Egypt and Ancient Civilizations

The Four Cradles of of Eastern Civilization: A frustration in teaching social studies is the lack of time.  Of the four ancient cradles (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus, China), I have decided to focus on Egypt rather than “brush” all four... however it is important that we know where the “cradles of civilization were located,” so today’s lesson will stress that.

The Fine Print: Content Standards.... A. (Geography)  Students in Wisconsin will learn about geography through the study of the relationships among people, places, and  environments. B. (History) Students in Wisconsin will learn about the history of Wisconsin, the United States, and the world, examining change and continuity over time in order to develop historical perspective, explain historical relationships, and analyze issues that affect the present and the future.

Performance Standards....A.8.7 Describe the movement of people, ideas, diseases, and products throughout the world   A.8.8 Describe and analyze the ways in which people in different regions of the world interact with their physical environments through vocational and recreational activities  A.8.9 Describe how buildings and their decoration reflect cultural values and ideas, providing examples such as cave paintings, pyramids, sacred cities, castles, and cathedrals  A.8.10 Identify major discoveries in science and technology and describe their social and economic effects on the physical and human environment  A.8.11 Give examples of the causes and consequences of current global issues, such as the expansion of global markets, the urbanization of the developing world, the consumption of natural resources, and the extinction of species, and suggest possible responses by various individuals, groups, and nations --B.8.7 Identify significant events and people in the major eras of United States and world history B.8.8 Identify major scientific discoveries and technological innovations and describe their social and economic effects on society  B.8.10 Analyze examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, or nations  B.8.12 Describe how history can be organized and analyzed using various criteria to group people and events chronologically, geographically, thematically, topically, and by issues.

Unit Objectives.... The students will learn… 1) the four original places of ancient civilization, 2) necessary conditions for the founding of a civilization, 3) conditions in Egypt that allowed the development of thought and invention, 4) the influence of geography on ancient Egypt, 5) the rise and fall of Egypt based on conflict and economic expansion.


The student in grades 5-12 should understand

  • the major characteristics of civilization and how civilizations emerged in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley.
  • how agrarian societies spread and new states emerged in the third and second millennia BCE.
  • the political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium BCE.
  • major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE.
    The student in grades 5-12 should understand
  • innovation and change from 1000-600 BCE: horses, ships, iron, and monotheistic faith.
  • the emergence of Aegean civilization and how interrelations developed among peoples of the eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia, 600-200 BCE.
  • how major religions and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean basin, China, and India, 500 BCE-300 CE.
  • the development of early agrarian civilizations in Mesoamerica.
  • major global trends from 1000 BCE-300 CE.


What We are Doing:
1) I am going to test a theory I have in the teaching of social studies with this unit.  I'm calling it 'backwards teaching' because I am going to start with modern times and then work my way backwards through history.  My expectation is that my students will learn about why things are today by backtracking and putting the riddles of history together.  It's worth a shot and I'm confident it's going to work!  I will tell the kids what I am doing and why and get them all on board with it.

2) The study of any place on earth should begin with geography.  I have prepared a packet that we will be working on, that can be downloaded below.

3) We went through the first two pages of the packet and I assigned the students to answer the questions on page 2 using the Notes App on their Ipads... once the printer is fixed I'll pass out hard copies.


Egypt Geography Unit
This is the packet that the kids should have received today* *The printer was not working properly.


