In order to study
objects or any visual medium, it is important to practice looking
closely. There are many ways to help students develop their perceptual
skills. These skills are not only useful in the museum but in the
classroom and the larger world. This exercise will develop visual
literacy and perceptual skills, and can be incorporated across the
disciplines, using a variety of objects. Using objects that relate
to the theme of a field trip or unit of study will reinforce the connection
between what students are studying in the classroom and what they
will see and do at the museum.
Using a projector,
select an object with a large amount of detail from Odyssey Online.
Ask one student to look at the object and state one observation (descriptive
adjective). Then go on to the next student, and so on. The challenge
of this activity is that no observation may be repeated; each must
be different, yet must be appropriate. After all students have participated,
repeat the cycle as many times as desired. The longer the process
continues, the more careful and detailed the observations must become.
This exercise can be done out loud, or in writing. The learning goal
is to develop a vocabulary for talking about what is seen (visual
Gather sets of
five specimens each of rocks, shells, cloth, clothespins, beans, etc.
Give each student one set of specimens, and ask him or her to write
a description of one of the objects so that other students can pick
out that particular object from all the others. The more similar the
objects in a set, the more challenging it becomes. The learning objective
is to practice concise and precise analytical and descriptive skills.
Variation: Give each student a box with an item in it, some familiar
and some less so. Ask each student to describe out loud to the class
what he or she is feeling in the box, and see if the others can guess
what it is.
Be a classroom
archaeologist. Ask students, "If an archaeologist excavated your home,
what object would give him or her the most information about you?
Why?" To facilitate a discussion, you might want students to draw
a picture (it could be drawn to scale on graph paper) of "their object,"
or even to bring it to school. To answer this question, students must
think not only about their identity and values, but also about the
kinds of objects that would and would not survive after being buried
for a long time. This could lead to a discussion of how the survival
of material culture might influence or bias the perspective we have
of cultures that we learn about through archaeological excavations.