Activity 3 Material World

What the Camera Sees

Duration of Activity: 50 minutes
Materials List: Family Portraits, Worksheet 1, pens/pencils, paper

1. A photograph is one kind of primary source document that students can use to begin a study of other cultures. Divide students into small groups and give each a Material World Family Portrait. Point out that whenever we look at a picture what we already know influences and helps us understand what we see. For example, several pictures have Bibles, religious statues, and ceremonial candlesticks that give evidence of religious practices and beliefs. Students may recognize some but not others. Distribute Action Card 1. Have students study their Family Portrait and fill in Column 1 of the chart. Ask students:

  • What can you learn about this family from looking at this picture? (Students might mention family size, style of dress, type of dwelling, possible climate, income and standard of living, occupation, has or does not have electricity or running water, evidence of religious practices or religious affiliation)
  • How do you know where this is NOT? (Students can explain how they know that this is not a tropical climate, a polar region, a very dry or very wet area.)
  • How does knowing the name of the country help you to understand this photograph? (Can provide information on climate, economic activities, natural resources, dominant religious or ethnic groups, languages, trade links.)

2. After groups have completed this column of the chart and shared responses with the class, have them study the picture again and fill in Columns 2 and 3. Ask:

  • What aspects of our lives doesn’t the camera capture? What CAN’T you learn about this family from looking at this picture? (Students might mention their belief systems, values and customs; what their daily life is like, their work habits, their family history.)
  • What else would you like to know? What other sources of information could you use to learn more about life in this country? (world atlases and almanacs; geography, economics, and civics textbooks; online country profiles)

Example of how students might complete their activity sheet.

Name of Country: Mali
Name of Family: The Notomo Family

What I Already Know What I can Learn from Looking at the Photograph What I Want to Know
Mali is in Africa.
Mali has desert areas.
The family has no electricity. What is an average day like? Do the children go to school?

Talk about It. Write this question on the board and discuss: “Do we learn more from people who are like us or different from us?” Why? Encourage an open-ended discussion by emphasizing that there is no right answer.