The Great Pyramid Builders: An Integrated Theme on Ancient Egypt
Stone, Brian, Childhood Education
Ancient Egypt was full of wonders both amazing and capable of expanding the horizons of our social perspectives. Through a study of ancient Egypt, students will learn about that culture and civilization, and gain some understanding of the culture's immense wisdom in the areas of mathematics and science. By sharing this rich history with our children, we can maintain the memory and lessons of a foundational civilization for future generations.
In preparing to present ancient Egypt as a theme in the classroom, we must carefully consider that children learn in a variety of ways (through meaningful activities, for example), and that they must construct knowledge for themselves. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to accommodate different learning styles, prepare meaningful experiences through the exploration of the students' interests and prior knowledge, and allow for choice through a broad assortment of significant learning encounters. It is equally essential to provide avenues for interconnection and integration among separate topics within the theme. The main goal of such a theme is not memorization and regurgitation of isolated facts, but rather engaging the children, promoting their higher order thinking skills, and involving them intimately with the concepts through various activities and experiences so that they might begin to build their own accurate perspectives and knowledge within the learning environment.
Introduce the theme of ancient Egypt with the following experience: Create an as authentic as possible Egyptian costume and a replica of an Egyptian artifact, using the book Spend the Day in Ancient Egypt (Honan, 1999) as a resource. Dress in the costume and introduce yourself to the class as an ancient pharaoh of Egypt. Explain the object that was chosen to show the students, and introduce the theme by explaining that the children will have opportunities to explore ancient Egypt for a given amount of time (2-4 weeks). (Teachers may consider inviting/engaging families and parents in this project to work with their children at home. The teacher may send home notes, invitations, or suggestions to engage families/parents with their children as they might jointly explore the theme by reading books, watching movies/ documentaries, and/or visiting museums, etc.)
Using a variety of centers will allow for choice and varied experiences. These centers must be open-ended, meaning they must not have a singular prompt with one outcome response. They must incorporate a wide assortment of possible learning outcomes that are driven by student interest and choice. Do not ask a question with a specific answer. Rather, present a category (such as pharaohs), and ask the children to discover a path within that topic and represent what they have learned with a drawing, craft work, or story. Center activities may offer a large amount of possibilities for this theme. The following are potential center choices as well as descriptions of some activities.
* Reading/Writing Center: Have students try to read and write with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Students also may make cartouches, which are hieroglyphic figures represented vertically and enclosed in an oval. This signifies the name of royalty, such as a king. Students also may read or write stories about ancient Egypt. They might write a story in the first person about a day in the life of an ancient Egyptian.
* Art/Craft Center: Students may research Egyptian art and draw themselves in profile, as the Egyptians did. This may, in turn, lead to questions about why the Egyptians always drew in profile. Many animals were sacred to the Egyptians and so the students may want to organize and categorize the different animals, draw them, and make a chart as to what specific trait was revered in each animal. They also may want to do the same for the Egyptian gods. …