Artefact Investigation Lesson Plan – Nepean Museum

Artefact Investigation

Lesson Plan (Grades 3-6)


Artefacts are unique primary sources. At first glance, they may not appear to communicate a lot of information, but if you take a closer look, you may be surprised by what you discover. In this lesson students will have the opportunity to look critically at an artefact, formulate their own conclusions based on their observations and use secondary sources to confirm or contradict their findings.

Curriculum Links:

Heritage and Citizenship: Grade 3 – Early Settlements in Upper Canada
->use primary and secondary sources to locate key information about early settler communities

Heritage and Citizenship: Grade 4 – Medieval Times
-> use primary and secondary sources to locate information about medieval civilizations

Heritage and Citizenship: Grade 5 – Early Civilizations
-> use primary and secondary sources to locate information about early civilizations

Important Terminology:

-> Primary Sources: original, first-hand accounts created at the time, or shortly after, something

-> Secondary Sources: second-hand, published accounts created after primary sources
-> Artefact: an object remaining from a particular period that was created by humans and usually
has a practical purpose
Key Questions:
-> What is an artefact?
-> What is the difference between a primary and a secondary resource?
-> What information can artefacts reveal about the past?


As a group, define and then distinguish the differences between primary and secondary sources. Using one of the Nepean Museum Discovery Kits, invite the students to work in pairs or independently to complete the Artefact Investigation sheet (Appendix 1). When the sheet is completed, the students can be challenged to use secondary sources in order to determine the use and function of the artefact they investigated. Students can be invited to present their findings to their peers.

*If unable to rent one of our Discovery Kits, please visit our website at, select an artefact from our collection that is available online, and complete your artefact investigate. Some suggested websites from which artefacts from Medieval Times can be viewed include:

->Victoria and Albert Museum
->British Museum
->Metropolitan Museum of Art

Some suggested websites from which artefacts from early civilizations can be viewed include:
-> Royal Ontario Museum
-> Canadian Museum of Civilizations
-> Implications for Future Lessons:
-> Write a story about the person(s) who used a specific early settler / medieval / early civilization artefact.
-> Write a newspaper article about a unique early settler / medieval / early civilization artefact that was uncovered on an archeological dig.
-> Visit the museum, receive a guided tour of the collection and learn more about the storage and care of artefacts in the collection.
-> Sketch or paint and image of an artefact, ensuring to emphasise the elements and principles of design

Curriculum Links:

-> Language Arts – Writing
-> Mathematics –


-> artefact investigation sheets
-> rulers
-> pencils
-> erasers
-> artefacts (Discovery Kit)
-> microscopes
-> secondary sources

Appendix 1: Artefact Exploration

Artefact Exploration

Artefacts tell us a lot about the people who created them, the people who used them and the time in history when they were used. There are over 20,000 artefacts in the Nepean Museum collection. We have a lot of stories to tell.

Step One: Take a close look at the artefact. Ensure that you handle the object carefully. Describe the artefact below (materials used, manufacturer, date of production, etc.)

Step Two: Sketch the artefact. Use labels where appropriate. Take accurate measurements.

Step Three: Time to think critically and make predictions.

What do you think the artefact was used for?


Who would have used it?


How do you think this artefact was made __________________________________________________
What does this artefact tell you about the person/people who used it? _____________________________________________________________________________________
What does the artefact tell you about the time in history when it was used? _____________________________________________________________________________________
Step Four: Use secondary resources to learn more about the artefact. Were your predictions correct???
Artifact. [Def. 1a]. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster Online. Retrieved May 16, 2013 from .
Eamon, Michael. (n.d.). Defining Primary and Secondary Sources. The Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 16, 2013 from
The Ontario Curriculum: Social Studies, Grade 1 to 6; History and Geography, Grades 7 and 8, 2004. Queen’s Pinter for Ontario.