwayNext Big ThingMath: Designed to Crunch
Supernova:Dr. Bernard Harris Bronze Supernova AwardThomas Edison Silver Supernova Award
Venturer / Sea Scout
Nova:Science: Launch!Wade!What a LifeTechnology: Power UpExecuteSomething from NothingEngineering: Hang On!Up and AwayMath: Numbers Don't Lie
Supernova:Dr. Sally Ride Bronze Supernova AwardWright Brothers Silver Supernova AwardDr. Albert Einstein Gold Supernova Award
Scouter:Dr. Paul A. Siple Bronze Supernova Award

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