On Pharaohs, Mummies and Immortality

Stepping into Room 62, this visitor entered a long-ago world of intrigue and mystery. Everywhere the eye could see, hand-constructed pyramids and temples rose up to the “sky” and mummies, wrapped tightly in fabric bandages, waited for their journey to the afterlife.

Welcome, one and all, to ancient Egypt!

Through a fascinating unit in Humanities, Class 5 students learned all about the vibrant civilization that thrived some 5,000 years ago along Northeastern Africa’s Nile River. Following an overview, the girls dove into subject matter informed by their own interests, some working in groups, others on their own. The resulting projects, representing the culmination of extensive inquiry and terrific creativity, were recently on display for their classmates and teachers. 

“We began our study just as we did with other civilizations,” explained Humanities Teacher Jenet Dibble. “After watching a video about ancient Egypt and discussing essential questions, we began to research information about a narrower topic.” These questions – How does the geography of ancient Egypt have an impact on its history? How do ancient Egypt’s religions and social structure have an impact on its people’s way of life? and, lastly, How do ancient Egyptians use technology or innovations to improve their lives? – formed the foundation for their study.

For the technology part of the assignment, Ms. Dibble turned to Middle School Technology Head Trude Goodman to help the students conceptualize a simple, collaborative element to their project. “One of my goals for the year has been to expose the girls to design thinking and the iterative design process,” Ms. Goodman explained. “The design challenge for this project was to make something interactive to teach others about ancient Egypt.”

Thus, with much enthusiasm, ancient Egypt came to life through a variety of creative projects. Several projects focused on the sacred process of mummification. In one, viewers could remove organs from a cardboard corpse (except for the heart, which remained intact to guarantee immortality) and then pretend to douse the body with oils and potions before sealing it in strips of linen. Another pair of students explored the grooming rituals of ancient Egyptian women and girls. A colorful poster depicting a woman with long hair made from black yarn invited visitors to comb her locks with a custom brush.

Pyramids were also represented through inventive models that included, for example, pharaohs molded from clay and posed atop the structure, and a cross-section of a pyramid that featured hidden rooms and a pulley system for trapping prisoners. Still other students examined the pictorial language of hieroglyphics, the role of gods and goddesses, monsters of the underworld, and the legendary Rosetta Stone. Each project included a hands-on component conceived and implemented by the girls.

As their classmates, teachers and other guests viewed the exhibit in Room 62, the Class 5 students served as docents, conducting themselves with energy, passion and joy. In addition to beautifully mastering their material, they clearly loved discovering the wonders of ancient Egypt and the mesmerizing rituals, beliefs and mores that came to define this long-ago civilization that continues to capture our imaginations.

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