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Teachers enhance K-12 lessons with IU’s Windows to the World digital artifacts

May 31, 2023

When Lisa Harton started a lesson centered on “The Spider Weaver” in her first-grade classroom, tools from Indiana University helped her transport her students far beyond the book’s pages.

A woman stands at the front of a room presenting to teachers seated at tables around the perimeter Lisa Harton, a teacher at Spring Mill Elementary School, shares how she's incorporated artifacts from IU's Windows to the World website into lessons for her first grade students. Photo courtesy of the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies

Harton, who teaches at Spring Mill Elementary School in Indianapolis, used Windows to the World: Digital Artifacts for Global Educators to expose her students to more information about the Kente cloth that’s at the center of the story. The online resource, which is a collaboration between several area studies centers within the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, gives K-12 educators digital access to items in IU’s collections.

“I love that this resource is deep, engaging and free,” Harton said. “The internet is kind of a double-edged sword because there is so much information out there, but the quality is not guaranteed. It takes a lot of sifting and digging to find something new to share with the class, but with this, the research is already done.”

The collections available made it easy for Harton to build on her initial lesson plans. Students started by learning more about the origins of Kente cloth and then discussed how clothing represents who people are.

They learned how colors can also represent people and wove their own paper Kente cloths to reflect themselves. That launched them into another lesson that examined whether weaving was part of other cultures, giving Harton the opportunity to use other artifacts from the textiles and woven materials collection.

A woman stands in front of a projector screen Kelley Alani, a teacher at Binford Elementary School, explains how Windows to the World helped her teach students about world civilizations. Photo courtesy of the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International StudiesKelley Alani, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Binford Elementary School in Bloomington, Indiana, has also used Windows to the World to complement her existing lesson plans. She found it especially helpful when teaching students about world civilizations.

“I have to teach the same subjects, but I’m always looking for a new way to do it,” Alani said. “We have a diverse community that we serve, and some of our kids will never step foot on IU’s campus, even though it’s a few blocks away. This gives them that exposure.”

Alani and Harton recently gathered on the IU Bloomington campus with other K-12 teachers from across the state to share how they’re incorporating the digital artifacts into their classrooms. They also shared feedback with the IU educators who developed the online toolkit, who have been available to the teachers since Windows to the World launched.

“All of the people involved from IU want us to call them and email them and ask questions,” Alani said. “And that’s exciting because it’s important to have that connection between IU and community members.”

Artifacts from East Asia will be added to Windows to the World in the fall, in partnership with the East Asian Studies Center. Anyone interested in the project can email with questions or for more information.


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Barbara Brosher

Executive Director of Storytelling and Research Communications

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