Sunken Slave Ship Unit Driving Question: How do artifacts and their preservation impact communities?

Uncovering the Past Lesson Driving Question: How are artifacts and stories of past lives uncovered?
1. Kick off the activity by having students analyze the conditions African captives endured while traveling on the Clotilda.
  • Display the top graphic from the article Finding Clotilda for students.
  • Ask: What do you notice in this image? What questions does this image bring to mind?
  • After discussing the graphic, divide students into pairs and distribute the Identification and Authentication Seminar Prep Sheet student worksheet.
  • Explain: The seminar prep sheet is to help you collect your thoughts and ideas. As you are reading articles or watching videos, it will be helpful to take notes on the preparation sheet so during the seminar, you can refer back to the specific sources we’ve used.
  • Have the pairs of students read the remainder of the image captions from Finding Clotilda, noting any relevant details on their worksheet.
  • After students have finished reading, ask: What details were known about the Clotilda that could help with its positive identification years after its sinking? List key details from students in a visible location, such as on a whiteboard or chart paper.


2. Read What Tools Does a Marine Archaeologist Use? as a class to build students’ understanding of the field of maritime archaeology.
  • After reading, ask: Which of these tools were probably helpful in identifying and authenticating the Clotilda? (Possible answers: measuring tools, such as rulers or measuring tapes; the type of wood the boat was made from; length of the boat; height of the hold; the type of metals used; 3D scanners; magnetometers).


3. Engage students in deepening their understanding of the discovery of the Clotilda and what it means to the descendants of Cudjo Lewis and other survivors.


4.   Review the expectations for a seminar discussion, including speaking and listening expectations.

  • Prompt students to develop personal speaking and listening goals and write them down on the Identification and Authentication Seminar Prep Sheet.
  • Share expectations for the Socratic seminar, including any participation and behavioral expectations, such as each student should participate at least three times, students should refrain from sidebar conversations, and students should not speak over one another or interrupt. It may be helpful to have expectations posted on the wall for quick reference.


5. Students participate in the Socratic seminar while the teacher facilitates the questions and tracks student participation and responses on the Seminar Tracking Sheet.
  • Prior to the seminar, list all participating students in the left column of the Seminar Tracking Sheet.
  • Seminar participants should be seated in a circle with the facilitator/teacher included within the circle. Encourage students to refer to the notes they’ve taken on their seminar prep sheet throughout the seminar.
  • The facilitator poses questions one at a time, giving students time to respond.
  • The first question is suggested as a “round-robin” question that everyone should answer to warm participants up to the seminar process.
  • Students are encouraged to share their responses, as well as deepen the responses of others by asking clarifying questions, adding to the thoughts of other participants, or respectfully disagreeing with explanations.
  • As students participate, record participation and behaviors on the Seminar Tracking Sheet.
  • Once the discussion on one question begins to lull, move on to the next question.


6. To close, students respond to the Post-Seminar Reflection questions at the bottom of the Identification and Authentication Seminar Prep Sheet.
    • Have students reflect on whether or not they’ve met their goals and how the learning may impact their own thinking and lives.
    • Encourage students who felt unable to share their thoughts during the seminar to write any additional comments they wanted to share in the space provided.
    • Collect students' responses.

Informal Assessment

Discussion: As students discuss their findings from the video and the readings, clarify any misunderstandings or probe deeper for further learning.

Identification and Authentication Seminar Prep Sheet: As students are working, walk around monitoring their responses.  Encourage students to provide additional detail or reasoning where needed.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Provide reasoning and evidence when developing answers to open-ended questions.
  • Actively participate in a discussion using evidence about historical events and multimedia resources.
  • Connect first-person and second-person accounts of historical events to their own lives and the present.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Research

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Energy Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts

  • D2.Civ.10.6-8:  Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1:  Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.2:  Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9:  Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Eco.1.6-8:  Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
  • D2.Geo.6.6-8:  Explain how the physical and human characteristics of places and regions are connected to human identities and cultures.
  • D2.His.6.6-8:  Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per learner, Monitor/screen, Projector, Speakers

Physical Space

  • Classroom


To participate in a seminar, students should be sitting in a circle or square facing one another. This may require desks to be pushed against the wall and students to sit in chairs or on the floor. It is suggested that they do not have access to anything other than their seminar preparation sheets in order to prevent distractions that may come from other materials.


  • Heterogeneous grouping
  • Large-group instruction
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Accessibility Notes

If anxiety prohibits some students from comfortably discussing their responses during the seminar, another student can share their responses or the student can provide his or her written response to the teacher to read aloud. Credit for the idea should be verbally given to the appropriate student.

Other Notes

Depending on how familiar the class is with discussions and seminars, students may need additional prompting, wait time, or time to address all of the discussion questions. The teacher may choose to omit several core questions if time is short.

Background Information

The Clotilda was an atypical schooner built by William Foster in 1855. Originally built to transport legally imported and exported goods, changes like extra sails, supplies for people, and wood for sleeping platforms were later added for the illegal transport of human cargo. As a result of the illegal nature of this voyage, great efforts were taken to destroy and hide the remains of the Clotilda. However, there were records of the Clotilda’s structure and voyages and those, along with today’s maritime archaeological tools, helped researchers identify and authenticate the remains of the Clotilda.

Prior to the discovery of the Clotilda in 2019, other shipwrecks had been discovered in Mobile Bay and on the Mobile River. As a result of the thorough documentation by shipbuilders in the 1800s, archaeologists today are able to use research and tools to eliminate or authenticate archaeological finds. Despite attempts at destroying evidence of its existence, the discovery and authentication of the Clotilda has validated the experience of those who survived the illegal voyages, as well as their ancestors.

Prior Knowledge

  • The transatlantic slave trade was a part of the global slave trade that transported more than 10 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th century until the early 1800s. Enslaved persons were often used as a manual work force on sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations. In Africa, the slave trade caused devastation on many fronts. Violence erupted between tribes because of economic incentives that were offered to tribes and warlords in exchange for human cargo. It was difficult for tribes to develop economically or agriculturally because of the decrease in population and fear of captivity and enslavement. Most of the people who were taken captive were young men and women, which meant those left behind were typically too old, disabled, or dependent on others to sustain the African economy. The transatlantic slave trade legally ended for the United States in 1808, but as with most prohibitions, some people continued the practice, ignoring new laws and evading punishment.

Recommended Prior Activities



study of human history, based on material remains.


material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.


real or genuine.


to prohibit or not allow.


material, ideas, or history passed down or communicated by a person or community from the past.


tall, pole-like structure rising above the top of a ship, where sails and other rigging are held.

nautical archaeology

study of ancient ship construction and use.


protection from use.


something that is left over.


large sailing vessel with at least two equal-sized masts.


cut a hole through the bottom, deck, or side of a ship.


craft for traveling on water, usually larger than a rowboat or skiff.


long journey or trip.

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