History 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 and 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). They 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
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.
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 nineteenth century. Explore Early Chicago: The Fur Trade
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
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 US 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 in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s
Discover the basics of architecture and Chicago’s important role in architectural history though artifacts and design-and-build projects. Explore Chicago Architecture
Tips for Assembling Your Artifact Kit
Our tips and resources will help you build an artifact kit to use with these lessons.
Local teachers wrote the History in Your Hands lessons as part of History Connections and Artifact Collections, a project made possible by a generous grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation.