POTW FBThird-graders are taking a hands-on approach to learning about the culture, society, and belief system of ancient Egypt.

Throughout the year, students are investigating four main questions to guide their study: “What is culture?” “How does geography affect culture?” “How do people use beliefs to explain their world?” and “How do people’s beliefs affect their daily lives?”

“The study of the ancient Egyptian culture allows us to explore these questions through a specific lens,” according to the third grade team. “Developmentally, third graders are ready to think beyond the ‘what’ and delve into the ‘how’ and ‘why.’ Looking at cultures that existed long ago and far away allows our students to grapple with these questions, to begin forming their own opinions.”

Recently, they reenacted the historical ritual of mummification by mummifying chickens.

“I thought it was really fun,” third-grader Max F. said. “I had never seen a dead animal bigger than a rat before.”

Students poured salt on the chickens — or green bell peppers as an alternative, if they weren’t comfortable mummifying an animal — to begin the drying process. They placed the liver in canopic jars, which are used to store organs, and put the heart back in the body because the Ancient Egyptians believed the heart has protective powers, third-grader Tatiola S. said.

“They believed they had to mummify the body so the Ba and Ka would recognize each other and go to the underworld,” Tatiola said.

While many students were a little nervous beforehand because they hadn’t seen a dead chicken with a head and feet, most enjoyed the process when they reflected on the experience.

“It’s interesting and I’ve learned lots about how ancient Egyptians mummified people and how they preserved bodies that will last thousands of years,” third-grader Harper R. said. “It’s really cool.”

In addition to the actual mummification process, students discussed the ethics of using animals for educational purposes, third-grade teacher Jenny Rinn said. Students shared their thoughts and opinions with their classmates and wrote a persuasive paragraph.

“I think it’s ethical to use animals in the classroom for learning and for pets,” one student wrote. Another said “I don’t think it’s ethical because it’s a waste of a chicken.”

Third grade teacher Katie Chapman said ancient Egypt is chosen as the overarching unit because it makes sense with the social studies curriculum and teachers are able to connect it to other discipline areas.

“We always go back and forth to how the questions affect us today and how they affected the Egyptians,” Chapman said. “A lot of it is understanding a rich, multifaceted culture that you can dive into. We can go in different directions based on student interest.”

Students also have studied ancient Egyptians’ beliefs about creation, food culture and agriculture, irrigation, pyramids, and social classes.

“It’s still mysterious today,” Rinn said. “We don’t know about everything. We’re still learning.”

Now that students have finished the first steps of chicken mummification, they will wait 40 days until the salt dries the animals out. They will then wrap them in linens and bury them later this spring.

April 1, 2016



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