Iowa Public Television


History Detectives

posted on September 18, 2012

History Detectives

Help your students learn what historians actually do: research, analysis, and interpretation. History Detectives takes historical objects and sheds light onto the stories, people, and history of those objects.

Each episode of History Detectives brings a number learning opportunities to directly involve your students in the discovery of their own knowledge through collaboration, cooperation, research, and analysis. Whether you are looking for suggestions on how to help your students sharpen their research skills, help them to conduct their own historical investigations, or adapt lessons that challenge your student to apply skills to real-world situations, History Detectives can help.

Though the primary focus of History Detectives is history, the series offers hundreds of resources suited to literacy, science, investigative techniques, economics, government, and more. On the website you can watch full episodes online, see previews, find lesson plans, use interactives, and research different investigative techniques.  IPTV has aggregated a wide-ranging list of resources to help you get started with the site. Once you feel comfortable with this, we encourage you to start exploring on your own and share what you find with us.

Navigation of the Site

Online Video

This link will allow you to watch full episodes online, browse different seasons, and find web exclusive content.

Detective Techniques

From multidisciplinary approaches to studying forensic antrhopology, to successfully investigating family history, to understanding the proper research techniques, the Detective Techniques section will give your students the tools to better understand what historians do. Learn the tips and trick of the trade to solve historical mysteries.

For Educators

History Detectives covers a range of historical eras, including the Civil War, the Gold Rush, the Industrial Revolution, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War. Find lesson plans related to specific episodes, learn about different types of investigations and find curriculum ideas on a variety of subjects.

Featured Resources and Lessons

Family History Activity Pack

Use genealogical research and oral history interviews to dig deeper. Family stories are a rich window on the past. They can paint pictures of an important period in history through the experience, perspective, and memories of people who lived during that time. These lesson plans which spin off of artifacts and family heirlooms featured in History Detectives episodes offer students opportunities to dig deeper into their own family history.

  • Eulogizing Family Members (Grades 6-12) After watching an excerpt from the "Spanish Civil War Eulogy" investigation, students prepare to interview parents and other family members to discover how a living or deceased family member lived their ideals. They then write speeches or eulogies about that person.
  • Investigating Favorite Objects and Their Owners (Grades 6-12) After learning about an investigation of a "Siberian Bullet," students investigate the history and provenance of an object treasured by a family member.
  • Documenting Family Stories of Bravery (Grades 6-12) Students watch an excerpt from the History Detectives episode"Leopold Medal," then profile a family member who committed a brave act in the form of a monologue.

Civil War Activity Pack

America's bloodiest war to date. It cost close to 1,100,000 casualties and claimed over 620,000 lives. These lesson plans are based on History Detectives episodes that examine a variety of artifacts—a weapon, an early photograph, a letter, a piece of pottery—that highlight African-American involvement in the Civil War. They offer students opportunities to research and create paper or interactive biographical posters, delve into the intersection of military and social history, and survey slave art and culture.

  • Before the War (Grades 6-12) In this lesson, students watch an episode from "John Brown Bike," in which the learn about John Brown's attack at Hapers Ferry.
  • Blacks on the Battlefield (Grades 6-12) After watching excerpts from related videos, students engage in a scavenger hunt to learn more about African Americans who fought during the war. 
  • Examining the Significance of an African-American Artifiact (Grades 6-12) Students reserach a Civil War-era face jug that formed a bridge between African American freedmen and their African pasts. They then create comics to depict the historical and contemprary significance

Women's History Activity Pack

Women have made vital but often little-known contributions to American history. These lesson plans are based on History Detectives episodes that examine artifacts which provide clues to how women have been integral in the visual arts, in fighting political causes, and on battlefields. They offer students opportunities to hold a history-based political convention, create visual arts designs, and do biographical research.

  • Debating Women's Suffrage (Grade Range: 6-12) Students view images from the women's suffrage movement before watching a clip from the History Detectives episode "Suffrage Pennant." They then hold a mock convention where students, in the roles of characters from history, present arguments for and against the women's right to vote.
  • Researching Women Artists of the 20th Century (Grades 6-12) After watching an excerpt from the History Detectives episode "Tiffany Glass," which focuses on how an anonymous team of women artists helped to create the famous Tiffany stained glass works, students research other female artists of the 20th century.
  • Using Primary and Secondary Source Documents to Create Digital Stories (Grades 6-12) After viewing an excerpt from an investigation about "Clara Barton," founder of the American Red Cross, students conduct primary source research about this historic figure, then use digital storytelling tools to tell the story of her Civil War activities and accomplishments.

Additional Resources

Detective Notebook

notebookThe student-friendly detective notebook is filled with questions to ask, facts to find, and handy ways of organizing and collecting evidence. It also features space for note-taking and is an ideal tool for students to use in their investigations.

Resources for Historical Research

This is a compiled directory of organizations, websites, and storytelling tools that students can use to research historical events or individuals.

Tags: anthologies education educators genealogy historians history investigations Language and Literacy research Social Studies students teachers

Subjects: Literacy & LanguagesScience & TechnologySocial Studies


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