Introduction to Object-Based History
The following lessons teach students how to engage with objects as historical sources. Scroll down for even more lesson plans.
Evaluate an Object
Directions: In this exercise, you will examine an object and think about the stories objects can tell. Fill out the sheet below based on an object that you or your teacher has selected. You can also access this worksheet in Google Docs. Print a copy to write on, or make a copy of the document and type your answers.
How do objects help us understand the story of Wisconsin?
- Why do we save things?
- What makes the things we save important?
- What questions can objects help us answer?
- How do we unlock the meanings of an object?
Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies
Social Studies Inquiry Practices and Processes
- Construct meaningful questions that initiate an inquiry. (Inq1)
- Gather and evaluate sources. (Inq2)
- Develop claims using evidence to support reasoning. (Inq3)
- Communicate and critique conclusions. (Inq4)
- Assess the role that human behavior and cultures play in the development of social endeavors (Anthropology). (BS3)
- Examine the progression of specific forms of technology and their influence within various societies. (BS4)
- Analyze how decisions are made and interactions occur among individuals, households, and firms/businesses (Microeconomics). (Econ2)
- Evaluate the relationship between identity and place. (Geog4)
- Evaluate the relationship between humans and the environment. (Geog4)
- Using historical evidence for determining cause and effect. (Hist1)
- Analyze, recognize, and evaluate patterns of continuity and change over time and contextualization of historical events. (Hist2)
- Connect past events, people, and ideas to the present, use different perspectives to draw conclusions, and suggest current implications. (Hist3)
- Evaluate a variety of primary and secondary sources to interpret the historical context, intended audience, purpose, and/or author’s point of view (Historical Methodology). (Hist4)
- Examine and interpret rights, privileges, and responsibilities in society. (PS2)
- Develop and employ skills for civic literacy. (PS3)
Educational Goal Assessment
- Identify the parts of an object.
- Analyze the form and function of the object?
- Compare and contrast the object to similar objects from the past or present.
- Evaluate the importance of an object.
- Interpret the importance of the object through object inquiry.
Suggested Performance Task
Students can show achievement through completion of these outcomes:
Activity #1, The Whole Story
- Students will evaluate an object, and write about what story it tells. Who does it address and what issues does it talk about. They will look at what people are not part of the story but should be. Lastly they will look for an object that will develop the story to include those people the single object did not. Use objects from the Wisconsin 101 website. (Download lesson plan for handouts to interpret and guide students through the evaluation.) Wisconsin101: All Objects.
Activity #2, A Larger Story
- Have students visit the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin 101 websites to curate a museum exhibition using objects found on these websites. Have students pick 3-5 objects. Students must select a theme, and create a story through the objects they find. The students will create an exhibition title, introductory label, and object labels. Their focus will be on the benefits of using multiple objects to tell a story as opposed to one object. (Have the students use the guide, A Larger Story, in the downloadable lesson plan to evaluate the exhibit). Wisconsin 101: All Objects ; Wisconsin Historical Society’s Curator’s Favorites.
Activity #3, My Story
- Have students select 3-5 objects that tell the story of their life so far. The students must have a theme that ties all of their objects. The objects can all be from a single event or could extend over a long period of time. Students produce a poster, timeline, video, paper, comic strip, story bag, or other acceptable forms of presentation.
- For each object students must identify the object (using a picture, drawing, or object) and answer: Where did the object came from? How did they use the object & where did they use it? Why the object was selected? How does the object represent them?
- Explore a Single Object and Single Story
- Tell Your Life Story with Objects
- Create an Object Commercial
- Create a Museum Exhibit
- Create Museum Labels
- Class Project
Explore a Single Object and Single Story
Directions: Use the Wisconsin 101 site to learn more about Wisconsin history! Follow the step by step guide below to explore the website and fill out the graphic organizer to report back on your journey across the state. You can also access this worksheet in Google Docs. Print a copy to write on, or make a copy of the document and type your answers.
Have students select 3-5 objects that tell the story of their life so far. The students must have a theme that ties all of their objects together. The objects can all be from a single event or could extend over a long period of time. Have students produce a poster, timeline, video, paper, comic strip, story bag, or other acceptable form of presentation.
For each object students must identify the object (using a picture, drawing, or object) and answer: Where did the object came from? How did they use the object & where did they use it? Why the object was selected? How does the object represent them?
Divide students into groups and have each group select an object to study. Have the students create a commercial that highlights the most important aspects of the object and its history.
The commercial should be no more than 45 seconds and answer the following questions:
- What is the object?
- Where is the object from?
- Who uses the object?
- Where is it used?
- What are the top five features of the object to sell the object or have someone keep it?
After students complete their commercial, have a viewing party and discuss how marketers, advertisers, and museums use these descriptions to create an experience around an object.
- Nash Car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1bIhiQglvo
- Telephone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-Bq2NbunpA
- Vacuum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uULfg4IBREU
- Ice Cream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3dD9BEkeQU
- iPad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjaKHqDbzSA
- Cranberries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE_cVKc_pn4
Using the objects on the Wisconsin 101 website, students will curate a museum exhibition. Have students select 3-5 objects, then identify a theme that connects them. Students should look to tell a larger story about Wisconsin history through their exhibit. The students should create a title for their exhibit, a brief introductory essay explaining the theme of the exhibit, and descriptive labels for each object.
When they are finished, they can use the following worksheet to evaluate their work. They can also access this worksheet in Google Docs. Print a copy to write on, or make a copy of the document and type your answers.
Create Museum Labels
Directions: In this exercise, adopted from the Canadian Museum of History, students will create museum labels for objects they have selected. The sheet below is a step-by-step guide to this activity. You can also access it in Google Docs. Print a copy to write on, or make a copy of the document and modify it to fit your classroom needs.
This assignment includes lesson plans and worksheets to lead students through a multi-step research process, resulting in them creating an object post and related stories that can be published on the Wisconsin 101 site. It is an adaptation of a project created by history teacher Nick Scheuller that he used with his after school history club.
Students can work individually or in groups as they research, write, edit, and publish an object-based history. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about how to publish your students’ work.
You can also access this worksheet in Google Docs. Print a copy to write on, or make a copy of the document and type your answers.