Initially when we were planning we discussed the issue of students understanding their own culture before they set off to learn about another.  We created a pre assessment pre test to gauge what our students understood about making meaning from artifacts and images to inform their learning.  We also wanted understand if the students understood the elements and principles of art and how to use them to present a message.  We found the students were able to make concrete observations as a group, there were several who sere able to go deeper with a close read of the art and artifacts.  They were also struggling with the language of Art.  While they used the elements and principles daily they could not name them.  So we set out on the journey with John Neff, Ms Kitty and John Catarello to frame the concept of culture beginning with the personal and expanding outward.

Student #1

Student's Sushi made from clay

After filling out her own cultural interest survey  ( culture interest survey)

this student decided to create this sushi to represent herself and chose another culture that she wanted to pursue through and inquiry project.

Student's Cultural interest survey filled in.

Student #2

Student creates an over sized pencil that states "it's okay to make mistakes" as his personal artifact

Student's personal artifact

Student #3

Students thumbnail sketches for mural. Stickers indicate peer feedback on strongest composition.

In order to make the leap from their own personal culture to that of ancient culture we created a challenge to make them think of priorities in a culture.  Students were challenged to think of ten things that they would bring with them if they had to go to deserted island for the rest of their lives (this was meant to liken it to Ancient Egyptian belief in the after-life).  They had to prioritize the things from most important to least important.  They had to plan a mural of these objects with the most important being the largest or the most EMPHASIZED like the Egyptians did in their murals.  Then we showed them how artist use elements of art to create emphasis  emphasis and message ppt.  Then they created final plans

final mural sketch


Once the students made the connection from self to world context of culture they began their inquiries on their chosen culture.  They used their close read skills to acquire knowledge about the culture they chose. They learned these skills while looking at each other’s works and made inferences about the person through their artifacts.  close read record sheet.

Student #1

Ancient Japan Inquiry group

Students formed groups based on interest and began to research a cultural aspect from the list on the Cultural Interest Survey.   They developed questions about their topic and specified the aspect of the culture they wanted to pursue.

Student #2

Samurai Warrior of ancient Japan

These students spent a great deal of time building an artifact of a Samurai Sword with attention to detail.  After visiting the Field Museum with a curator the students learned about contextualizing the artifacts through a variety of methods.   They saw murals, text, movies, replicas, sound pieces, hands-on activities as ways of emphasizing the artifacts.  In this case the students created a mural of a warrior to hold the sword.  Later they brought out the first grades to see if they could understand the ideas through their contextualization of the artifact.

Student #3

ARTIFACT CURATION PROJECT – The students followed this document to guide their development of the curation of their artifact. Cultural Artifact Curation Project Rubric.  With the help of the rubric students knew what they need to address to be successful in their work.

Ancient Japanese cart

Write up for Japanese Cart



As the year came to a close, the students were challenged to conduct their own inquiries into cultures studied in class. Students again used their research to create artifacts, and written reports, which were then shared with the entire Ravenswood community during the school’s annual “World’s Fair” event.

Student #1

Hieroglyphics cartouches created in the Language inquiry group

Student #2

Social and Political pyramid created by the government inquiry group

Student #3

World's Fair day installation for going public with student learning through inquiry about Egypt past and present.

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