History Waits Upon Geography



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Model Lesson: Early River Valley Civilizations – “History Waits Upon Geography”


Grade Level: 7 Curriculum Focus: Social Studies Time Frame: 1.5 weeks
Model Lesson Description:
This model lesson focuses on how geography impacted the development of major river valley civilizations. Students will analyze the impact of geography on agricultural practices, economic activity, political structures, religious beliefs, and other aspects of culture.
Essential Question:
How has the definition of civilization been defined by what we know about the hydraulic civilizations of the Nile, Mesopotamia, Indus, and Hwang Ho?
Focus Questions:


  • What are the defining characteristics of civilization?




  • Why did ancient peoples settle in river valleys? What resources did the rivers provide?




  • How did geography influence the development of agriculture in river valleys?




  • How did geography influence economic activities such as trade?




  • How did geography influence the political structure of ancient governments?




  • How did geography influence the religious beliefs of ancient peoples?


Be the Historian:
When you have completed this lesson, select an article from a current newspaper or magazine. Use its content to analyze how geography continues to affect events and developments in the world today.

Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  • Identify and describe major physical characteristics* of regions in Africa, Asia, and the Southwest Pacific.

  • Identify and compare the rise of early agricultural river valley civilizations in Africa and Asia. (Individuals, Society, and Culture)

  • Identify and explain the importance of the early cultural hearths* in the Nile River Valley, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley and the Huang River Valley. (Individuals, Society and Culture)



Digital Assets:
Videos:

Food, Agriculture, and the Economy   (GL)

Ancient Methods of Trade and Transportation   

The Rise of the Sumerian City-State   

Mesopotamia  (GL)

Ancient Middle East  ( GL)

Inventions and Innovations in Ancient Mesopotamia

Technologies of Early Egypt  (ABGL)



A Long History (Egypt/ABGL)

The Pharaoh (GL)

Religion

Thoth and the Book of the Dead (ABGL)

Writing (GL)

Egyptian Art  (GL)

Egyptian Literature & Poetry (ABGL)

Huang He: From the Himalayas to the Gulf of Bo Hai   

The Impact of Ancient India and China   (GL)

China: The Shang Civiliazation

India   (GL)

Civilizations in the Indus Valley

Food, Agriculture, and the Economy   (GL)

Indus River Valley: Early Innovation (ABGL)



Ancient Civilizations: Program 01: The Beginning is the End (GL/ABGL)

Starting with the Ruins: Evidence of Ancient Civilizations (GL)

How and Why Did Civilizations Begin? (GL)

Factors that Contribute to the Formation of Civilizations (GL)

Zero and the Place Value System (ABGL)

India’s Faithful (use 1st minute) (GL)

Summary of Asia: Land and Resources (GL)

Extraordinary Royal Treasure Findings (GL)

Bones Used to Predict the Future (GL)

The Time of Our Ancestors (BGL)

Communication with the Spirit World (GL)

Tracing Back to the Shang Dynasty (GL)

Warrior Remains Are Found (GL)

Fu Hao: Female Warrior Leader (GL)

Road to the Afterlife (GL)

China’s Sorrow: Preparing for the Destructive Flooding of the Huang He (GL)

Religion and the Science of Burial (GL)

Birth of a Nation (ABGL)

Economy (GL)

Egypt and the Nile River (GL)

The Gift of the Nile (GL)

The Impact of the Babylonians (GL)

Religious Beliefs of the Ancient Sumerians

Power, Authority, and Governance in the Ancient Sumerian City-State

Development of Trade in Ancient Mesopotamia (BGL)
Images:

An Assyrian king flanked by two winged deities

An Assyrian votive statue

Remains of temple at Ur in present-day Iraq

A topographical map of Egypt and nearby areas

Pyramid of Chephren and the Sphinx at Giza, Egypt



A map of Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East

Shang oracle bone inscription

Shang Bronze Artisanship (image)

The Indus River near Mohenjodero, Pakistan
Articles:

Tigris


Euphrates

Huang He or Yellow River

Indus Valley Civilization

Indus
What Do We Already Know?
Begin this lesson by asking students to think about what they know already. Allow 15 minutes for this activity.
Think-Pair-Share: In pairs, have students brainstorm times in history when one group of people considered themselves civilized and others uncivilized. Ask students to share their examples. Examples might include, but are not limited to:


  • Westward expansion – civilized settlers vs. uncivilized Native Americans

  • European imperialism – civilized colonists vs. uncivilized indigenous peoples

  • Greek & Roman Empires –civilized citizens vs. uncivilized barbarians

  • Slavery – civilized owners and slave traders vs. uncivilized slaves

In light of the discussion generated by these examples, ask students to think about what it means to be civilized and, with their partner, to draft a definition of the term civilization using Microsoft Word. This definition should be revisited and revised after completing the lesson, with students re-evaluating the use of the terms civilized and uncivilized to describe groups of people.


