Incorporating Artifacts and Guest Speakers into Curriculum Planning

Artifacts and guest speakers are enriching and exciting for your students.

By Deborah Reynolds


Incorporating Artificacts in the Classroom

Imagine a classroom where the presentation of lessons felt like going on a field trip. When students are exposed to a variety of resources, imagination takes learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. A great hook to any lesson in any subject is a visual. That visual could be a cannon ball from the Civil War period or a representative from the local electric company holding a model of a parallel circuit.  A letter from a soldier written to the bride he left behind could open up a unit on the American Revolution.

Once students are hooked, they are motivated to learn, and more enthusiastic about what they are learning about. Creating student interest helps ensure engagement in each lesson. To maintain that interest, authentic resources should be incorporated. Teachers can plan a unit by pooling the resources present at their school. What is already available? What contacts do other staff members already have? The next step would be to contact local museums and businesses. Some museums have outreach programs in which speakers and artifacts can be brought to the school. Many businesses have representatives that are trained to go out to the schools and talk about his or her job and the business being represented. The majority of these programs are free.

For example, students who are working on a unit on animals in their classroom can benefit from seeing the real article. Some museums let you check out animals that have been preserved using taxidermy. Your students will marvel at the sight of a real cougar lying on a table outside their classroom, or be fascinated with the size of a badger's claws. By bringing in real examples of the animals students are studying, you can help them learn about animals, the environment they live in, and many other facts. But even more importantly you can get students' imaginations going. Just imagine what great stories students might write after seeing these animals up close.

Artifacts and guest speakers take learning beyond the textbook, and make the information on the pages of the book come to life. Additionally, artifacts and speakers address a variety of learning styles and interests. Ultimately, students will be engaged, motivated, and excited to learn. Below are some examples of lessons that use artifacts and/or guest speakers.

Artifact and Guest Speaker Lesson Plans:

Learn to Think Like an Archaeologist

Students work cooperatively to determine what information can be obtained from an artifact. Each group is given a replica of an artifact. The groups must discuss what they think the artifact is, and what role it played in history.

Interpreting History with Artifacts: Mid to Late 1800's

Students studying the Civil War period are given a variety of artifacts to hold and study. Examples include a bonnet, musket balls, pottery, an ink well, and a dipper gourd. Students examine the artifacts to determine who would have used these items, and from which region of the country they represent.  The lesson comes with a rubric and graphic organizer.

Operation Immigration

This lesson is on immigration. Guest speakers who are early United States immigrants come to the classroom to share their experiences with the students. Students are able to ask questions, then create a scrapbook from their experiences.


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Deborah Reynolds