UNSTACKED is a wonderful way to spark inquiry, analysis, and discussion. By visually exploring our images, you can bring the Smithsonian Libraries' collections into your classroom. Use UNSTACKED as a morning exercise, a way to introduce a new topic, or to discover your students' interests. Picture your world, dive into the stacks!
The research and creation of this project was funded by the Gates Foundation Youth Access Grant.
In this collection, I am exploring the connections between storytelling and art. I will also look at the connection of storytelling to neuroscience and the effects of storytelling on the human brain. I will be referencing the work of Will Storr (The Science of Storytelling), neuroscientists, psychologists and resources from institutions such as the Smithsonian, The National Gallery of Art, The British Museum, National Geographic, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. I will look at how artists use content, meaning, and context to create narrative within their particular medium.
Research suggest that language developed as a way to convey "social information", gossip. Furthermore, it is documented that curiosity kicks the dopamine reward signal in the human brain. Will Storr in his 2019 book, gorgeously researched and perfectly titled The Science of Storytelling tells us that psychologist Jonathon Haidt says the brain is a 'story processor' not a 'logic processor'. All of this tells us that humans are hardwired to tell and receive stories.
How do artists tell stories? Both Storr and Kidd tell us that psychologist Dr. George Lowenstein asserts there are four ways to induce curiosity in the human brain: questions or puzzles; a sequence of events without revelation of the "end"; "violation of expectations that triggers a search for an explanation"; or knowing that someone else knows something and you want to know it too. One could almost use these as headings to categorize art and and artistic movements. Artist capture a moment in time that prods human curiosity, in some cases for thousands of years, to create the rest of the story of that suspended juncture.
The audience for this collection might be students of psychology or English. It could be of interest to creators of story including novelists, playwrights, actors, screenwriters, musicians, and visual artists. And anyone interested in what Storr termed as "the science of the human condition".
Will Storr writes, "One benefit of understanding the science of storytelling is that it illuminates the 'whys' behind the 'rules' we're commonly given...Knowing why the rules are the rules means we know how to break them..."
Dunbar, Robin et al. Evolutionary Psychology. One World Publications, 2005.
Kidd, Celeste, and Benjamin Y Hayden. “The Psychology and Neuroscience of Curiosity.” Neuron vol. 88,3 (2015): 449-60. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.010
Storr, Will. The Science of Storytelling. London: William Collins, 2019.
An in-class activity for a college level Intro to Mythology course that has students consider how mythology is not only passed on through oral or written word, but also through art. #MCteach
This set of activities is designed to encourage students to think critically about how an artist’s race, background, and experiences might impact their ability to fairly and accurately tell the story of a different person or group - an "other."
Specifically, students will look at the creations of two white men - the painting Wi-jún-jon, Pigeon's Egg Head (The Light) Going To and Returning From Washington by George Catlin and the novella The Pearl by John Steinbeck - to analyze how the whiteness of these two artists might have affected their ability to fairly portray the indigenous people they sought to memorialize. Using primary source texts written by the artists themselves, students will conduct an inquiry into the possible motives and biases of these men in order to assess whether they, as white outsiders to the groups on which they focused, did or even could tell their stories accurately. The question students will be tasked with answering in writing as a culminating exercise is whether a white man can fairly and accurately tell the story of an indigenous people?
In terms of purpose, the study of the painting is intended to supplant a traditional anticipation guide to help students prepare to read The Pearl and also to provide a lens through which to analyze the text.
Subject: Language Arts
Age: 6th gifted - 8th regular classroom
1. Students will be able to relate to the working class struggles of people living during the Great Depression.
2. Students will be able to use this understanding as an introduction to themes from the historical fiction novel No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt.
This teacher's guide provides portraits and analysis questions to enrich students' examination of Tennessee Williams, an American playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner. Includes the video "Defining Portraiture: How are portraits both fact and fiction?" and the National Portrait Gallery's "Reading" Portraiture Guide for Educators, both of which provide suggestions and questions for analyzing portraiture.
- What do these portraits have in common? How are they different?
- How are these portraits both fact and fiction?
- How do these portraits reflect how they wanted to be seen, or how others wanted them to be seen? Consider for what purpose these portraits were created (such as Time Magazine, stamp, etc.).
- Having read one of his plays, does the portrait capture your image of Tennessee Williams? Why, or why not?
- If you were creating your own portrait of Tennessee Williams, what characteristics would you emphasize, and why?
Keywords: mississippi, ms, play, author, streetcar named desire, writer
Students will make connections between art and the literature we read in class to the concept of Truth and Justice.
Students will first do a whole class See / Think /Wonder on Amendment 8 by Mark Bradford. They then will choose or be assigned to an amendment and artwork that they will research further. By answering their own See / Think / Wonder about the artwork they will connect meaning of the artwork to the words of their amendment. They will then do further reading and research on their amendment by going to the provided links. Student will answer questions via their class link on the Learning Lab or on the Google Docs document in their online folder.
**The Rockwell painting will be assigned to Amendment 1, Westward Course to Amendment 2, Training for War to Amendment 3 and Independence to Amendment 4.
The selected images display the development of the American Dream over time.
Step 1: Review the images and their descriptions (press the " i " button).
Step 2: In your group, decide on the five images that best support your definition of the American Dream.
Step 3: Identify the time period, the person/people and place featured, and the American Dream referenced. By describing and analyzing each image, evaluate the American Dream. When evaluating, consider the questions below. (Write about 3 sentences per image)
- - - CONSIDER: How do the images reflect the idea of the American Dream? What conclusions can we draw from examining the American Dream through these images? How has the dream changed over time and what does it mean today? Are there any aspects of the American Dream that haven't changed?
Step 4: Have one member of the group post your analysis to the online Discussion in Canvas.
