Telling Stories with Objects, Middle School


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)

Behavioral Science

  • 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)

Political Science

  • 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?