Building Artifacts to Reveal the Industrial North

Alex Templeton's seventh graders are extending their learning about the Civil War by going hands-on in our Innovation Lab. The students have been studying the economic factors that contributed to the conflict, and looking into the ways that the Industrial Revolution developed and took hold in the northern states, while the southern states remained more agrarian.

To understand the Civil War, it's vital to understand the nature of the changes taking place in the country at that time. Students have been reflecting on the development of textile factories, the railroad system, and steam power, as well as the introduction of the water frame to the U.S., the natural resources that made factories possible, and the development of mill towns and the people that worked there. Using the tools and materials of the Innovation Lab, the students decided to create "artifacts" of some of the elements found in an industrial community in the North, such as a conveyor belt in a factory, a boarding house, and a water frame.

Before selecting their artifacts, the students identified the piece of history they wanted to tell and then designed and created their artifacts, justifying how the artifact tells the piece of history in a compelling and interesting way.

While building their artifacts, the students continually tweaked their designs to match their vision and to simulate historical accuracy. Based on their own experimentation and on teacher and peer feedback, students tested different materials and brainstormed about new components they could add that would create an even more historically relevant story. Mrs. Templeton says, "I'm so impressed by the creativity and amount of non-self-conscious willingness to experiment that I've seen my students display while working on this project."

As a next step, the class will create a museum-style display for their artifacts in the Innovation Lab in early November. Look out for it!

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About Benchmark School

Benchmark School, located at 2107 N. Providence Road, Media, Pa., is an independent, not-for-profit day school serving students in grades 1-8. Founded in 1970, the school is committed to helping bright students who have yet to reach their academic potential become confident and strategic thinkers, learners, and problem solvers who meet with success in school and life. For more information about Benchmark School, please call 610-565-3741 or visit