BHP Team

Note from the BHP Team: We’ve kicked off this month’s Big Question article by John Vardalas with a deep dive into the history of a familiar object – the magnetic compass. If we use this object as a starting point, what can other everyday objects teach us about history? Whether you’re interested in supplementing Unit 8 through objects tied to global expansion and interconnection, or are digging into the Little Big History Project, the history of things teaches us about the history of our world. Teachers like those below are already sharing their ideas on looking at familiar objects in new ways. Will you join them in the conversation in Yammer?

This may have greatest relevance in Michigan, but I submit for wider approval: Consider the Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone. What does this object tell us?

For one, it tells us that Michigan was not always located at its current longitude and latitude. Petoskey stones originate from life, specifically coral. When coral dies, it falls to the ocean floor, eventually fossilizes, and becomes a stone. At some point, these stones were pushed to Michigan’s location. Michigan does not have living coral along its beaches. Michigan, at one time, was located near the equator. A nice thought during the past few weeks, when Michigan has been attacked by a polar vortex, necessitating many snow days! So much history revealed with a Petoskey stone!

Gregory Dykhouse, BHP Teacher, Grade 9
Michigan, USA

I love using everyday items to teach about history sources and evidence. In this activity, I brought in a selection of items from home—some old, some new, fake, authentic, etc. I had students predict the oldest, most expensive, so on. So much fun; they all wanted to make or find their own item to test the class.

Hayden Brown, BHP Teacher
Western Australia, Australia

I like to focus on items students use in their daily lives, such as the phone or food. You can connect them to all the thresholds, and show increasing complexity through the evolution, as well as different uses across societies.

I really like this site ( It seems so familiar, but I’m not sure why. Definitely sharing with my students. I think I could easily get stuck on this site for a long time. Lots of good stuff!

Kathy Hays, BHP Teacher, Grade 9
Arizona, USA

Want to throw your thoughts about meaningful everyday objects into the mix? Join the conversation on Yammer to share activity ideas with other BHP teachers to bring relevant, new content into your BHP classroom!

Header image: A Polished Petoskey stone from Emmet County, Michigan, by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, CC BY-SA 3.0 (left); Chanel 2.55 bag, by Liu Wen Cheng 我希望成為, CC BY-SA 2.0 (center); and mobile phone by Tinh Khuong on Unsplash, CC0 (right).

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