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Activities to Teach Elementary Students About Ancient Egyptian Culture

by Erica Loop

If the majority of what your elementary school-aged child knows about ancient Egypt is what she's seen on movies or fictional TV shows, help her to better understand the true culture of this millennia-old civilization through an array of educational activities. According to the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, schoolchildren should develop the abilities to understand that humans create and share culture, that cultures change over time, and the principles of historical inquiry. Set these standards as goals while implementing creative projects and lessons that center on the ancient people of Egypt.

Blast From the Past

After discussing ancient Egypt and showing your grade schooler photos or drawings of relics from this past culture, play a pretend game where he can travel to the land of lost time. Ask your elementary school student to pretend that he has a time machine, and let him travel back to the past and visit ancient Egypt. Younger children in the early elementary years may want to actually build their own time machines, using a large-sized cardboard box and paints or markers. As your student travels back in time, invite him to tell you what he sees. He can recall some of the pictures that you've already viewed or give you the names of ancient pieces of architecture -- such as the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Sphinx. Younger kids in kindergarten and the early grade school years can write a few key words about what they see -- such as “pharaoh” or “Nile” -- and older students can pen entire paragraphs that provide detail about the wall paintings that they are "seeing" on the temples and other structures.

Paint the Wall

Help your elementary school student to understand better the importance that wall paintings had in the ancient Egyptian culture. Much of what is known about the ancient world comes from the picture-like written records left on ancient relics and architecture. Ask your student how she would depict her life or community culture in her own version of an ancient Egyptian wall painting. Compare this to pictures of wall paintings from ancient Egypt, asking your student to note the similarities and differences. Give her a piece of long rolled or butcher paper and tempera paints to create her own version. Hang the painting on the wall as a reminder of what the ancients did.

Animated Alphabet

Teach your grade schooler how the Egyptians of ancient times passed down vital documents and information to the next generation. Instead of writing letters on a piece of notebook paper or typing on a word processing program, the ancient Egyptian culture used hieroglyphs, or picture signs. Have your child create one picture to represent each letter in the alphabet. For example, C is a cat, H is a horse and so on. After he draws out the picture letters, your elementary school student can create his own words and sentences by combining them. Younger kids, in the early grade school years, may want to try stencils or stampers instead of freehand drawing if they are struggling to make the pictures.

Ancient Art

Get crafty with your child and make an ancient art activity. Although you can't erect a full-scale statue or a Sphinx-sized monument, your grade schooler can make her own mini model. Use modeling clay to sculpt an Egyptian-themed statue such as the bird-headed god Horus. Another option is to create a picturesque diorama that depicts a scene of the ancient civilization. For example, after sculpting several different statues of gods, create a shoebox temple to house them in. Draw or paint on the interior of the shoebox, and add the sculptures along with additional sculpted figures of Egyptian citizens.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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