Journeying Back in Time to the Indus River Valley

In Class 5 Humanities, students explore in deep and profound ways what it means to be human. Through lessons that illuminate the past, these scholars gain a greater understanding of who they are and their place in our vast, ever-changing world.

Recently, a cross-disciplinary unit involving social studies and technology transported the entire grade back some 4,500 years to the land where modern-day Afghanistan, India and Pakistan now sit. The Indus River Valley, one of the three earliest, well-established societies, along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, flourished from 2500 -1700 BCE during the Bronze Age.

Following several months of intensive study, the students – working in their four pods – were tasked with identifying an aspect of this fascinating civilization that resonated with them and then embarking on a thoughtful, multi-dimensional research project.

Guided by three essential questions, the students examined at least three sources, including articles, videos, books and webpages, to discover pieces of information, much like assembling a puzzle. They took thorough notes and kept track of their myriad components on a shared spreadsheet.

Next, fortified with newly acquired knowledge, they turned to technology to prepare virtual presentations, accessing tools like Tinkercad, an online three-dimensional modeling program; Scratch, a coding platform; and Pixton, a digital comic creator, and others. The students were encouraged to demonstrate their understanding by using any imaginative approach as long as their presentations were instructive and engaging with an interactive element and a concluding bibliography.

Their exhaustive research covered a bountiful array of facets of Indus River Valley life, such as inventions, tools, and everyday objects; laws and government; religion and gods; medicine and health; daily life; geography, and more. A wide variety of open-ended essential questions like “What games did people in the Indus Valley play?”; “How did Hinduism come to be?”; and “How were the cities laid out?” helped frame their stories.

As presentation day approached, the students put the finishing touches on their projects, practiced their remarks and made sure their technology applications were running perfectly. Because the presentations would be virtual, with the students logging in from home, many visitors would be able to attend, including all of Class 4 and their teachers. The Class 5 students would also be able to see each other’s presentations.

To give each student a space to showcase their work, the Class 5 teachers set up Zoom meetings and a tapestry of breakout rooms over the course of two hour-long periods on April 9; the first two pods presented simultaneously at 8:30 a.m., and the other two at 11:00 a.m. With the help of the teacher “co-hosts,” the guests rotated in and out of the virtual rooms to experience the captivating presentations.

During visits to Jenet Dibble and Nisa Wheatley’s Zoom meetings, the Indus River Valley came to life in exhilarating ways. In several of their students’ breakout rooms, the wide-ranging topics revealed interesting facts about leisure activities, home construction, topography, and the complexity of the caste system.

Sharing their screens, the students launched their succinct presentations, describing their particular areas of expertise to a revolving audience of students and teachers. With confidence and energy, they clicked through visuals such as eye-catching slideshows and creative comic strips.

In addition, visitors enjoyed interacting with the content – and testing their own understanding – through Indus River Valley-focused quizzes, word searches and crossword puzzles, which the students designed themselves. At the end of each presentation, the audience had a chance to ask the students questions and to make comments, either by speaking directly (after unmuting) or by using the Zoom chat function.

Without question, Class 5 made the most of this immersive unit. Not only did these students gain a deeper understanding of the Indus River Valley’s land and people, they also strengthened their own skills as careful researchers curious about the past and poised, tech-savvy presenters able to educate and enlighten.

Here are a few of their many positive comments:

“It was so special when one student said something that she learned in my room.”
“One of the kids clapped for me.”
“That was nerve wracking, but so much fun!”