helping students understand the place they live  
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About the Artifact Box Exchange Network


For schools adopting the Common Core State Standards, the Artifact Box process provides an opportunity to use reading, writing, listening and speaking skills to do research on local history that requires communication and creativity skills to develop clues. For example:

The students use a variety of books, materials, community resources, and local experts to identify the immigration patterns of the local area (Clue 25). This requires learning informational text skills to identify and comprehend materials and resources (in the local school and community library and on the Internet). Examples of CCSS inherent in this activity (example is grade 4):

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.



The initial concept for The Artifact Box was developed by Scott Johnson and Heather Holmberg, a teacher in the Department of Defense Schools in Bierbergemund, West Germany. Heather was a student and Scott was the instructor for a 1983 graduate course conducted for in-service teachers at The University of Connecticut. These educators discussed the problems involved in teaching students how to become independent learners and competent researchers in the field of social science. It was agreed that a wealth of materials already exist to teach students how to use an almanac, road map, encyclopedia, and other reference books. The difficulty lay in the lack of attention given to an intermediate step that would show students how to apply these skills to new content in a meaningful and motivating manner. Borrowing from ideas developed in archaeology and futuristic simulations, Heather worked with Scott to create a technique that would allow students to apply learned research and reference skills in a way that still allowed for teacher supervision and feedback. Heather's original idea was to provide an opportunity for her students to become more enthusiastic about social studies and library research by asking them to collect locally available items that were typical of the history, geography, and cultural influences in their community.