1. Tell students that they are going to do some detective work today. Explain that this is something historians and archaeologists do in order to analyze the past.
2. Discuss with students why it is important to seek out and evaluate things from the past and establish how this adds to our understanding of history.
3. Introduce today’s “historical artifacts” which are powder horns from colonial times. Tell them the goal is gaining a deeper understanding of how people lived during the 1700s. If possible, have a real one to display. Otherwise, hold up a large sized picture of a powder horn (Click these powder horn images to enlarge). To increase student interest, point out that they will be looking at examples from New Hampshire. If time allows, bring students to the New Hampshire Historical Society where a Fort No. 4 horn is on display (see Thomas Hastings horn in the main exhibition, “New Hampshire Through Many Eyes”).
4. Next, show students the parts of the powder horn to familiarize them with this invention. Explain how powder horns were made (see rationale and background).
They are ready to begin some investigative work.
5. Have students view a series of powder horns by taping pictures around the room so students can view them. Tell students that several pictures were done by Rufus Grider a very talented artist who lived from 1817-1900. He created drawings that represent the engraving on the horn as if it were unrolled. Be sure to display the pictures of powder horns in areas around the room where students can approach and make an up close inspection. The teacher could arrange it as if the students are visiting a museum or art gallery. If classroom space is an issue, then the powder horns can be shown on an overhead projector.
6. Ask students to circulate and gather around the pictures and encourage them to write down more questions about what they are seeing. Students will write questions like: what were powder horns used for (to carry gunpowder for soldiers, water, salt, tobacco etc.)? What are they made out of (cows horns)? Why aren’t they all the same length (some probably broke and were shortened. Also, the cows’ horns are different lengths)? What kinds of things did soldiers put on them (poems, maps, drawings)? What do these art works and writings reveal about the men of the time (it shows where they have been, what they were feeling/thinking. It also shows their artistic skill)?
7. Next, bring the whole class back together. Develop students’ analytic skills by having them hypothesize the answers before you discuss them. Then answer their questions. Explain how there are many types of horns with different types of uses (see rationale and background). Try to connect the content of this discussion with the overall unit on Colonial America and/or the American Revolution. For example, when trying to get students to understand frontier life and the French and Indian Wars connect the invention of powder horns to the theme of colonists creatively confronting their challenges in a variety of areas like housing, government and economy. Once students have a solid understanding of the role of powder horns in colonial times, students are ready to create their own artifact.