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Using Artifacts to Teach Social Studies

Hello teachers, I have never done so myself, but I have seen teachers use interesting (or even mundane) artifacts in social studies lessons. Have you ever focused a lesson on an artifact? The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies has some great materials, including questions for discussion, worksheets and writing assignments. The lesson plans focused on the theme of consumerism feature everyday items such as the Barbie doll, jeans, lunch boxes as well as less familiar items such as a furnace salesman's kit. One of the artifacts that is examined in the Barbie doll unit is a TV ad from the 1960s, which looks fun and interesting!

Check out these consumerism lessons as well as those focused on the theme The Nation Expanding, which feature bank notes, an Indian peace medal among other items. Let us know what you think.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP



Kathy_Tracey's picture
One hundred


I love the idea of artifacts in teaching. One way these tools can be utilized in the classroom is through civic reflections. The purpose of a civic reflection is to use an image, song, story, poem, piece of art - anything really - to focus a classroom or community dialogue. I invite you to look through the website (linked above) and learn more about this practice. I'd love to answer any questions about how this applies to adult education and I'd really like to learn about any programs that have used this practice. (I do in my classrooms.)

Kathy Tracey