Making geography come alive
This week was an intensive jump into asking ourselves how geography and climate affected how and where ancient civilizations developed. We studied the varied geography of ancient China and how deserts and mountains protected the civilization from outsiders. We analyzed a map of India and debated which parts (the rivers, deserts, mountains, or plateaus) would have been most likely to support an ancient civilization. We acted out a map of ancient Egypt with kids lying in a line for the Nile river, swaying their arms for the Mediterranean sea, and acting appropriate hostile for the surrounding deserts.
Final project expectations
We also discussed the list of expectations for the final project. Each group will be responsible for creating their own broadcast news program from one of the ancient civilizations we are studying! Here's some more detail of what will be required:
BROADCAST NEWS PROJECT REQUIREMENTS
How does climate affect human societies and how do human societies affect climate?
Your news show should meet the following general expectations:
Hey guys! It's been so much fun getting to know my new project group! Early in the week, we investigated the ways archaeologists learn about the past, and we looked at primary source artifacts (cave paintings, tools, etc.) to try to determine what they can tell us about ancient peoples.
Then we looked at the evolution of humans from early hominins to hunter-gatherer societies to farming communities and city-states. Researching early hominins, we drew images of superheroes first and talked about the various superpowers our favorite heroes have, and how having that superpower differentiates them. Then we learned about groups of early humans, such as Homo habilis (handy man), Homo erectus (upright man), and Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens, and talked about the capabilities (superpowers!) each of these groups developed. Students examined illustrations of each group to deduce what kinds of capabilities they had, such as building tools or using fire.
Then we took turns acting short skits to demonstrate the differences between various groups in human history. After learning about early humans, we turned out attention to the evolution from hunting and gathering to farming, studied the difference between the Neolithic and Paleolithic times, and worked on short cartoons to demonstrates ways human societies evolved from the old stone ages to the new stone ages.
The first ancient civilization we turned out attention to was Ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia. Students were given four problems to solve (problems the Sumerians faced) and worked in groups to think about how they would solve them. The problems were: overcrowding in the foothills, how to survive in a river plain that was either flooded or dry, how to manage a complex system of canals that stretched across cities, and how to avoid attack. Students came up with some great solutions, and some were very similar (such as dams and canals and moats) to the solutions the ancient Sumerians decided on!
Great job on the presentations!
Wow! The kids did SUCH a great job with their presentations this week! I was so excited to see them bringing all their hard work together. Their "current events stories" and advertisements showed their research and understanding of the ancient time periods they had studied, and the "weather" reports touched on the human relationship to climate and geography. And of course, I loved the sense of humor so many of them put into it! It was so much fun to work with them on this.
By the way, if you were there and got any photos or videos, can you please send them to me! I will try to upload some here!
Welcome to my new project group!
Also, this week I got to welcome my new project group! It was only for a second, though, as I was out of town Wednesday - Friday. However, I put some great (I hope!) lesson plans into the hands of our subs, and they got a great introduction to the themes we are studying. Before we look at specific civilizations, we look at world geography and world history as a whole, trying to create a foundation and a place in our minds for all the fun research and question-asking we have ahead of us!
The first lesson on Wednesday is to create a "sticky note map" of the world!! One of the best teaching tips is to see what you know and what you don't know before you get too far into anything. The sticky note map asks kids to try to create a world map from memory, then research the countries they were given, and then try again. It's a hands-on way to start thinking about world geography. On Thursday, they completed a lesson about how people study the past. They think about items they themselves own and ask themselves what someone 10,000 years in the future might think about those items! Then they look at actual ancient artifacts and make hypotheses about them before reading what archaeologists and historians think. On Friday, the kids researched some events in ancient history, presenting those they thought were meaningful. They sat in chronological order as we begin to paint a picture of what a timeline of ancient history looks like!
Broadcast News Coming Soon to a Middle School Near You!
The teams are hard at work writing, editing, and rehearsing their news programs for our upcoming presentations -- mark your calendars so you don't forget! Each team is responsible for including several news stories about their areas of the world, as well as age-appropriate commercials (by age I mean historical era, not years they've been alive), a "weather" report that, as you will see, is much more than a weather report, and much more. Some groups are even working in some fun and super-cheesy anchor bantering!
Learning about Ancient Civilizations
In addition to the student-directed work of the broadcast news programs, we are also participating in some fun all-class investigations into the ancient world. In our first lesson, we learned about the different ecosystems in India and discussed which were more likely to be chosen by ancient people for a settlement. Students ranked each kind of ecosystem by a number of different criteria as we tackled this question.
For our second lesson, students acted as archaeologists this week, uncovering pieces of the ancient city of Mohenjodaro. There was art buried beneath piles of glue sticks, ancient chess boards hidden under chairs, and a host of other ancient treasures hidden around the classroom. Students had to uncover the items and guess what they were and what their purpose was. Afterwards, each group read a little bit more about one of the items and presented what they learned to the class.
We also went on a "tour" of India during the time of the Gupta Empire, discovering many of the things they enjoyed during this time historians refer to as the "golden age". Students had to guess what kind of achievement they were looking at, and then decide why they thought each achievement added to the nature of the "golden age". We also talked about the pros and cons of historical era names like this, remembering last year when we talked about the "Age of Exploration" and how that was a name based on only one culture's experience at that time.
We've started working on our broadcast news presentations, even as we continue our research into ancient cultures. Groups are each responsible for a news show that includes anchors who introduce topics and provide transitions and necessary background information, 3 news events stories from ancient times, a "weather" report that answers the first part of the big question of the project (how does climate affect human societies), and integrating their speeches into the show.
Students finished first drafts of speeches last week and next week we will work on choosing excerpts from those speeches to include in our news shows.
