Salt Spring Island Archives

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Lesson 1: What Is History?


History is a form of knowledge about the past. It is constructed from the use of evidence and interpretation. In this lesson by examining a selection of evidence- an artifact, photographs and text, students will gain an understanding of historical methods. Students should come to realize there may be alternative hypothesis, but all should be reasonable, given the available evidence.

Lesson Prep

Activity 1: Artifact Analysis

Part 1

What Is History?

Begin this study by asking the students: What is history?

Record their ideas on chart paper.

Then ask them: What do historians do? How do historians know what happened in the past?

These ideas will be revisited at the end of the unit.

Part 2

Divide class into groups of 4.

Present groups with an artifact.Tell them where it was found.

Together they should decide:


Students record their ideas on Artifact Study Sheet.

When done, each group shares their ideas with the class

Tell them they are thinking like historians when they hypothesize.

Historians examine evidence from the past to construct a theory of what might have happened. Sometimes historians don't agree. Did they agree?

Activity 2

Part 1: What is evidence?

Ask the students to think more about historical evidence. If a historian wanted to write about the history of schooling in the present day, what evidence could they find here in our room? Collect ideas and discuss.

Tell them one of the types of evidence is artifacts, or objects, another type of artifact is an image.

Present the class with an image. Copy it onto an overhead transparency. Willis Stark with cougar

Tell them it is a picture from the Salt Spring Archives and is of Salt Spring.

Explain that the Archives is a place that collects historical evidence, like old photographs and artifacts.

Ask them to look carefully at its details.

Using chart paper, record the people, objects, activities seen in the photograph.


Part 2

Visit the Salt Spring Archives Website

In pairs have students go online onto the archives website. They browse the picture collection, then choose 1 picture to analyze. They print their selection, then analyze it together using the Photo Analysis Sheet.

When finished, they can take turns sharing their photos and analysis with the class.

Activity 3: Text Analysis

Another way we learn about the past is from the accounts of those who lived at the time. Explain we will be reading an account from the past.

First pass out or share as an overhead transparency the Text Analysis Sheet. Discuss the meaning of the various parts.
Pass out copies of a selection from Ebenezer Robson’s diary.
Explain he was a minister on Salt Spring in 1861, soon after the first non-Aboriginal settlers came to Salt Spring.

In pairs have the students analyze the selection, using this form.
They can use highlighting pens to highlight parts they think are important in thinking about Salt Spring history.

When done, have the students discuss their findings.

Teacher Resources

Artifact Study Sheet

Willis Stark with cougar

Photo Analysis Sheet

Text Analysis Sheet

Ebenezer Robson’s diary