RI.3.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem
Questions for classroom discussion and research might include:
-What is the purpose of writing? Why use hand-writing or calligraphy instead of using a computer?
-How do alphabets differ?
-How can a style of calligraphy (or font change) the interpretation of a written work?
James Marshall's famous discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in Colma forever changed the landscape, economy and culture of California due to the mass migrations of 300,000 people. Rumors of gold's discovery spread quickly, and was confirmed by President Polk in an address to Congress. The news spread to countries around the world.
The journey to California was long and dangerous. The three major routes were: around Cape Horn by ship (six to eight months), the Isthmus of Panama (two to three months), and the Overland trail (three to five months). By ship, dangers included: ship wrecks, lack of food and water, seasickness and disease. Ships that survived the long journeys arrived to the ports of San Francisco, where migrants had to continue their journey to the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Traveling 2,000 miles on the Overland Trail by foot and wagon exposed travelers to other dangers such as misinformed trails, and a lack of food and water. Travelers were exposed to inclimate weather while crossing deadly rivers, deserts, and high mountain passes. Only the very basic necessities including food, water, wagons, stock, hunting tools, blacksmithing tools, clothing, blankets, sewing kits, medical supplies would be taken for the journey.
On the Overland Trail, many miners joined companies. These companies were made up of people with various skills; such as, carpentry, medicine, navigation, hunting, blacksmithing and wheelwrights. The likelihood of surviving these long and dangerous journeys increased significantly for those individuals who joined companies. If a company survived the journey to California on the Overland Trail, the company also had a higher likelihood of success in gold mining. Individuals within the company could stake multiple gold mining claims and the gold would then be divided among the people of the company. During the gold rush, individuals were only allowed to own one claim.
Understanding the nature of our own species has been one of the greatest mysteries addressed in the history of human art, philosophy, literature, and culture. This collection will present a history of man’s search for the meaning of his own character—what impulses drive man, what morals and desires construct his life, and what artwork is produced as a result of this character. Does culture impact the character of man? Does it influence the men of one culture towards a particular mindset that distinguishes it from other men, or are there foundations of character that run throughout all of mankind? By examining the way that authors, artists, and philosophers approach the study of their fellow men, we can understand not only the cultural influences that drive these questions but also the nature of the men doing the questioning.
In this student activity, analyze how and why iconic symbols of America, such as the Capitol Building and the United States Seal, were inspired by Greek and Roman art and architecture.
Explores the big ideas:
- How were symbols of America influenced by those of Ancient Greece and Rome?
- What might this desire to associate America with historic, successful democracies say about early American hopes for their new nation?
Includes: architecture, a seal, portraiture, a video, a primary source letter, discussion questions, and an opportunity to learn more through the full digitized text of "The Ruins of Palmyra," a publication that heavily inspired early American neoclassical architecture.
Keywords: greece, symbolism, classic, classical
This collection will be used to supplement students' rhetorical analysis of The Declaration of Independence. Earlier in the year, students discussed the paradoxical nature of the Puritans arriving in the New World to escape religious intolerance, yet they were exceedingly intolerant of other religions (i.e., Quakers). In a similar fashion, we'll examine the Declaration of Independence and a critical portion deliberately removed: references to abolishing slavery. We will examine a variety of works of art, noting the clues they give us regarding our founding fathers' often complex ideologies. #SAAMteach
A Detailed lesson plan follows in the "Notes to Other Users."
The Dred Scott case was one of America's most controversial Supreme Court decisions. Who was Dred Scott and did he have a right to his freedom?
The goal of this Collection is to engage students to read and research people and texts that comprised this historical event then write a persuasive essay based on opinion gathered from details and facts procured from their readings and research.
Dred Scott vs Sanford
Dred Scott vs Sandford
U.S. Supreme Court
Chief Justice Taney
Declaration of Independence
Pre Civil War Era
Is American Culture always perceived in the same way by everyone or does it differ from person to person?
February 25th, 1896, the 15th amendment was passed by the House Of Representative with a vote 144-44. The 15th Amendment states" The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race,color,or previous condition of servitude".
This collection is used, through a See/Think/Wonder format, to launch a discussion about the "Gilded Age" and how the lifestyles, values, belief systems, and socioeconomic circumstances surrounding this era helped prompt the Modernism movement. Discussions revolve around the economic disparities, and some polarizing movements such as Prohibition. Therefore, in a sense, this collection helps launch the Modernism/Great Gatsby Unit.
Students are divided into small groups - usually no more than 3 per group. Each are provided with one painting. During some lessons, I've printed out the pictures for them, but other times I've also provided them with a link and one student pulls up the painting on their computer - for the group; in this manner, they zoom in and really investigate the details. This works well for a small class. By this point in the school year, we've completed the "See - Think - Wonder" activity enough so that it is familiar. Groups go through this process on their own, and then their art work is on the smart board, and they walk the class through their discoveries, interpretations, and questions. Jointly as a class, we speculate about what this image might reveal to us about the time period, it's people, values, etc. How might we see this play out in literature? Eventually I weave in a number of the facts provided below in "Notes to other users."
I conclude with this statement by John D. Rockefeller on the smart board - - it seems to preview some of "The Great Gatsby" themes quite well.
"I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience." - - John D. Rockefeller, 1905
(For background/historical context notes, see below within "Notes to Other Users."
A collection focused on teaching about the power of diverse communities to Grades 3 and up. The artifacts found in this collection are intended to focus on the concept of cultural and artistic traditions by developing an understanding of diverse communities through the compelling question, “How does Culture make us similar or different?” Also, to help students build contextual knowledge under the supporting questions of (1) what is Culture, (2) how does Culture change over time, and (3) what can we learn about a Culture through their artistic traditions? #C3Framework #TeachingInquiry