Abstract 13- Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010

Social Studies Research and Practice

Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010




Experiencing History: Integrating Cultural Artifacts into a Study of the Dust Bowl

Jeanne Swafford
Carol P. McNulty
University of North Carolina, Wilmington


History involves the study of people and the times and places in which they lived. Traditional instruction often is dominated by an emphasis on decontextualized facts, dates, and events. Too often, the study of history becomes lifeless and monotonous because it artificially separates people from the larger context of times and places in which they lived. Teachers can build meaningful contexts in which students experience history by using cultural artifacts as springboards into the study of people who lived in the past. Integrating the use of cultural artifacts, such as photographs, films, and music, allows teachers to create new entry points, new ways for students to connect to, and take ownership of, their learning. This article presents a rationale for including cultural artifacts in the study of history, which can promote a better understanding of the nature of history, personalize history, encourage student inquiry, and endorse the notion that history represents multiple perspectives. Cultural artifacts can be used to enrich instruction of any historical period, at any grade level. In this article, we provide examples of artifacts that can be used in a study of the Dust Bowl for the upper elementary and middle grades.

Key Words: Content integration, Cultural artifacts, History, Inquiry, Multiple perspectives, Student engagement

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About the Author(s)…

Jeanne Swafford, Associate Professor of Language & Literacy Education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her teaching & research focuses on content area literacy, particularly in the elementary grades, and the integration of children’s literature and other resources into content instruction. She can be contacted at swaffordj@uncw.edu.

Carol P. McNulty, Assistant Professor of Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She currently teaches Elementary Social Studies methods & supervises interns. Her research focuses on issues of teacher education and ways to better serve students who are not traditionally successful in school.

Citation for this Article: Swafford, J., & McNulty, C. P. (2010). Experiencing history: Integrating cultural artifacts into a study of the Dust Bowl. Social Studies Research and Practice, 5(2), 120-133. Retrieved from http://www.socstrp.org/issues/PDF/5.2.13.pdf.