If your child longs to be the 21st century's Indiana Jones (do they even know who that is anymore?), head to the Oriental Institute Museum March 25 for some hands-on experience in archaeology.
At Junior Archaeologists, families with kids 5 and up will be assigned different trenches that correspond to the eras the museum covers, from pre-history until about 500 B.C. Then they'll get to dig, using authentic archaeological tools, and discover replicas of actual artifacts found in Megiddo, a site in ancient Israel, including items from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia.
Family programs coordinator Kat Silverstein says the day also will provide an introduction to archaeological techniques and principles, including the Law of Superposition, which says that the oldest artifacts are on the bottom and the newest on top.
There will be a discussion about what the families found, and then later, they can get a tour of the museum and learn more about the ancient cultures they literally just dug up.
Junior Archaeologists is one of the museum's new family programs, which included making clay pots in January and exploring Nubian culture in February.
"Right now, our audience is really academic and it's a lot of older folks," Silverstein says. "We are in the middle of a really family-friendly area, and we want the next generation to come in here and experience our collections in a new way. … We're putting our toe in the water and seeing what happens."
Silverstein says the museum, with its emphasis on the ancient world, appeals to families, and there are family activity cards in each gallery. Kid-friendly highlights of the collection include a giant statue of King Tut, who took the throne when he was only 9, large parts of an Assyrian palace, games, toys, and a perpetual kid favorite: mummies.
"I think they'll enjoy picturing the past and getting to engage in that kind of romance and fantasy of the ancient Middle East and Egypt," Silverstein says. "It's pretty fun for everyone. Everyone's pretty surprised when they come here of what we have."
And as any aspiring archaeologist knows, the element of surprise is key when you're in the business of digging up the past.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.