Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adding Artifact Analysis: Moving Beyond the Research Reports for First Americans Cultural Regions

In First American units throughout the nation, students learn about the many different cultural regions. To bring in a conceptual lens, teachers engage students in conversations with the question, "How does where you live impact how you live?" (Without these conversations, students merely engage in research reports...fact-finding missions...questions to fill-in the answers on worksheet packets.) By engaging students in this type of conceptual question, the research about different cultural regions has a deeper purpose.  By engaging students in this type of conceptual question, students develop understanding of an idea that is transferrable by time and place.

In the 21st century, we look towards the understanding of concepts AND we are looking to elevate MUCH MORE critical thinking and reasoning.  For this reason, I encourage teachers to engage students in the critical thinking practices of a historian.  Move beyond the reports...deepen learning and student thinking through inviting students to analyze artifacts.
From the National Museum of the American Indian
When students analyze artifacts, they are engaging with the actual pieces of history.  When students analyze artifacts, they are engaged in the critical thinking and reasoning of historians.  When students analyze artifacts, they are connecting the content of their research reports and deepening their understanding of culture.  (There's a reason museums share artifacts with people, and not research reports.)  When students analyze artifacts after having a base of content knowledge, they might try to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you think this artifact is? 
  2. How do you think think this artifact may have been used by the __________ culture?
  3. What questions might you ask? What are you wondering?
  4. Art museums choose artifacts to help you understand cultures that live in different times and places.  What do you think this artifact tells you about the ___________ culture?

Sources for Native American Cultural Artifacts
  • National Museum of the American Indian - Teachers can use this search tool to find artifacts by cultural region.  This is a massive collection. 
  • Infinity of Nations: Culture Quest - This highly interactive site allows students to examine different cultural artifacts from many of the North American Native American cultural regions.  Regions included are Northwest Coast, California, Southwest, Eastern Woodlands, Arctic and Great Plains. 

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