1) We went over Page 2 of the packet that was posted on yesterday's site... some of things discussed in class will be....
  • Wisconsin (64,000 square miles) is about six times smaller than Egypt (386,000 square miles).
  • We will talke about the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser.  We will discuss hydroelectric power, and if Egypt should have built this dam in the early sixties since they had to move several ancient sites.  I'll discuss energy in Wisconsin and also coal and nuclear energy.
  • We will locate the Suez Canal and draw maps showing how much time a ship can save by using it rather than going around Africa.
  • We will discuss how Southern Egypt is Upper Egypt and why Northern Egypt is Lower Egypt.
  • We will discuss some photos of Egypt... the Western Desert with an oasis...the Red Sea and how the Red Sea got its name...the Mediterranean Sea (Mediterranean means "Middle Earth" in Latin), the Sinai Peninsula and Mount Sinai...I'll tell the story of Moses...not as a Biblical teacher but what it says in the Bible and a historical account of the escape of Jews led by Moses from Egypt... the Suez Canal... the Nile and the Nile Delta.
  • We will begin the discussion Egypt's relations with Israel and how the Suez was closed for two years during the Six Day War.
  • We will introduce the buildings on the Giza Plateau and define what a plateau is.
  • We got more rain already today (3"+) than Egypt does in a year! (2"-)

2) The kids are to take what they learned today and turn into a KEYNOTE which is due tomorrow.  All of what I'm looking for is listed in the bullets above.

Egypt 1 Keynote


1) We are going to look at the keynotes the kids made yesterday which highlighted the material they learned in class.

2) We will look at the geographical terms on page 5 and commit those to memory!

3) Continuing with the keynote, and with class time provided, I want the kids to have dedicated slide the following geographic terms...

  1. River...including source, mouth, delta, and tributaries , Plateau , Peninsula , Isthmus, country, continent.

For each slide, they should have a photo (not one I used already) and a definition.


Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 22nd EGYPT 'BACKWARDS' UNIT' -- Geography, Day 5 

1) Each student is going to produce a keynote that highlights five different places in Egypt that they would visit if they had won a free trip there.  Each slide must have a short description, a screen shot from google earth, and a photo from the web if possible.  In addition, they need to download a blank map of Egypt and take it to an app they have called Educreations.  Once there, they can paste the map and then put dots or stars on the five places that they visited on their virtual trips!

2) Class time wiill be provided today with the project being due at the beginning of class tomorrow.


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd:  EGYPT 'BACKWARDS' UNIT'  - Egyptian (Arab) / Israeli Relations

* I will first look at the students keynote projects...Virtual Egypt Trip, before moving on to the material below...this could take awhile.

One of the hotspots in the world, really since the dawn of human time, has been the crescent of land that runs from Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea through Israel.  To understand modern Egypt, we also need to understand modern Israel and both countries other neighbors that include amongst others, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan...and the people that remain without a country since early wars between Israel and the Arab coalition, the Palestinians.

1) We will begin by looking at the history of Israel through a series of maps.  I'll give an overview of the fundamental difference between Jews and Arabs (religion!) and the struggle that both people have had over the same narrow slip of land since ancient times.

2) There is no assignment for tomorrow.  I do expect the kids to get the overall idea of the expansion of Israel since its creation and the subsequent effort, and failure, of the Arab nations to eliminate it.  We will then discuss the 1982 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and how Egypt was the first Arab nation to recognize Israel's right to exist.


20th Century Battlefields: 1973 Yom Kippur War

Israel in Maps

This photo was taken yesterday after a stampede killed over 700 Muslims during a pilgrimage to Mecca.


* We are going to become familiar with the countries that border Egypt and Israel in the Middle East.

Key geographic terms  (that are not countries)... Middle East, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Jordan River, Dead Sea.

We will go through the packet I have below.



1) We are going to take a quick quiz on the 14 countries I asked the kids to memorize for today.  There is a word bank.

2) We are going to read together a story from the New York Times from yesterday, as a Jewish man was killed by Palestinian youths by rocks as he left a place of worship.  This is completely relevant to what we are talking about and we will discuss the escalation in well as new vocabulary as the article is at a 12.3 reading level (I will read it to the class as they follow, and have them underline words they don't understand.  We will then understand them! :)  

3) Additonally, over 700 Muslims died yesterday during a Pilgrimage to Mecca.  The link for that article is here. I want and we need our children to understand the world they are inheriting.  Everything that happens on the planet is interconnected and does affect us.  We will discuss this and how.

4) No assignment for the weekend.


