Usually when I tell people that I teach Social Studies (among other subjects) they get a glassy eyed look and recall what they can of long gone school days in which the teacher droned on about the ancient Romans or the political structure of early feudalistic Japan, if they can remember anything at all. Since there are so many less than fond memories of Social Studies I always try to connect the subject matter to experiences the students have had. If that isn’t always possible (which happens from time to time, especially when talking about the mummification of ancient kings), then I usually find a way to make the learning engaging using games or exploration.
In this case, as we study ancient Egypt, I wanted to give my students something more to explore than the typical mummy videos and pyramid building activities (even though I really enjoy the pyramid building). Off I went onto the information superhighway (does anyone still call it that?) and found a fantastic site created by the British Museum about Ancient Egypt. Since the British are largely responsible for most of our knowledge about the ancient world (alright, the French helped a little), I thought it would be a decent site. True to form, it was a fabulous site, breaking down the ancient Nile kingdom into several elements including Mummification, Pharaohs, The Afterlife, Religion, and other areas of interest. Each area of the site has a place to read about the topic, explore it in greater detail, and then challenge yourself to a game using the knowledge you’ve learned.
For example, the area about Pyramids walks the learner through the construction of a pyramid, using plain easy to read text, while providing links for more difficult words like “causeway” and “mastaba.” Images are included along with the story, which is then followed by the exploration of a computer reconstruction of the Great Pyramid complex, complete with the queens pyramids’, the dock at the river, and the inside of the pyramid itself. The challenge then explores how large the great pyramid is (weight, area, height) by comparing it to modern day objects. In other words, the students enter in how many buses they think could park in the same area the Great Pyramid takes up? Busses are then lined up, and after you’ve seen just how many it takes (2600 busses by the way) it then explores how many people would be on the busses, etc.
Since the site covers the two objectives that I look for most in learning activities, I highly recommend it other Social Studies teachers. I have a project that I’m planning that uses the resources on the site, but I’ll have to write about that later in the week. Until then, brush up on your heiroglyphics.