As part of Manhattan Country School’s 7-8s Family Study, the children in the class read about family heirlooms and discussed the question: “What is a passed-down item?” After reading stories such as The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco and The Worry Stone by Marianna Dengler, the children were asked to bring in an item that had some significance in their families.
We established that passed down items did not need to be things that were expensive but rather had great sentimental value. Together with their parents, the children chose an item and discussed its significance. The 7-8s then brought their artifact to school to share the story with the group. With much excitement, each child told the story of their artifact and listened to the various stories of their classmates, and it was clear there needed to be an outlet to share these items further. We chose to build our own Artifact Museum here in the classroom. The children wrote cards giving a short description of the artifact, its story and an explanation of why it was special.
The morning of the museum’s opening, parents were invited on tours of the museum and into discussions with children about their families. At the close of the museum, 7-8s shared their thoughts about the experience:
- “I felt proud having my artifact in the museum.”
- “I liked reading everyone’s cards about their artifacts.”
- “I liked giving tours.”
The investment the 7-8s have shown throughout our Family Study has made it a rich and thought-provoking piece of curriculum. We look forward to even deeper exploration of the families and cultural traditions of our group.