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History in Your Hands

History Connections and Artifact Collections

Grades 3 to 5

Students examining roller skateHistory in Your Hands is an innovative, object-based instructional resource. The Chicago History Museum partnered with nineteen Chicago Public School teachers to develop classroom artifact kits and accompanying learning activities through the History Connections & Artifact Collections project. The resulting lessons span a broad range of topics and themes in Chicago and United States history and align with Illinois State Learning Standards at the late elementary level (grades 3 to 5).

The lesson plans are designed to:

  • Draw on children’s natural strengths—energy, inquisitiveness, and wonder
  • Provide students with opportunities to make observations, create interpretations, and draw their own conclusions from historical sources
  • Inspire students, stimulate their interest, and give them a deeper understanding of life in the past

The lesson plans and corresponding artifact kits are grouped into seven topics. Lessons from each unit may be used independently or as a set. We invite you to download, copy, share, and adapt these lessons for use in your classroom.

You will need Adobe® Reader®, which is a free application, to view the lessons.Adobe Acrobat

> Download Reader® from the Adobe® website.

Tips for Assembling Your Artifact Kit

Our tips and resources will help you build an artifact kit to use with these lessons.

> Download Tips for Assembling Your Artifact Kit (PDF 83 KB)

The Hidden Life of Artifacts

Introduce students to historical inquiry through hands-on exploration of artifacts. Each lesson can be adapted for use with objects from any historical era.

> Explore The Hidden Life of Artifacts

Early Chicago: The Fur Trade

Discover Chicago’s beginning as a fur-trade outpost in the early 19th century.

> Explore Early Chicago

Industry and Innovation

Complete an in-depth exploration of a common household item to uncover the history hidden in everyday objects.

> Explore Industry and Innovation

Transportation History

Explore Chicago's prominent role in the history of the railroads through transportation artifacts—both past and present.

> Explore Transportation History

The Great Migration

Gain empathy and understanding of the people who participated in one of the biggest population shifts in U.S. history.

> Explore The Great Migration

Growing Up in the '60s, '70s, and '80s

Investigate artifacts from these remarkable decades to learn about the fads and fancies that shaped Chicago in the late twentieth century.

> Explore Growing Up

Chicago Architecture

Discover the basics of architecture and Chicago’s important role in architectural history though artifacts and design-and-build projects.

> Explore Chicago Architecture

History in Your Hands lessons are part of the History Connections & Artifact Collections project, made possible by a generous grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation.

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