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Ancient Egypt

picture of grade 6 students at museum

Study of one of the earliest civilizations offers grade 6 students many different ways to learn

 

During their study of Ancient Egypt, grade 6 students learned about one of the defining customs of the early society that continues to fascinate people to this day: mummification. The Egyptians developed a special multi-step process to remove all moisture from the body before burial, which they believed would help preserve it for the afterlife.

Sixth-grade teacher Lauren Lloyd said the mummification project was especially engaging for students, as they unlocked the secrets of the ancient practice. “They learned that the Egyptians used natron, a salt compound, in the mummification process to preserve bodies after death,” she said. “In class, we took different fruits and vegetables, like oranges and tomatoes, and applied the process. Students really enjoyed doing that.”

The study of Ancient Egypt provided an opportunity to integrate learning across the curriculum, including science, English language arts, math, social studies and art.

“In this case, we took a social studies unit on Ancient Egypt, and as a team, we integrated the other subject areas into it,” said teacher Anne Marie Magyar. “When students can make connections between the different subjects, learning becomes more relevant for them.”

The mummification project, for example, combined science with English language arts (ELA), as students made observations and conclusions based on what the fruit looked like during the stages of mummification, before and after, and then wrote those observations in their journals.

In addition to writing, students learned about Ancient Egypt through readings that included informational articles about various aspects of the ancient civilization, such as the pyramids and how to make a mummy.

“Students did several close reads and multiple choice and short response questions they had to answer based on the articles,” said MaryPat Murtagh, grade 6 special education consultant teacher, who added that because the lessons were differentiated, all students were able to succeed.

picture of students in front of mummy exhibit

A trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art offered students an opportunity to learn even more about Ancient Egypt by exploring such topics as Egyptian History and Civilization; the Nile and the Environment; Crafts and Professions; Food and Drink; Gods and Goddesses; and Preparing for the Afterlife. The most exciting part for sixth-graders ‒ the exhibit features not one, but two mummies!

“During the field trip, the students were engaged in open discussions with the museum staff and would say, ‘Oh, we learned about that in school,’ so they were clearly making connections with what they had learned in the classroom,” said teacher Heather Fahlmann. “As a teacher, it was great to see that kind of excitement.”

Ms. Lloyd added that it was rewarding to see students at every level engaged in learning. “It was nice to see that they had built their background knowledge beforehand, and then while at the museum, ask thought-provoking questions,” she said. “Personally, a couple of my students even stumped the staff.”

The unit also introduced students to the world of forensic science, as they also investigated possible causes of King Tut’s death, which again, incorporated elements of science, social studies and ELA.

“The students participated in a CSI-like investigation because there is a lot of uncertainty as to what happened to King Tut. They investigated whether he might have been murdered and came up with possible suspects, and they analyzed x-rays and researched illnesses, like malaria, to determine if he died from natural causes or by accident,” said teacher Nikki LaBoissiere. “Even though it involved writing and reading, the students felt like detectives, which really kept them interested.”

Integrate art, mathematics

Sixth-graders learned about small figurines called ushabties, and significance of these figurines to the Egyptian culture. Ushabties were placed in tombs and were believed to accompany Egyptians to the afterlife to help carry out menial tasks, such as cleaning or cooking. In art, the students created their own personal ushabties of dry molding clay and included objects they felt related to their own lives. One student, for example, put paper in her ushabti’s arms so that it could do her homework. Students also learned about different games the ancient Egyptians would play for entertainment.

picture of students with ushabties

Teachers used a variety of resources to integrate different subjects. By watching a video in class, students learned that the ancient Egyptians used to measure items using the span of their hands or the length of their wrist to their elbow. The problem was not everyone’s hands or arms are the same size, which resulted in the need to convert to more standard mathematical units that are used today.

For teachers, the best part of the Ancient Egypt unit was experiencing an increased level of interest in the students themselves.

“You could tell just by looking at their faces. They were all working together in a positive manner and really engaged and excited by what we were doing in class,” said Ms. Lloyd. “Two weeks after my class did the mummification, students would still ask about their fruit. They were totally into it. For me, it was great to see their enthusiasm and excitement.”

Mrs. Magyar said it was rewarding to see students make connections. “I saw the majority of my students take ownership for what they were learning and making personal connections to it,” she said. “It wasn’t as much me saying ‘let’s play this Senet game, it’s so much fun’ as it was them saying ‘this was great’ and ‘it reminds me of Sorry’ (a board game). So, through this game, they were connecting their childhood to Ancient Egypt.”

 

Learn more about the grade 6 team

Want to know what career grade 6 educators dreamed of pursuing when they were in sixth grade? To learn the answer to that and a few other questions, click on the staff member’s name to reveal a short Q&A.

picture of grade 6 teachers

The sixth grade team, from left: Heather Fahlmann, Lauren Lloyd, MaryPat Murtagh,
Nikki LaBoissiere and Ann Marie Magyar

Heather Fahlmann

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Plain

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching sixth grade? My favorite thing about teaching 6th grade is that the students are at an age in which they can engage in deep and rich conversations with them. They also have a great sense of humor!

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? "The Very Quiet Cricket" by Eric Carle.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Coffee.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Purple.

bullet graphicWhen you were in sixth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? When I was in sixth grade I dreamed of being a teacher or a veterinarian.

 

Lauren Lloyd

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching sixth grade? The personalities of my kids.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Coffee.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Navy blue.

bullet graphicWhen you were in sixth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? To play right field for the New York Yankees.

 

MaryPat Murtagh

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut M&M's hands down!

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching sixth grade? My favorite thing about teaching sixth grade is building relationships with students. I enjoy learning about their backgrounds, interests, and plans for the future. It is rewarding to help them grow and succeed throughout the year!

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Coffee!

bullet graphicFavorite color? Blue.

bullet graphicWhen you were in sixth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A teacher, believe it or not!

 

Nikki LaBoissiere

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Plain.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching sixth grade? The challenge of preparing students for Junior High.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? I loved anything by Judy Blume.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  Coffee.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Royal blue.

bullet graphicWhen you were in sixth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? An airline pilot.

 

Ann Marie Magyar

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Plain.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching sixth grade? The age group.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? Holes by Louis Sachar.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Coffee.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Tiffany blue.

bullet graphicWhen you were in sixth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A teacher.