1. Ask your students if they have ever heard of the lost continent of Atlantis. Invite students who are familiar with the concept of Atlantis to tell the class what they have heard or read about the lost continent.
2. Share with students the following background information about Atlantis:
- There has been speculation that a continent that no longer exists on Earth once supported an advanced civilization.
- Further speculation suggests that some catastrophic natural event destroyed Atlantis or caused it to sink into the ocean.
- Scientists and historians have speculated that Atlantis was located in North Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Aegean Sea, and other locations, but no compelling scientific evidence for the existence of Atlantis has been found.
- Certain phenomena that are unexplainable could be explained by the existence of a lost continent.
3. Tell your students that they are going to do research and engage in debates that will help them decide what they think about the existence of Atlantis. Send them to the print materials you have provided, to the library, and to the Internet (see Links). To guide their research, suggest the following topics, but let students find the information in parentheses about each topic for themselves:
- Pangaea (the name for the supercontinent that some believe once existed in the Indian Ocean)
- Lemuria, or Mu(names for a supercontinent that some believe once existed between Asia and Africa)
- Easter Island statues (huge statues said to be relics of a civilization the islands of Oceania could never have supported)
- Colossal stone heads of Olmec society on Tiwanaku (stone heads that resemble people from Africa rather than native Americans, suggesting that the ancient Olmecs had contact with people from distant lands such as Africa, Egypt, or Greece)
- Nan Madol (remains of a city in the Solomon Islands that was constructed from huge stones and would have required tens of thousands of workers to build—more people than we know to have ever populated those islands)
- Similarities between certain pre-Columbian languages in South America and early languages once spoken on the Indian subcontinent (suggest there was once a landmass between India and South America)
- Plato's dialogues Critiasand Timaeus(mention Atlantis and describe it as a place where a once-brilliant civilization perished because the people became corrupt and greedy and were punished by the gods by a great explosion that sunk Atlantis into the sea)
4. When students have completed their research, divide the class into groups. Have each group create a two-column chart with arguments for the existence of Atlantis in one column and arguments against in the other. (The arguments against may be refutations of the arguments for rather than separate arguments.)
5. Have the members of each group debate among themselves whether or not Atlantis ever really existed.
6. Hold a whole-class discussion in which groups share the details and conclusions, if any, that resulted from their research and debates.
ADAPTATIONS: Provide students with all the given background information rather than having them start their research from scratch.