3. Fieldwork to investigate local history

One way to reconstruct how societies in the past lived is to analyse buildings, artefacts, sculptures and symbols found on sites from a long time ago.

In this part, pupils go on a field trip to a place of historical interest. If this is not realistic for your class, it is possible to do a similar kind of task in the classroom by using a range of documents, photographs and artefacts. Pupils can start to understand how to investigate these and fill in some of the gaps for themselves about what used to happen.

Case Study 3: Organising a field trip

Mwaka Mutinta has already explored with her Grade 5 pupils that the Kalomo were a well-organised, decentralised farming society. Now she wants them to think about how we know this. As her school is near Kalundu National Monument, she organises a field trip. She wants the pupils to explore the remains and/or artefacts , and think about how historians used this evidence to construct the empire’s history.

At the site, the pupils take notes about what the buildings look like. They also describe and draw some of the artefacts and symbols that they see around the site.

Back at school, they discuss all the things they saw and list these on the chalkboard. Mwaka asks them to organise their findings under three headings: weapons and tools, crops grown and animals hunted. The pupils then discuss what they think the different artefacts were used for, based on what they looked like and the other remains that were found there. Mwaka helps fill in the gaps by explaining aspects of Tonga culture and the meaning of some of the sculptures and artefacts. The ideas are displayed and other classes are invited to see the work.

See Key resource: Using the local community/environment as a resource [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Key Activity: Exploring local history

Before you start this activity, gather together as much information as you can about the local community as it used to be. You may have newspaper articles, notes of talks with older members of the community, names of people who would be happy to talk to your pupils.

  • Organise your class into groups. Explain that they are going to find out about the history of the village using a range of resources. Each group could focus on one small aspect, for example the local shop, or church, or school.
  • Look at the resources you have, if any, before going to talk to people.
  • Give the groups time to prepare their questions and then arrange a day for them to go out to ask about their area.
  • On return to school, each group decides how to present their findings to the class.
  • Share the findings.
  • You could make their work into a book about the history of your local area.

2. Using mind maps to structure thinking about the past

Resource 1: Great Zimbabwe