3D Digital Artifact Collection


“A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson.”

John Henrik Clarke, Author and Historian

Here are some ideas for lessons connected to artifacts in the Artifacts Gallery at Artifacts Teach 2.0. One of the unique features of Artifacts Teach is the combination of artifact with context support documents. The artifact “plus” one or more context support documents will provide the background and insight that will allow your students to be successful. Hopefully, these ideas will spark ideas of your own that you will share with the rest of the group.

Woodsman's Axe1. Woodsman’s Axe: this item is important because it demonstrates the technical changes necessary to be successful in North America. When colonists arrived in the 17th century, they brought the broad axe, the common axe in Europe that was used to shape raw wood into planks. It was terrible for cutting down trees. It was too dull. It was too hard to use. Gradually through use over 150 years, Americans modified the axe to make it effective for clearing the land. The period 1800 – 1850 is the period of most rapid growth to the west in US history. The American Woodsman’s Axe made it possible. Compare and contrast with the American Colonial Goosewing Axe.

The Beaver Top Hat2. The Beaver Top Hat: employing this artifact can lead your students into a discussion and understanding of the fur trade in North America. The top hat shows the finished felt pattern and represents the “end product” of a long chain of international economic relationships. The context support documents here will help you immensely. We suggest you use this with the Beaver Top Hat Mold.

The Candle Mold3. The Candle Mold: this was a typical household item from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The context support documents will give your students some idea of how children were involved in the candle making process and an idea of the division of labor in a household. The mold itself is fun to analyze. Teachers who have used it find it to be an excellent choice for teaching analyzing skills, decision-making skills, and communication skills. This item works well for Western Civilization, World History and US History from the 16th century through the end of the 19th century. 

The Chamber Pot4. The Chamber Pot: again this is a common household item from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. We like to introduce it as a “tea cup” and then let the students discover through analysis (especially the measuring tool) that it is too big to be part of a tea service. They must then figure out what it is. Every K-8 male student in world loves the say the word “poop” in class, so be prepared to handle that classroom disruption. Once the students have arrived at “chamber pot” as the answer, this can become the basis of a wide-ranging discussion of status in societies. Who used it? Who cleaned it? These two questions can provide some great insights into the past and how things have changed in arriving at today.

The Native American Olla5. The Native American Olla: woven baskets and clay pots were integral parts of Native American society for centuries. While this one is from the Southwestern US, it matters little. It presents an inroad to understanding Native American culture, the division of labor in Native American societies, and an insight into the skills and abilities of Native American craftsmen (who were usually the women). Use the olla with the candle mold and the chamber pot to compare and contrast societies. 

More ideas in the next blog entry…..  Remember always, 



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  • “Every object has a story to tell if you know how to read it.”
    – Henry Ford
  • “Dealing with objects is a great way to teach the different steps involved in analyzing different kinds of materials. With just a little background, you can get students to engage with entirely new materials in extremely fruitful ways.”
    – Anita Nikkanen
    Harvard University
  • “Using objects helps students develop important intellectual skills.”
    – John Hennigar Shuh
    Curator, Nova Scotia Museum
  • "Whenever I used objects in my EFL classroom, I was surprised by how many questions I would get. I was especially excited when students who usually sat quietly were tempted to ask a question based on my object.”
    – Jenny Wei
    Specialist, National Museum of American History
  • When we examine the parts, we get a new perspective on the whole. There is nothing like holding a dinosaur bone, or the smell of cedar baskets…”
    – Burke Museum
    University of Washington, Seattle WA
  • “Every object has a story, right? Actually that’s a bit limiting. Every object has multiple stories.”
    – Rob Walker
    designer of Significant Objects and How They Got That Way

Teacher Questions