I just spent two and half hours sitting in the NCSS House of Delegates meeting. The highlight for me? We had to decide how exactly we would vote on resolutions – by voice or by electronic clickers. You know where this is going, don’t you?

We had to decide how to vote so we could . . . decide how to vote. We eventually had to pass a voice vote to use a voice vote to agree to use e-clickers to vote. Direct democracy at its absolute bare minimum!

Ended up a bit late to a session by Carrie Kotcho and Jenny Wei from Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History who are talking about using objects and artifacts as a way to teach. Some pretty handy stuff.

They started off showing off some objects like an original Nat King Cool record and a World War II ration book. They listed some reason hhy object-based teaching is so effective:

  • Kids learn history from those couldn’t record their own history (i.e. slave baskets)
  • You can integrate “today” and “here” by comparing with older objects
  • Students research from an immediate resource
  • Objects aren’t age-specific
  • Increase motivation
  • Potential to teach the curriculum
  • Meets historical thinking standards

A quick suggestion of a “hook” activity using an artifact would be to pass around the object and have kids write a museum ready card describing the object. You also create a card that is actually correct and then mix it in with the cards created by the kids. Students then vote on which card they think is the “real” card.

So where can you find objects? Their suggestions:

  • e-Bay
  • Estate sales and garage sales
  • Help from students and parents

They also pushed their incredibly awesome site called History Explorer. They used a unit called On the Water to illustrate how powerful the site can be. History Explorer has lesson plans, great interactives and object connections.

I was reminded of Keil Hileman from the Kansas City area who uses artifacts as his primary teaching tool. His success should convince all of us to use more objects in our instruction!

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