As one of my project for class, I created an artifact bag containing three items that have the appearance of being artifacts from a historical time period. Fuhler, Farris, and Nelson (2006) indicate that “using artifacts, from primary source documents to items that can be held in one’s hand, is a motivational strategy that can tie readers to a variety of genres and bring a period of history to life in the process” (p. 646). Using artifact bags is a successful way to entice children about a particular time period or aspect of social studies. Additionally, using artifact bags allows children to make connections and discoveries about the past. Our group for fieldwork focused on the colonial Hudson valley, specifically when the colony was owned by the Dutch and called New Netherland. I was able to connect the artifact bag lesson to the New York State Common Core State Standards for ELA and Social Studies for grades three through five.
In order to prepare my artifact bag, I searched through thrift shops trying to find items that would resemble the historical time period the students we learning about – in my case, the historical Hudson Valley. I was able to find a small stainless steel cup, a red leather bracelet, and I also purchased some tulip bulbs. In addition to the artifacts, I also found two books from my local library and three websites that would provide the students with more information in which to make their conclusions about the artifacts. I chose the stainless steel cup because the people of New Netherland would have had such an item in their home, or used it to trade with. The red leather bracelet resembles something a Native American might have worn or used to trade with. I chose to use tulip bulbs because the Dutch brought tulips with them over from the Netherlands to New Netherland. The two books that I chose to use with these items provide the students with images and information in which to look through. The two books are Life in New Amsterdam by Laura Fischer and The New York Colony by Martin Hintz. I also selected three websites to be used with the artifact bag. Two are from the New Netherland Institute and one is about the Tulip Festival that takes place in Albany, New York and honors the Dutch heritage of this region. I selected these particular books and websites because they are student friendly and
will provide the students with additional information to make conclusions about their artifacts.
In the lesson, the students will first be presented with the artifacts. They will unwrap the artifacts and begin to discuss the artifacts in their group. The students will be answering the 5Ws about each artifact and will write their summary and conclusions about all of the artifacts, as well as indicate what more they want to know. After the students unwrap, examine, and analyze the artifacts for a few minutes, they will then unwrap the two books that are included in their artifact bag. Finally, students will be able to access the websites provided to them to make their final conclusions and fill in their graphic organizers.
Making the artifact bag was a very rewarding experience. At first I was daunted by task of finding artifacts from the 1600s. However, it did not take me long to realize that I could use objects found today that resemble items from the 1600s and incorporate those into my project. Furthermore, I ordered countless books to be sent to my local library and searched through them until I found that ones that would work best with my artifacts. This task showed me how easy it is to make authentic learning possible – taking only a little time, effort, and creativity. The meaning and connections the students will make through exploring the artifacts, looking through the books and websites, and making conclusions about the artifacts is well worth it.
Artifact bags not only allow children to hold and touch a historic object, but they also ingrate reading, writing, and searching for information into the process. Through use of the artifact bag, I am using a project that ties together many aspects of the curriculum—such as reading, writing, and social studies—while allowing students to have an authentic and meaningful interaction with the topic they are learning about (Fuhler, Farris, & Nelson, 2006). Not only does the artifact bag allow for authentic and meaningful learning across the curriculum, it also incorporates the five principles of powerful teaching and learning. The National Council for the Social Studies indicates that social studies teaching and learning is powerful when it is meaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging, and active (National Council for the Social Studies). In order to provide a powerful social studies experience to students, it is imperative that these principles be followed. By providing students with a meaningful experience that is integrative, challenging, active, and based on value, students are able to make connections, activate their prior knowledge, and gain a deeper understanding of what they are learning. The artifact bag project definitely adheres to these fives principles as students are able to have a meaningful, active, engaging, and challenging experience as they examine and analyze the artifacts, make conclusions, and summarize their findings.
Fulher, C. J., Farris, P. J., & Nelson, P. A. (2006). Building literacy skills across the curriculum: Foraging connections with the past through artifacts. The Reading Teacher, (59)7, 646-658.
National Council for the Social Studies. (n.d.) Principles of teaching and learning. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Retrieved March 20, 2015 from http://www.learner.org/workshops/socialstudies/pdf/session1/1.PowerfulTeachingLearning.pdf
What did they own? (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2015, from http://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/education/for-students/fun-re/what-was-new-netherland/what-did-they-own/.
Fort Orange. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2015, from http://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/digital-exhibitions/a-tour-of-new-netherland/albany/fort-orange/.
History & Background. (2015). Retrieved April 5, 2015, from http://www.albanytulipqueen.com/history
Fischer. L. (2003). Life in new amsterdam. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library.
Hintz, M. (2006). The new york colony. Mankao, MN: Capstone Press.