The production of market baskets was once an important industry on the island of St. John. Many baskets were made in the first half of the 1900s. The baskets were made mainly of two materials. Both materials are found on St. John. The first is hoop vine (Trichostigma octandrum). The second is basket wist (Serjania polyphylla). The basket wist is finer than the hoop vine. Other materials were occasionally used. Vine was collected on island. It had to be prepared before it could be used in making the baskets. Children were taught to make baskets on St. John in public schools. Classes for adults were also offered.
In this activity, students will use the questions from an Artifact/Object Analysis worksheet to meet and examine the photograph of a St. John Market Basket. Students will compare how the market basket was used in the past, and what items are used for that same purpose today.
Primary Sources in this Activity
Suggested Teaching Instructions
Before beginning this activity, help students to understand what a primary source is, and how a cultural object, like a basket, is a primary source.
Load the photograph of the St. John Market Basket onto an interactive smart board and have students make observations together. If there is not a smart board, students can work in small groups at computers.
Also load the Analyze an Object/Artifact worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions on the worksheet.
Analyze the Primary Source
Using the questions from the Analyze an Object/Artifact worksheet, help students to examine the market basket. You may load the Analyze an Object/Artifact worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions, print the worksheet and distribute to your students, or adapt the questions from the worksheet to create your own. Primary Source Analysis Worksheets
During the meet the object questions, pay close attention to what the object is made of, and where students think the material came from. During the make sense of the object segment, let students offer their ideas on how the basket was used. If students do not provide the answer, the teacher can explain that it was used by people to carry their items, mostly food, to and from the market.
After students have completed discussing the questions on the Analyze an Object/Artifact worksheet, the teacher can share information from the About section.
What do we use to carry food home from the grocery store and markets today? How are those items similar, and how are they different, from the market basket? Does anyone in the class know someone that makes this type or other types of baskets? Have they seen a basket like this one in their home? If yes, what is it used for? If you needed a basket, where would you get it from today?
This project idea is appropriate for 2nd grade. Help students to identify the artist of the basket and the museum that has the basket in their collection. (This information is included on the page with the photo of the basket.) Next, help students conduct an online search to find information about the person that made the St. John Market Basket. His name is Herman Prince.
If the online search is not possible, the teacher can help the students to read the following paragraph.
Herman Hershel Prince was born on October 14, 1913. He was from Estate Zootenvaal, St. John. He was one of best-known basket-makers on St. John. Herman learned how to make baskets from Ernest Sewer, another well-known basket maker from St. John. Herman taught basketry in the public schools for over 30 years. He retired from teaching in schools in 1976. He also taught basket making classes for adults.