Israel and Neighbors


1) We are going to look more specifically at the geography of Egypt, Israel and surrounding nations.

2) I'm passing out a sheet that asks a variety of questions about the geography of this region.  The kids will need to use their Ipads to find answers!  I'm teaching to become independent learners...not ask the teacher or another adult "What's the answer?" but to go find the answer using the web, which is arguably the greatest invention in the distribution of knowledge, thought, and garbage in human history.

3) Geography is the base level of understanding the's like knowing your addition or multiplication facts in math.  I don't ask the kids to memorize many things... but I do want them to be able to 'see' a place in their minds when they hear the name of a country or other important landform.

More Egyptian and Israeli Geography


1) We started class talking about what some of America's symbols are.

2) I explained the importance of a nation's flag to all nations... and that they all have symbolism.

3) We started a keynote of Flags of the Middle East.  We did Israel and Egypt together in class... to finish the project, the kids need to do Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine.... due tomorrow.


Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 30TH:  EGYPT 'BACKWARDS' UNIT'  - Israeli-Arab Relations: the Six Day War

1) Britain promised the Jews that they could have their own country in what was then called Palestine.  In 1948, the United Nations partitioned (split up) the land between the Palestinian Arabs the the Jews, who were pouring into the country.  After being attacked by several nations, Israel not only defended itself, but took away most of the Palestinian's territory.  Thousands of Arab refugees fled to neighboring Arab countries...many are still there today.

2) Constant small battles flared up and down for the next 20 years.  Then, in 1967, Israel learned of an impending Arab attack from all of her Arab neighbors.  She struck first.  Today we are going to learn about the Six Day War and why many Israeli's consider it a miracle.

3) We are going to watch this film: 20th Century battlefields; the Six Day War.  We will be STOPPING FREQUENTLY and looking at the map packet (which you can find below), and discussing that war and how it shaped our modern world.

Thursday, October 1st:  EGYPT 'BACKWARDS' UNIT'  - Israeli-Arab Relations: the Six Day War

1) Yesterday we talked about complacency and what it means.  This happened to Israel after their victories in the Six Day War.  They paid for this when they were attacked, starting the Yom Kippur War.
2) Israel once again survived.  Egypt was the first Arabic nation to ask Israel for peace.  In 1979, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, in which Egypt recognized Israel's right to exist, the first Arab nation to do this.
3) Palestine remains a people without a country.  This unanswered question will remain a bug to the United States as it continues to support Israel and press Israel for the creation of an Palestinian homeland.
4) We will continue to watch 20th Century Battlefields as a our primary source



Israel in Maps

The "Four Cradles" were: Nile River (Egypt), Tigris-Euphrates Rivers (Mesopotamia), Indus River (India-Pakistan), and Yellow River (China).


What We are Doing: we are going to go back to the beginning.  I thought about continuing to work our way 'backwards,' but I think that might be a bit too confusing.  We now have a good understanding of Egypt and her neighbors today... now we will go back and find out how people got there in the first place, and what they did to make them so successful.
1) There is evidence that human beings in our current form have populated the earth for at least 200,000 years, with the advent of primitive tools being used around 50,000 years ago.  Humans survived in mostly nomadic, small tribes, going to where they were most likely to find food.  In four separate places around the Eastern Hemisphere, four civilizations developed, all along rivers that flooded.  Because of this, humans living in these areas were able to grow crops, save food, erect protective walls and begin the development of things like art, science, literature, that make us truly human!

1A) Here is a video review (Ancient Civilizations 01) of what we will be learning today...

2) I'll have the students use "sketch it" on their Ipads to design a place that they would want to settle their "tribe" if they were looking to start a new society.  We'll discuss what natural features they found and why those features are important.

3) I'll use the whiteboard to show on a world map the location of the first four Eastern Hemisphere Ancient Civilizations.  They were Egypt (Nile), Mesopotamia (Tigris-Euphrates), India (Indus), and China (Yellow).

4) I'll use Google Earth to show them the four rivers as they look like today.  How have modern societies controlled the flooding of these rivers?  Are they still important?


