You can use artifacts in your classroom, tomorrow! Artifacts spark so much excitement in students. They become puzzles to solve when we don’t know what they are. They are windows in time that connect us to our ancestors in a very personal way. They can be the vehicles for great stories and lessons. Artifacts are what make humans, human.
In the classroom, Artifacts can Teach – Artifacts do teach! Learning from an artifact requires no particular language to be spoken, no reading level, no massive pre-planning ritual for teachers to differentiate the learning for their diverse classrooms. Artifacts are something humans just “relate” to and hence learn from. We ask simple questions like “what is this?” and “why is it important?”, then seek answers. Isn’t that the essence of teaching, and learning?
How do you find the artifacts for tomorrows class? To start, think about the unit you are currently teaching. Then, look around you. There is learning in everything you see. Make the connections yourself, first. If you see a connection between your content and an artifact, so should your students. You have just created your assessment – that is – the connection you made between the object and what you are teaching. Students should, at some level, make the same connection. A beaver top hat and the fur trade – A water jug and the formula for volume – a stone hand ax and a computer mouse. (Ok, that last one may take a bit of thinking) If they don’t make the connection, there is a problem. Have fun, see the “stuff” around you differently – teach with artifacts.
Another option is to use digital artifacts. There are more and more digital artifacts available online every day. We, of course, are partial to our collection at http://www.artifactsteach.com because much of the work for the teacher has already been done. Just connect your classroom content to an artifact in our collection and you are teaching with it the next day! There are some other great sites we recommend checking out as well. SmithsonianX3d and Sketchfab Cultural Heritage section are both outstanding resources for teachers interested in digital 3D artifacts.
In the future, we believe all students should have access to great 3D digital artifacts from the best museums in the world. Museums are great because they preserve for posterity our most valued cultural heritage. But as we all know, 99% is locked up behind closed doors, inaccessible to the general public let alone every kid in a school. Artifacts are fragile, dangerous, priceless, or one of a kind. 3D digital copies of artifacts would solve all of those problems. Set the artifacts free…the technology is here…let ARTIFACTS TEACH!