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Smithsonian Staff Picks

 

Emergence of Civilization in China: Oracle Bones

In this student activity, students learn about life in early Chinese urban society by analyzing oracle bone divinations. These divinations, consisting of characters inscribed on turtle shells and animal bones over 3,000 years ago, are among the earliest systematic Chinese written language extant today. Students will answer object analysis questions, complete an activity using translations of divinations, and compare early Chinese urban society to Bronze Age societies in other parts of the world. This set includes multiple objects from the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

Created by Elizabeth Eder and Keith Wilson at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in collaboration with Tess Porter, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access.

Tags: archaeology; ancestor worship; shang dynasty; diviner; early writing; early civilization; ritual; artifact; archaeological remains; artifact analysis

Freer|Sackler Education
10
 

Writing Inspiration: Using Art to Spark Narrative Story Elements

The Smithsonian museum collection inspires many to research the history behind artifacts, but this collection explores the use of art and artifacts to spark creative story writing. Students will choose artifacts to craft characters, a setting, and a plot conflict to create and write a narrative story.

Targeted Vocabulary: Narrative, protagonist , antagonist, character, character traits, setting, plot, climax, and conflict.

After reading and analyzing several narrative stories for story elements such as character, setting, plot, climax, and conflict, students will use this collection to begin planning their own narrative stories.
Individuals or partners will first view the portraits and discuss possible stories behind each face before choosing a protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters. They may begin to discuss and imagine character traits for each subject.
Next, the student will select a landscape setting in which the story may take place. The writer will describe the landscape, imagine a time period, and name the location.
Finally, the student will either choose an action artifact around which to build a major plot event, or have that slide as a minor scene in their story.
Students may use the Question Formulation Technique to garner ideas for background stories behind the faces. http://rightquestion.org/
Once the story elements are in place, the students may begin to draft narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

With the artifacts selected as the major story elements, the students may begin crafting their narrative story. The artifacts can then be displayed as illustrations in the published narratives.
Kathy Powers
66
 

The Subway

Artworks, photographs, and other documents relating to the New York subway system.
Phoebe Hillemann
8
 

Unpacking Sol LeWitt’s Open Cubes

Students will analyze Sol LeWitt's variations of the open cube to apply their knowledge of drawing cubes using isometric paper and nets of cubes. Students will extend their knowledge of surface area while observing LeWitt's Cube without a cube and make a generalization for two formulas.

This is an activity for a grade 6 or 7 geometry class. Prerequisite knowledge: volume, surface area and nets of cubes.

Students can do the work in groups of 2-3 there are sections for thinking routines and prompts for students to upload photos of their work.

Amanda Riske
8