• Civiilization: A group of people settling permanently with a consistent food supply.

• All needed a steady water supply that occasionally flooded and to be surrounded by natural protection from enemies.
• Each of the four developed incredible inventions and technologies when most of the rest of the world was throwing rocks at bunnies.

• Nomads/nomadic: Moving from place to place in search of food.
• Rivers... Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, Yellow
• Civilizations... Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China


National Skills: 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 3) Identifying Implications, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 11) Identifying the Main Idea, 12) Photographs, 15) Maps.

Four pages of reading fun!

Egypt Class Activity Monday, Sept. 12

Quiz of the Day Egypt 1
With Key!

This relief was found from Ancient Mesopotamia. All of these cultures developed beautiful art and buildings.

Tuesday, October 6th Comparing and Contrasting Ancient Civlizations

What We are Doing:

1) I have found an excellent website that breaks down the separate components of each of the four Ancient Civilizations in nice, easy to read, detail.  It can be found by clicking this link.... The River Valley Civilizations.  I have also turned it into a 'text' that kids can download into ghostwriter below in case they don't have an internet connection at home.

2) We are going to do an activity that investigates the similarities and differences between all of these ancient cultures.



• Geography: the land of a particular area.
• Social Structure: the class system of a society as defined by her people and government.
• Polytheistic Religion: Worshipping many gods.
• Monotheistic Religion: Worshipping a single God.
• Economy: How people make money and acquire goods through trade.

• Architecture: How buildings are designed and built.
• Military: How a country or society defends itself from invasion or attacks other countries.

ASSIGNMENT: The students show make four slides, each slide showing a different early civilization with a map, a photo of the river, and some building from that ancient culture.

National Skills: 1) Drawing Conclussions, 3) Making Inferences, 6) Restating Information, 10) Summarizing Ideas, 11) Identifying the Main Idea.

Ancient Civilizations Text Packet
From the River Valley Civilizations, on line at

Compare and Contrast Activity for the Ancient Civlilizations
Done in class, mostly.

Pharaoh Fuzzmohse guided students of the Giza Plateau today.

Wednesday, October 7th Focus on Egypt-The Giza Plateau and Pyramids

What We are Doing:

The Egyptians founded a civilization 5000 years ago that put humanity on the path of discovery, invention, science, and exploration.  The set the course of world history that will always affect our lives everyday.

1) I"ll show the students a video I made on the Major Features of Egypt...A Google Earth Tour!

2) We'll look at a map of modern Egypt on Google Earth, noticing where Egypt's major geographical features are.

3) We'll watch excerpts of a video: A Tour of the Nile

4) This is a good video too, if we have time (or do outside of class if you are interested: Journals Through History Ancient Egypt Constructing Civilization


• Egypt was divided into two separate kingdoms, the Upper and Lower Kingdoms.
• The Nile River gently floods every spring, bringing new top soil to the fields.  This allowed the Egyptians to remain in one place for several generations.

• 99% of Egyptians live within 10 miles of the Nile... or in 1% of the country.


National Skills: 1) Drawing Conclussions, 2) Identifying Cause and Effect, 3) Making Inferences, 12) Photographs, 14) Drawing and Diagrams, 15) Maps.

Thursday, October 8th Egyptian Geography

What We are Doing:

1ST, WE WILL REVIEW IMPORTANT EGYPTIAN GEOGRAPHICAL POINTS: We will take the quiz below on scratch paper...these geographic points will be part of the quiz tomorrow, along with vocabulary from Notes on Monday and Tuesday, and questions and locations of the Four Cradles of Civilization.

2) To give students a perspective on the Great Pyramid, we went outside where 'Pharoah Fuzzmohse' took the students on an imaginary tour (you can watch the first hour class in the video below!)

3) The videos below are something we may come back to if we have the time!

Egyptian Culture cartoon video

How much do you know about Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt: National Geographic

Egypts Geographic Challenge


Egypt Geography Quiz