Tea for Two

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, August 23, 2006

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Design History

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One fifty-minute class period


Throughout history people have designed objects that helped them connect and communicate with other people. In this activity, students will examine how certain items can link family and friends together in unique and interesting ways. Students will analyze how historic artifacts have helped people connect in the past. They will examine and write about an object in their personal life that serves this same purpose.

National Standards


Students will do the following:
  • analyze how artifacts can serve to foster connections with people
  • write a description of object that has helped them connect with friends or family members


  • websites


Building Background Artifacts that Connect People

The purpose of this activity is to provide an opportunity for students to examine how historic artifacts helped to connect people in the past. 1. Show students the photograph of the silver teapot from 1742.
https://www.smithsonianlegacies.si.edu/objectdescription.cfm?ID=249 Share the following description of the item with your students:
"As artifacts are made, used, and passed on, they create a web of relationships. This silver teapot, centerpiece of the social ritual of taking tea, also linked family members across generations." 2. Discuss the role that the teapot played in the life of this family. 3. Brainstorm a list of artifacts that have served to connect people throughout history.

Steps for Learning Personal Connections

In this activity, students will reflect on what objects in their everyday lives serve as vehicles to connect and communicate with friends and family members. 1. Ask students to write a description of an object that has helped link them to their friends or family members.
2. Explain to students that they need to answer the following questions in their description:
  • How would you describe the item?
  • Do you think people connected during the designing of the item?
  • Do you think people connected during the making/production of the item?
  • How has using this item helped you to connect with other people?
  • Do you think this item will create a web of relationships when it is passed on?
3. Have students find a photograph of, or draw, a picture of the item they described. Teacher Note: Google is a good resource for finding photographs. Tell students to go to https://www.google.com/ click on the "Images" button and type in the name of the item. 4. After students have finished writing their descriptions, have them paste the description and the image of the item on a piece of construction paper. 5. Create an "Artifacts Connect People" display. 6. Before displaying students' work, you may choose to have students play a game of Twenty Questions based on the objects they described.



Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their writing process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.

-How effective are the ideas and content of your paper? Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -How effective is the organization of your paper? Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -How well do the details explain your topic? Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -How well do your reasons support your topic? Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor - Rate how well your writing flows between topics. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of your writing. Excellent          Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Have students interview people from previous generations about the artifacts that fostered connections in their teenage years.

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