Curriculum Integration in Action: Ancient Egypt

Curriculum Integration

"Maybe we can embalm the frog after we dissect it," said teacher candidate Matthew MacLeod as we sat to plan out his first teaching block with my grade 8 class. Over the next twenty minutes we tied together every subject area into a learning unit - it was one of those synergistic (when was the last time you heard that dusty old term?) moments when two minds teamed together to come up with something we think is quite awesome. Mr. MacLeod created a Pinterest board with resources for this project and we will share more about our adventures in curriculum integration.

We dissect a frog for science, construct a sarcophagus in math, mummify it for social studies, document the frog's life for language arts, and illustrate its journey to the afterlife in Egyptian frontalism for art.

curriculum integration

Social Studies

Studying early civilizations of the Fertile Crescent, Egyptian religion and world view is front and centre. Students are fascinated by mummies and the ancient ruins of that great civilization. Digging in to the Book of the Dead, understanding how their concept of the after life influenced their actions while alive helps students appreciate their different world view. Embalming a frog after dissection simulates, in some respects, the mummification process. Then we will entomb the frog mummy with artifacts from its life in a sarcophagus placed within a pyramid.

Language Arts

Students will create a fictional account of a frog's life in Ancient Egypt including daily life,hopes  for the future, plans for the afterlife, local resources and imported goods, statements about the social structure and political rule.

Science

Studying cells and body systems, it is traditional to dissect a frog to study internal organs, learn to handle surgical instruments, make observations, and make objective narrative and visual records. We will identify and set aside the stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines.

Math

The frog's dimensions will determine the size of coffin and sarcophagus needed to properly entomb the remains. A pyramid is required to house the sarcophagus. Students will make the appropriate measurements, then create nets for the necessary rectangular prisms and a square pyramid calculating surface area and volume along the way

Art

The story of the frog's journey into the afterlife will be illustrated on the side of the sarcophagus using Egyptian frontalism. We are also making paper upon which the students will create a cartouche of their name in hieroglyphics supported by one of the Egyptian  gods that they feel best represents their life or goals.

Integration is Liberating

Integrating curriculum in this manner, subject allocations on the time-table don't really matter. We arrive in the morning, engage with the project throughout the day knowing that each subject is accounted for, outcomes are tied to different elements, students know the criteria for each aspect of the project, and will self-assess and reflect on work as they go. Students will also learn to manage a comprehensive project - setting goals, managing time, breaking a large project into smaller chunks and planning out work over several  weeks. At any given time, the class is working on different aspects of the project and it all comes together in the end.

I also want to highlight how important teaming is, how talking and sharing ideas with a colleague often turns that idea into something far greater. Teaming with the same person over time nurtures that relationship, builds trust, and you can better leverage each other's strengths to the student's benefit.

If you have links to other integrated units whatever the grade or focus, I'd love to see them. Share ideas or links in the comment area. Sharing is caring!

What do you think? Share you thoughts below...

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