In this challenge, students consider the influence of geography, natural resources and culture on human activity by using clues to judge the country of origin of various mystery objects. You will need to locate with the help of others in the school and community at least one object, more if possible (although photographs of objects can be used), that would likely be used in or originate from one of the four profiled communities (e.g., a sari from India, a basket from Northern Africa, costume pieces from Ukraine). Introduce the activity by showing the physical object and explaining that it is from the region where one of the profiled communities is situated. Encourage the class, through careful detective work, to develop an hypothesis about the object's origin. Begin by helping students determine the object's nature and purpose by asking the class to look for clues in response to the following questions:
- Who do you think would use this object? (A child? A woman? A man?)
- What is this object? (What is it made of? What features does it have?)
- Where might we find this object? (Inside? Outside? In a house? On a farm?)
- When would this object have been made? (Is it old or new?)
- Why was this object needed? (What is its purpose?)
You may want to adapt the chart and strategies for Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure and assess students' conclusions based on the observed clues.
When students have completed their preliminary investigation, explain the object and its use. Now invite students to determine the community (or region) from which the object originates. You may want to present students with a choice between two communities (e.g., Is it more likely to come from India or Ukraine?). As students get better at this activity and learn more about the conditions within each community, they may be able to offer a choice from among the four communities (or regions). Provide prompts to help the class decide the object's origin:
- What have we learned about the geography or the climate of each community that might offer a clue? (The sari looks like it is useful in a very warm climate.)
- What have we learned about the natural resources of each community that might offer a clue? Give us a clue. (The sari looks like it is made of cotton.)
- What have we learned about the culture or traditions of each community that might offer a clue? (Very colourful, can be worn over their heads.)
As a class, summarize what is known about the communities in response to each of these questions (e.g., Ukraine is very cold in winter; India can be very hot). When sufficient background has been provided, ask students to offer a conclusion about the object's origin. You may want to adapt the chart and strategies for Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Encourage students or adults from the community to bring in additional objects (or photographs of objects) from one of the four communities or from communities with similar geographic and traditions. If possible, repeat the activity several times and reinforce the notion that objects are products of their natural and social environments.
Adapted from "Using Artifacts to Foster Historical Inquiry," by Linda Farr Darling, published in The Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies for Elementary Teachers, ed. Roland Case and Penney Clark (Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press, Fall 2005).