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Classroom Activities on the Great Wall of China

by Christopher Cascio

The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made structure on Earth, and one that can inspire awe and wonder in your students. The Great Wall represents the achievements of several dynasties of Chinese royalty as well as for humankind, and makes an interesting subject for classroom activities when teaching about the wonders of the world.

The Human Chain

Take the class outside and have the students form a line while holding hands. Using a tape measure, measure the distance in feet from one end of the line to the other. Tell the class how long their human chain is, and then ask them to compare that to the length of the Great Wall of China. The wall is nearly 4,000 miles long -- that's a staggering 21,120,000 feet -- so divide 21,120,000 by the length of their chain, and tell them how many more chains they would need to span the entire wall. As a way to make the number even more astounding, multiply the number of students in the chain by how many chains they would need in total to show them how many individual people it would take to span the entire wall hand-in-hand.

The Longest Wall

Because the Great Wall is so massive, comprehending its distance might be difficult for some students. Provide students with maps or globes, and then point out particular distances between familiar areas. For example, show them that the distance between New York City and Chicago is approximately 800 miles. Have students divide 4,000 by 800 to obtain the quotient of 5. Explain that the Great Wall could stretch that distance five times. Have students select different places on their maps and globes, and see how many times the Great Wall could span those distances.

Great Wall Jeopardy!

Split the class into teams and draw a Jeopardy board on the chalkboard. Above each column of the board write a topic title, such as Dynasties, Materials, Distance or Height. Designate amounts of points for each space in each column, i.e. 100, 200, 300 and 400. On index cards, have prepared questions for each space. Have one group choose a space on the board. Then, read the corresponding question and call on the first group that signals it has the answer. (Each group could have a designated hand raiser or buzzer.) If that group gets the answer correct, they get the points and get to choose again. If they get it wrong, they have those points subtracted from their score, and the next group gets to choose.

The Great Wall of the Classroom

Explain that the class will build its own Great Wall of the Classroom. The actual Great Wall is approximately 4,000 miles long, and so theirs will be roughly 4,000 inches long. Give each student a small stack of brown or gray 8 1/2- by 11-inch construction paper and a pair of safety scissors. Then, calculate how many sections of wall each student will have to produce (If you have 30 students, each student will have to use 12 sheets of paper.). Have each student draw a section of the wall on one sheet, cut out the image, and then use that as a template to cut out the rest. After all the sections are cut out, you can all tape them together and hang the wall around the classroom.

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