In previous blog entries we have established that artifacts teach what State and Common Core standards require. Further, we have demonstrated that from the moment artifacts are introduced into your classroom, they engage students of all ages in two ways: artifacts capture students’ interest (“What is this?” “How does it affect me?”); and artifacts move students immediately into higher levels of thinking (analysis, synthesis, decision-making, and drawing conclusions). So, why don’t teachers employ artifacts in classrooms more often, or, at all?
There are many complex reasons for the lack of artifact-centered teaching in the classroom involving national testing, administrative expectations, pre-service training, and fixed curricula that can serve as logical answers. However, I would suggest that teachers don’t use artifacts because they feel that material culture is cumbersome, expensive and fragile. But, most importantly, I would suggest that teachers AT ALL LEVELS OF EDUCATION do not use artifacts because NO ONE EVER SHOWED THEM HOW to employ material culture in the classroom. Let’s rectify that major omission right now. Over the next few blog entries, we will show you how to use artifacts in math, science, Language Arts and Social Studies classrooms. We will demonstrate the use of artifacts, not only as illustrations of accepted knowledge, but also as primary sources for new insights. Let’s begin by dispelling some old myths about artifacts.
The major excuses for not using material culture to teach are that artifacts are difficult to find, expensive to obtain, and too fragile to be handled in a standard classroom situation. That may have been the case, but it is no longer. Technology has finally caught up with artifact-centered pedagogy. 3D objects are now available on-line both readily and cheaply. At http://www.artifactsteach.com there are currently 50 artifacts available, ranging from fossils to Roman coins, and from Civil War items, to drop spindles and wash boards. Ear horns, bugles, children’s toys, mocassins, water jugs, chamber pots and axes can all be found at the site. All can be manipulated in a 360 degree plane, magnified, and measured either as a class, in small groups or individually at home or in school. Certainly, ARTIFACTS ARE NO LONGER HARD TO FIND.
If one allows for Christmas Break, Spring Break and days lost to national testing, there are approximately 30 – 32 weeks of school each year. The cost of a one-year subscription to Artifacts Teach is $109. If you were to use one artifact per week for the year, your cost would be between $3.63 and $3.40 per week. However, at Artifacts Teach you can build a lesson that contains from one to five artifacts, so your cost is reduced to $.72 per week. USING ARTIFACTS IN THE CLASSROOM IS NO LONGER EXPENSIVE.
3D artifacts are easily accessed via http://www.artifactsteach.com. As mentioned previously, you and your students can manipulate each item in a 360 degree plane, measure it, and magnify it. A complete National Archives Artifact Analysis can be conducted either as a class, in small groups, or individually just about anywhere there is Internet access. The same 3D objects can be used repeatedly without fear of wear or breaking. On-line 3D objects enter your room effortlessly. Moreover, “dangerous” or “prohibited” objects like muskets, bayonets and axes no longer pose a threat and can be used as easily as children’s’ toys or drop spindles. ARTIFACTS ARE NO LONGER CUMBERSOME, FRAGILE OR DANGEROUS. The obstacles to using material culture in the classroom have been removed.
All that remains is to learn how to employ artifacts in your own lessons. Next time we will begin to show you how ARTIFACTS TEACH.