Classroom Activities:
A: Digital maps – You be the Cartographer! (individual activity – approximately 45-70 minutes) Since the focus of this activity is on how geography impacts history, students should first review aspects of the geography of the regions addressed in this lesson plan. Provide students with electronic versions of outline maps of Iraq/the Middle East, Egypt, China, and India. These maps should include the surrounding areas as well. Students should use editing software and available map resources to label major geographic areas in each region, including rivers, oceans, plateaus, deltas, desserts, mountains, valleys, etc. To advance students’ understanding of these regions, refer students to the Discover Education Atlas Interactive Map, where they may view the Natural World assets for each region (Egypt, China, and India; Iraq does not have assets in this subcategory) with the goal of finding and adding additional information to their digital maps.
B: The rise of early river valley civilizations (group/whole class activity & discussion – approximately 45 minutes)
To create context, show students segments of the whole video Ancient Civilizations: Program 01: The Beginning is the End, beginning with the video chapter Starting with the Ruins: Evidence of Ancient Civilizations. Using information provided in the video chapter, students should list the 5 regions of the world where archaeologists have found evidence of great river valley civilizations.
After watching the first video chapter, ask students to “think like a historian” and brainstorm a list of reasons why ancient peoples would want to settle in river valleys. The list should include items such as food resources (fresh water, fish, and irrigation), transportation, communication, spiritual fulfillment, etc. Note that these were the causes that led people to settle along river valleys. Next, ask students to speculate about the effect (the birth of civilization).
Show the next two segments of the whole video Ancient Civilizations: Program 01: The Beginning is the End to introduce the concept of civilization. Use the following questions as a viewing guide to help students highlight important information:
How and Why Did Civilizations Begin?

  1. How did people find food before there were towns and cities? (hunting and gathering)

  2. What does the term Neolithic Revolution reference? (the period of world history ushered in by the advent of farming/agriculture)

  3. What is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates named? (cradle of civilization)

  4. List the characteristics of civilization identified in this video chapter. (writing, city, economy, government, culture)

  5. How does the video chapter define civilization? (a sophisticated culture set in a complex urban environment)


Factors that Contribute to the Formation of Civilizations

  1. As students watch this video chapter, they should take notes on each of the 5 factors that contribute to the formation of civilizations (water, domestication of animals, religion, security, invention, and creativity).

Review the answers to the sections above, focusing on the definition of the term civilization. Ask students to compare the characteristics and definition of civilization identified in the video chapter to the definition they developed in the “What Do We Already Know” section of this lesson plan. How are their definitions similar? How are they different?


Note that the definition set forth by the video identifies a “complex urban environment” as a prerequisite for civilization. In fact, the word civilization itself comes from the word for city. Does this imply, then, that nomadic peoples such as groups of American Indians were uncivilized?
Also note that the definition set forth by the video identifies written language as a prerequisite for civilization. Does that imply, then, that nations in Africa without written language were uncivilized?
Ask students to open Microsoft Word and revisit and revise their definitions of civilization. They should not delete their earlier definitions, but rather show mark ups and edits (use strike-through and insert features) so that the teacher may see how they arrived at their final definition (similar to showing their work in math). Students should insert comments to provide rationales for the changes they made.
Classroom Connections:
A: How “history waits upon geography” (group activity, approximately 90 minutes planning/preparation and 90+ minutes presentation)
Having reviewed the geography of regions where ancient civilizations existed, and having learned about the defining characteristics of civilizations, students should be prepared to analyze how early river valley civilizations were shaped by their geography. Divide the class into groups of 4 and assign each group one of the following regions: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, or India. If your class is large, you may assign Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China to 2 groups. If you need to differentiate resources to meet individual learning needs, the videos on Mesopotamia are geared toward younger viewers whereas the videos on India are more challenging.
Each group will create a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation that addresses how geography influenced the development of their assigned river valley civilization. Suggested requirements:

  • The PPT must include at least 2 slides per characteristic (geography, agriculture/economy, political structure, religious beliefs, cultural and intellectual developments).

  • Students must embed at least 3 video chapters into their slideshows, but the total lengths of the video chapters may not exceed 10 minutes. They should select the video chapters that most clearly illustrate a connection to geography.

  • Every slide must include an image or video.

  • Every slide must make a direct reference to geography.

  • Minimum font size for text on all slides: 24 point.

Listed in the chart below are assets categorized by some of the defining characteristics of civilizations. Students should use these assets in addition to other available resources to analyze how geography shaped the development of each civilization. Teachers should model such analysis by providing an example from each region. For example:



  • The paths of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers and all their tributaries divided the territory within Mesopotamia. Consequently, small city-states characterized Mesopotamian political structure (one might contrast this with the unified government of Egypt).

  • Because of the annual, predictable flooding of the Nile, Egyptians came to believe in the concept of rebirth, or reincarnation.

