Learning Objectives

  • Students will make observations about family artifacts based upon physical attributes.
  • Students will understand that scientific observations must be objective, not subjective.
  • Students will determine what characteristics of an object are considered important details.


Tools And Materials

  • Students will need to bring in their interesting items, or if unable to bring these items into class, they will need to bring photographs of these items.
  • You may also wish to provide access to computers with word processing software.
  • Optional: Computer with Internet access with a presentation device or available computers for groups of students to view streaming video.


Teaching Stratedgies

  • Explain to students that any good researcher is required to make observations about any objects that they discover or bring back from the field. This is the basis of any future findings.
  • As an introduction to this activity, have students watch one or more of the video clips about analyzing historical objects. After watching the clips, discuss with students the kinds of characteristics they might look for in their objects to gather historical evidence. What are some ways they could analyze or weigh the evidence they find to determine its accuracy?


Ernie Pyle's Typewriter Observation

Ernie Pyle's Typewriter

Watch the full episode of this story from Season Five.


Weighing Evidence

Weighing Evidence

Find out from Gwen the importance of weighing evidence.


Paper trail

Ernie Pyle's Typewriter

Watch the full episode of this story from Season Five.

Trash Or Treasure

Trash or Treasure

Identifying whether you have trash or treasure.


  • Have students compile a list of interesting items they have found in the attic.
  • For each interesting item, have students list important characteristics about it. If students are having trouble with this process, ask them why they found the item interesting. Ask them what about the item might make it easier to determine the true history behind that item. You may provide a few suggestions such as color, material, craftsmanship, any writing on it, where the object was found, etc.
  • Tell students to make sure each of the characteristics they list are observable. In other words, don't have them list characteristics such as, "My parents told me it was 40 years old," or, "Looks authentic." Remind students that observations are measurable characteristics, not speculation, hearsay, or opinions.
  • Inform students that the next activity will be to group these observations, so it may be beneficial to make similar observations about each item, such as always noting where the object was found or of what material it is made.

Standards From MCREL Standards

Standard 2.11: Understands the basis of scientific knowledge


  • Knows that scientific explanations must meet certain criteria to be considered valid (e.g., they must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature, make accurate predictions about systems being studied, be logical, respect the rules of evidence, be open to criticism, report methods and procedures, make a commitment to making knowledge public).

Standard 21.1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument

  • Understands that when people try to prove a point, they may at times select only the information that supports it and ignore the information that contradicts it.
  • Understands that to be convincing, an argument must have both true statements and valid connections among them.
  • Evaluates the overall effectiveness of complex arguments.

 Standard 21.6: Applies decision-making techniques

  • Secures factual information needed to evaluate alternatives.
  • Predicts the consequences of selecting each alternative.
  • Makes decisions based on the data obtained and the criteria identified.


Standard 22: Working With Others

  • Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
  • Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.