Spring SAVY 2020: Day 1 – Ancient Civilizations (5th/6th)
We were so excited to begin Ancient Civilizations and loved meeting all of our students! Our day began by setting class rules and assessing students’ knowledge of the class topic. I was impressed with how much they already know about ancient civilizations! I am aware that most students have an ancient civilizations component to their elementary education and hoped to teach something a little bit different with this class. As such, we began our discussion by analyzing what civilization actually means. We briefly discussed how our story began as a species in Africa and how “civilization” makes up less than 1% of our history! Students watched a short video on life prior to city-living and we went to the computer lab to do an activity on hunter/gatherer settlement patterns. Splitting up into small groups, students researched various hunter/gatherer groups and recorded data on population size and settlement patterns and types. Students then put all of their information into a large data base and looked for patterns and correlations among the data.
Following our trip to the computer lab students prepared for a debate on the pros and cons of civilization. Because civilization makes up such a small percentage of our history, we wanted to understand what drove people to begin living in cities and the pros and cons of doing so. Students split up into 2 teams and read experts from scholarly articles supporting their case. These readings were well beyond a 5th/6th grade reading level and I was amazed at how well they were able to understand and digest the material! Students prepared their arguments and presented their case to the class. They then had an opportunity to rebuttal. Everyone participated and they all demonstrated good sportsmanship!
After lunch, we discussed the development of domestication and sedentism. We looked at Sumer and the earliest known writing system; Sumerian cuneiform. We also looked at the earliest writing system in other areas, such as China, Egypt, and Mesoamerica. Students then had a chance to create their own writing system. They wrote a short message to future generations and then designed a writing system and translated their message onto clay tablets. Some students created a phonetic system, while others used logograms. They switched tablets and tried to pick out patterns or identify vowels in their neighbor’s message before using the key that each student designed.
Overall, our first day together was a lot of fun! The students are inquisitive and eager to learn. We look forward to our next class!
Ms. Rosemary and Ms. Maya
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