Some are actual, real artifacts that have been purchased through eBay, acquired at workshops or conferences, or passed down. Some are replicas, but look and feel like the real thing. Some are photocopies (letters, diaries, etc...). I loving being able to put something from history into the hands of my students. It's amazing. That one arrowhead can hook their attention and help them engage in the lesson better than any other teaching technique I use.
Kids love to "do history."
One of my favorite lessons I have involves the students studying artifacts, sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating, before finally making a claim (close reading) as to what these artifacts all have in common. What they all mean.
Here is my lesson in detail.
I ask my class..."What are the things we have to have in order to survive?" I have them brainstorm with their teams what (four things) we need to live. After about two minutes we share out. They are good at this. I think they talk about it in science the year before, so we get them down in no problem. I have them copy it on their page in their HIT Book (Click here to read about my Historian's In Training Interactive Book).
Then I have them brainstorm a list of supplies they would need in order to fulfill those needs. This takes a little longer, but again, they are pretty smart and their lists are excellent. Together we make a large combined list on the board. They add things they didn't think of to their lists in their HIT books.
I ask..."Today, where would you go to get all of these supplies?"
They throw out different store names, but eventually it comes out that they could really get all the things they need to survive at Walmart. Sometimes a debate ensues between Walmart and Target, but that's not really the point.
I now explain that we are going to study some artifacts. I have 6 different stations and an analysis chart. The chart allows them to source and corroborate at one time. I ask them to simply sketch their artifact, describe the physical characteristics, and then infer what it is and could be used for. Students already know that we are studying Native Americans, that helps them put all of this in context. They are able to look at the artifacts knowing that the time period revolves around Indians.
In teams the students move from artifact to artifact, interacting with each item. Some are easier than others to guess, and some are a little gross.
I am constantly amazed by the conversations that I overhear as I walk around.
Look at this part, it's sharp, but it probably isn't used as a weapon since they had arrowheads.
Ok! See this right here...there's little grooves. I bet this was used to take meat off of the skin. If you look at the hide closely there's little grooves in it.
This thing is gross. I don't want to touch it. Oh...but it's like plastic. Maybe they used it to carry water. I hope it's not what I think it is...
When the analysis is all done and we're all back together, students have sourced, corroborated, and thought about these items in context. This leads them to make the claim that these are all parts of the buffalo used by early Native Americans. (See...thinking like a historian all class period!)
They are right, and now I get to tell them what each item actual is and what it was used for. They ohh and ahh when they find out something new, and they cheer when they were right. This year I had two boys who guessed correctly what the flesher and awl was. That has never happened before! Not gonna lie...they kinda stole my thunder. (I make a big deal about it... I am THRILLED for them). It's fun to let kids have the joy of impressing the teacher.
Our discussion ends by revisiting that question we talked about during the hook. If you lived as an early Native American, where would you go to get all the supplies in order to fulfill your basic needs to survive.
The answer is, the bison.
The bison was their Wal-Mart.
Such a great day...plus. I get to watch their faces when they realized they have all touched a buffalo bladder.
This lesson is made possible because of the awesomeness that is the Kansas State Historical Society. They LOVE to provide teachers with resources that help make history come alive. Their traveling trunk program allows for teachers to rent out artifacts, complete with lesson plans and other primary source resources for a reasonable cost.
$30.00 to rent out and pay for shipping to return the trunk. All in all, I pay about 60$ when I borrow a trunk. If I was ever going to be in or around Topeka when the trunk was due back, I could always drop it off and save the mailing cost.
Depending on who you are and what your situation is at your school this cost may seem small or too large. I pay for the trunk, I could probably ask my school to do it, and some years they might. I keep my receipts and claim it as part of my $250 deductible for being a teacher. I try to make sure when I spend money on my classroom it's going to be something that will make my lessons better. Usually it's spent on tech items like mice and headphones, or these traveling trunks. Think about what you spend your money on for your classroom. Is it going to enhance the learning, or is it going to provide a reward for compliance (candy, prizes, etc...)?
The KS Historical Society has a variety of trunk options to choose from...Including
- Cattle Trails
- Indians Homes
- Kansas Territory
- Life of the Civil War
- Traveling the Santa Fe Trail
- Many More - CLICK HERE for KS Historical Society Traveling Trunks
If you've ever thought about how fun it would be to let your students get their hands on some pretty cool artifacts, give these trunks a try. Your kids will thank you!