Spring SAVY 2020: Day 2 – Ancient Civilizations (5th/6th)
Today was a busy day and we covered a lot of new material! Following a recap of last Saturday’s class, we opened today with a discussion of ancient technologies. Students discussed with each other the role of necessity in innovation. We looked at Eurasian models for the stone age, bronze age, and iron age and the technological advancements in each era. We looked at the role that the wheel and the domestication of animals and beasts of burden played in architectural development. We then looked at civilizations in other parts of the world—specifically Mesoamerica—that challenged early Eurasian models for technological development. Looking at examples of the Olmec and the ancient Maya, students learned how some societies were able to innovate and construct massive architectural achievements without the use of metallurgy, the wheel, or domesticated animals, thus demonstrating the limitlessness of human innovation. We also looked at post and lintel engineering in India, Greece, and stone hedge. Then, using paper cups and lunch trays, students used their knowledge of post and lintel architecture to engineer a tower that could support their weight. The team that engineered the highest tower (3 layers) won the competition and we discussed the techniques they used to succeed. Everyone was a good sport about it, and they had lots of fun!
Following our unit on ancient technologies, we moved on to cosmologies and religions. We briefly discussed how our cosmological beliefs can shape all aspects of our society. Students read an article about the Abbasid Caliphate during the Golden Age of Islam (AD 800 – 1258) and the opening of Bagdad as the center of science and philosophy during the dark ages of Europe. We then had a class discussion on how the social, mathematical, and scientific contributions of Islam impacted the renaissance and modern philosophy. We discussed how different the modern world would look without the contributions of the Islamic empire during that time period.
As we began a unit on ancient Egyptian cosmology, it became clear that the students already had a working knowledge of that society. Instead of lecturing on the subject, I split the students into groups of three and had them design a short lesson plan on a specific element of Egyptian society which they then presented to the class. Students practiced synthesizing information into a short presentation and public speaking. It was so fun to see them share with Ms. Maya and I the things they knew about this ancient culture! We were very impressed with their knowledge and their presentation skills. After their presentations, we reviewed the material for the day and it was evident that the students have learned a lot! To wind down after what was a long, information-packed day, we spent the final 30 minutes putting together an Egyptian mummy craft while I shared with them stories about the deities from ancient Mesoamerica. So many of our students have an avid interest in mythology, so it was fun way to close out the day! Overall, your students are doing an amazing job at learning new material and I look forward to seeing them next Saturday!