History San José’s newest school program, History Detectives, brings together collections, curatorial, and education staff together to create a hands-on educational experience for students. The program takes place in History San José’s Collection Center, which houses over 500,000 artifacts pertaining to the history of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley. When students arrive they are given their very own ‘History Detective In-Training’ badges and are asked to solve a historic mystery.
Students work in teams to investigate the life of Johnny Kirk, an elementary school age boy who grew up in Santa Clara Valley in the late 1800s. Students examine primary source documents and artifacts, such as letters and personal journals, from the History San José Collection to piece together the story of Johnny’s life.
The program shows students how researchers learn about the past and how primary sources help influence our understanding of history. Students also compare the lives of late 19th-century San Jose residents to their own, discover the relationships between artifacts and the human activities they suggest, think critically about historic records, and learn how to make inferences based on information introduced by a primary source.