The school year is thankfully winding down. At my school, it is customary for most teachers to provide summer assignments for their students. This year, my new focus has been to ensure I provide opportunities for my students to not only explore history through text and literature, but through material culture, and their surroundings. Today’s youth needs to understand that history is not something they simply read about in a book but is tangible. It can be seen, heard, and touched. History surrounds them but is also inside of them. As a result, my incoming United States History students will be responsible this summer for getting out of the house and visiting the National Museum for the American Indian. They will have to complete a pretty detailed gallery walk which will have stops along all four floors, require them to take pictures of themselves next to artifacts, and create new thematic names for the exhibits.
When many key Europeans first made contact with Amerindians, they promoted the idea that Native Americans were one monolithic group with little diversity , social and political complexity, and of childlike intelligence. This assignment was driven by my desire to allow the artifacts to speak for themselves, prove them wrong, and help my students develop a more accurate understanding and familiarity of the Native Americans in North and South America. Some of the artifacts that caught my eye are seen below.
Summer is right around the corner and can’t wait to post more museum visits and book reviews 🙂