  • The Chinese developed a highly organized government, in part due to the need to control the violent flooding of the Huang He.

  • Ancient Indian civilizations built mud brick houses and buildings (as opposed to stone or wood) because of resources available to them from the river.

To assist students throughout this activity, circulate constantly and ask guiding questions that will aid them with their analyses. One suggestion is have students take notes from the video chapters as they watch them and then go back and examine them for connections to geography. Remind students that a connection to geography can be as simple as resources the land makes available. An example of such a simple connection would be the Chinese growing rice as opposed to wheat because of the geography.




RIVER VALLEY CIVILIZATIONS

Mesopotamia

Nile

Huang He

Indus

Geography

  • A map of Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East (image)

  • Tigris (article)

  • Euphrates (article)




  • A topographical map of Egypt and nearby areas (image)

  • Egypt and the Nile River

  • The Gift of the Nile




  • Huang He: From the Himalayas to the Gulf of Bo Hai  

  • Huang He or Yellow River (article)

  • China’s Sorrow: Preparing for the Destructive Flooding of the Huang He

Agricultural Development & Economic Activity

  • Food, Agriculture, and the Economy   

  • Ancient Methods of Trade and Transportation

  • Development of Trade in Ancient Mesopotamia

  • Food, Agriculture, and the Economy  

  • Technologies of Early Egypt

  • Economy

  • Food, Agriculture, and the Economy  

  • The Impact of Ancient India and China   




  • Food, Agriculture, and the Economy   

  • India   




Political Structure

  • The Rise of the Sumerian City-State   

  • Mesopotamia

  • Power, Authority, and Governance in the Ancient Sumerian City-State

  • An Assyrian king flanked by two winged deities (image)




  • Warrior Remains Are Found

  • Fu Hao: Female Warrior Leader

  • Road to the Afterlife




  • Civilizations in the Indus Valley (view up to the Aryan invasion)




Religious Beliefs

  • Ancient Middle East

  • Religious Beliefs of the Ancient Sumerians

  • An Assyrian votive statue (image)




  • Religion

  • Thoth and the Book of the Dead

  • Religion and the Science of Burial



  • Communication with the Spirit World

  • Tracing Back to the Shang Dynasty

  • Shang oracle bone inscription (image)

  • India’s Faithful (use 1st minute)




Cultural & Intellectual Developments

  • Inventions and Innovations in Ancient Mesopotamia

  • The Impact of the Babylonians

  • Remains of temple at Ur in present-day Iraq (image)

  • Writing

  • Egyptian Art  

  • Egyptian Literature & Poetry

  • Pyramid of Chephren and the Sphinx at Giza, Egypt (image)




  • China: The Shang Civiliazation

  • Extraordinary Royal Treasure Findings

  • Bones Used to Predict the Future

  • The Time of Our Ancestors

  • Shang Bronze Artisanship

  • Indus River Valley: Early Innovation

  • Zero and the Place Value System



When completed, students should present their PPTs and their findings to the rest of the class. Students in the audience should take notes as they will need these notes to complete the final project.



Humanities Extension:
A: Over the past few years film goers have enjoyed movies that address ancient civilizations and our fascination with them: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life, Indiana Jones (the entire series), for example. Before these films, however, writers, such as H.G.Wells and Jules Verne in the nineteenth century also explored the idea of ancient civilizations and what we would find there; what they could teach us; why they ended. Divide into four groups and first research books and films you have read or seen that explore the idea or existence of ancient civilizations.
Next, create a Digital Journal introducing your film or book and then comparing and contrasting it with the factual information you have learned in class. Present your findings to the class.
B: All cultures have either myths or folklore by which they construct, or make, meaning of what is happening around them. While most of you are familiar with Greek and Roman mythology and American folklore, you may be less familiar with Egyptian mythology.
Thematically, kingship, death, and the afterlife dominate Egyptian mythology. Geographically and understandably, much of the Egyptian mythology focuses on the Nile River, “the Gift of Life” with its cyclical process of death and rebirth.
By far the most popular Egyptian myth is that of Isis and Osiris. This myth is one of love, family betrayal, death, and rebirth. As a class, research the myth of Isis and Osiris; take notes so that you have the essential themes to help you better understand Egyptian culture through literature.
Next, divide into four groups and discuss the following questions:

  • Why does a culture need mythology?

  • Why has mythology survived for so long and how does it continue to inform your present?

  • What are some myths you find of interest and wish to share with your group?

When you have completed your questions, each group should create a Digital Mythology Portfolio. In this portfolio, your group will continue to chart, record, and evaluate the various myths you encounter during this school year. At the conclusion of the year, each group will share its Digital Mythology Portfolio. Be sure to include a Suggested Reading List.


Projects:
Students may select a project from the suggestions below or may propose their own. Teachers may opt to provide class time to complete these projects, or they may choose to assign them as homework.



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