Groups will present these to parents on Tuesday, November 13. We will run from 12:55 - 1:30, or you can come earlier to see Greg's group present as well. We hope to see you there!
A link to the requirements student groups must meet for this project is here:
We've been immersing ourselves in Ancient Egypt this week. We finished out sailing trip up the Nile in our felucca, which students are writing about in a 3-paragraph letter that is due on Monday. We also studied some maps of ancient settlements while asking ourselves the question: how did geography and climate affect where ancient peoples settled? This plays right into the overall question for our project, How does climate affect human societies and how do human societies affect climate? We made a map of Nile settlements (Egypt and Kush) with our actual bodies (the seas were kids sitting and waving arms as waves, the Nile river was a line of kids laying down, etc.), and we drew maps of Michigan and talked about why people in Michigan settled where they did.
We then read about different social classes in Ancient Egypt. We started the lesson by talking about social classes at Summers-Knoll and building a social pyramid to represent them. We actually made two different pyramids, one with the students at the top, because students are the main reason a school exists, and one with students at the bottom and the principal at the top, because the principal has more power in decision-making. We compared this social pyramid to one describing the social classes in Ancient Egypt, where the Pharoah had all the power, and peasants were the largest group with the least amount of power. We also studied artisans, priests, government officials, and scribes. Students worked in small groups to act out a day in the life of people in their social class.
We also got just a tiny bit started on our final project piece, the broadcast news assignment, by talking in our groups about how we are going to structure our performances. We will get to focus more on the content of those performances next week.
Speeches and Sailing Trips
This week in project time, students finished up their first drafts of their speeches. We will be editing those next week, probably mostly at home.
We also started a sailing trip down the Nile River. (No really, we did, although they were completely unimpressed at my pink duct tape boat.) Sigh. However, we learned a bit about Egyptian pharoahs and some of the things they did. We even filled out a Venn Diagram comparing U.S. Presidents to Egyptian pharoahs and were a little dismayed that one of the differences we could point out was that there were female pharoahs. 4000 years ago.
On the "boat trip" we visited a couple of archeological sites and learned about them. Students wrote postcards demonstrating what they saw and learned. We have more places to sail next week!
This week, we've been working on our individual speeches. Kids have each chosen an historical figure to research and are writing a speech from their point of view. We've started on the first three steps of the process. The first step is basic research, where the kids were encouraged to read as much as possible as well as collecting notes. Then they were tasked with determining a central thesis for their speech, something their character would likely want to argue or prove. This thesis is written in their speech note organizers, a way of organizing their thoughts and research ideas. After deciding on a thesis, they need to look at their research to determine points that will help support their main idea. The next step of the process is writing the first draft of the speech. Every student is at a different different part of the process, which is one of the great things about the individualized way we do work here!
In their groups of four, they have also been working on collecting maps and important dates from the history of their region, to help tell the overall story of what happened there.
Also, because I missed the update last week (sorry about that!) here are a bunch of photos from our super fun class trip!
Hi all! It was fun to see everyone at curriculum night. In case you missed it, here's the slideshow Greg and I gave to talk about middle school, 5/6, homeroom, and projects. Check it out and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me.
This week in Social Studies, we worked further on our timeline and map research, learning about different kinds of maps and how to read them. We did work in our Map Study books, and searched for maps we could use to present information about the areas of the world we are studying. Here are two examples of the slides we are making, from two different groups.
We also went through what the project as a whole looks like. Here's an overview of EVERYTHING we are doing between now and November 8, their last day in fall projects with me, before I send them over to Greg for their science project.
Hey all! It's been fun getting a start on our social studies project. This fall we will be focusing on Ancient History, with some emphasis on Medieval areas as well, in Asia and Africa. For those of us with us last year, you know our focus was Medieval and Modern in Europe and North America (with one project on big world-changing ideas in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and the second project on World War II).
This week, students found out their project groups as well as the area of the world their group will be focusing on (it is one of the following: China, Korea, India, or Africa). They will spend much of (but not all) of the next 8 week in these project groups. There are 4 students in each group. Further, each group has been divided into two sets of partners. Once we hand out the project deadlines and deliverables, students will see that some deliverables will be done by their whole group, some with their partner, and some individually. Each group will tackle one area of the world, and on Wednesday of this week, each group had the chance to write to me with their requests for what they would study and why they wanted that choice. Then they wrote clues for an area of the world that was NOT their own, and I handed those clues to the group studying that area of the world--and that's how we found out!
Before we delve too deep into research and investigation though, it's really important to assess what we already know. A common failure of education is building a house on the wrong foundation. Or a shaky foundation. So we've spent the first two weeks talking about geography as well as the general timeline of human history.
In studying geography, we first write the names of all the countries on stick notes and did our best to create a map of the world with them. Students were forced to assess what they know and what they don't. Only after some struggle did I let them check a map for better placement of some of the countries.
After we did that, we talked about ways maps are made and the difficulties of flattening a sphere. We tried our own projections by cutting up a beach ball, explored different kinds of historical projections (you can watch some of the same videos we watched by checking out the social studies resources page), and also invited Sam in as a guest lecturer on the mathematics of map projections.
In talking about the timeline of human history, we have done a few things. We tried brainstorming major events in human history and determining when they happened, but noted that most of the events we could think of happened with the last hundred years...and ancient history needs to take us back thousands of years! We also tried ordering other major events and played a game called "Timeline" which asks you to guess when in history something happened. The dates themselves are not important, but understanding the scale of time is what we are going after. In addition to the game, we watched a great video that is up in the Social Studies resource section.
Finally, we talked about what, exactly social studies is, and read the first couple of sections of a textbook we will be using for some of our research.