365 Lessons: #3 Artifacts Inspire Critical Thinking And Action

365 Lessons:  #3 Artifacts Inspire Critical Thinking And Action


Lesson #3 Break Down 

Artifacts and Objects + Curiosity = Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking + Exploration = Synthesis and Discovery

…Using content related artifacts and objects to stimulate questions, thoughts, and discussion is a great way to get students started on an inquiry project.


Dictionary.com defines an artifact as, “any object made by human beings, especially with a view to subsequent use,” and an object as, “a thing, person, or matter to which thought or action is directed.”  I’ve been working to develop a deepened understanding of Project Based Learning with Inquiry and Authentic Social Action in mind.  I’m repeatedly coming across the challenge of encouraging critical thinking and inspiring the desire to take action.  The best results I’ve seen in my own work and the work of my incredible colleagues in BPS is perpetuated by genuine student interest.  When the kids come up with the ideas, the direction, and the plan, they tend to generate and extend an amazing amount of energy for any given project.  Student excitement can become infectious, which often times leads to extended, passionate, and relevant learning.

I was looking thorough the wonderful book Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels yesterday.  I came across a section called “Objects and Artifacts” on page 83 in which Harvey and Daniels assert, “Bringing intriguing objects and artifacts into the room adds to our kids’ engagement, teaches them to think, and builds content knowledge.”  It makes sense.  I started to think about artifacts that would get 1st and 2nd graders thinking critically about composting because the amazing Deb Prinde is introducing an inquiry unit to her multiage class next week and she’s invited me to collaborate.

We’ll be doing a lesson on key word searches to kick things off, so I started my exploration with the most obvious key word: “compost.”  That led me to this page http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/education/photos.htm#photos which has some links to a bunch of great art that’s free for educational use.  I wasn’t thrilled with the pictures for our purposes so I grabbed an article about composting and scoured it for some other key words.  If you know anything about composting you might have imagined that I found the greatest word imaginable for engaging 1st grade students.  That word of course is “WORM!”  It’s not an artifact but it is an object.  I think I’m going to bring in some worms to begin with.  Maybe I’ll bring a different object each day for the first week and see if the students can start to make connections.

I’m hoping that even if our explorers don’t initially come to the conclusion that worms help in the composting process, seeing, drawing, writing, and talking about worms in conjunction with four related objects (and artifacts) should set the wheels in motion for quality generation and revision of relevant driving questions and synthesis as information flows in throughout the project.  I’m excited to discover how effective the use of artifacts and objects are going to be in affecting student achievement and attitudes toward learning!

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