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Learning about a Culture from Objects


  • Identify materials used in several traditional cultural objects.
  • Interpret possible functions of several traditional cultural objects.



Social studies, language arts


1. Begin a class discussion by asking your students to think about the work of a detective?what does a detective look for? Answers will vary, but students should conclude that a detective seeks evidence (clues) that might help to solve a mystery. Tell your students that they'll be acting much like detectives in the next few lessons. The mystery they'll be unraveling is that of a traditional culture, very different from their own. Stress that although you'll provide the clues, they'll have to solve the mystery on their own.

2. Divide your class into four or five groups of equal size. Give each group copies of Activity pages 1A and 1B. Direct your students to Activity Page 1A. Ask them to carefully observe each object photograph. What does the object appear to be? What is it made from? How might it have been used? What does the object tell us about the people who made it or the environment in which they lived? Have your students write their observations either on the Activity Page or a separate sheet of paper. Repeat the above procedure for each object photograph on Activity Page 1B.

3. After your students have observed and interpreted all the object photographs, designate a spokesperson for each group. For each object photograph, direct the spokespeople to explain his/her group's interpretation and briefly note it on the chalkboard. (Some objects may be more difficult for students to interpret than others, especially if your school is in a moderate climate region.) Generally, students will identify that a sled, a coat, a boat, and socks are among the objects. Interpretations may vary, but students should conclude that people of this culture lived in a cold and wet climate, dwelled on or near the coast, were skilled craftspeople and artists, and depended upon many different resources (e.g. wood, animals, grass). (Be sure to use the Teacher Answer Key to confirm the identity of the objects and to evaluate student observations.

4. Conclude the activity by telling your students that in the next lesson they'll read a story that was very important to these people. Stress that the story will contain a few more important clues!