Rome and Britain and 6th grade boys, oh my
February 27, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Ancient Rome filter! Any good ideas for a short activity based on: the fall of Rome, Roman Britain, and/or Rome's impacts in the modern world?

I'm planning an hour or so lesson with an activity for a smallish group of sixth grade boys based on Roman Britain, the end of the Empire, and Rome impact in the modern world. I have the basic narrative thread that I want to base this on, but I need a companion activity. While I'd love to do something active, it's in early March and I only have an hour or so for all of it. They've already had lesson units on Rome, so I don't need to cover basics at all, just fill out the gaps and bring them into the present. I do have an academic background in this subject and I have loads of pictures and maps to incorporate into this, though if there are suggestions for really good map series that indicate the changes in the imperial boundaries after the 2nd/3rd century AD I would welcome them.

My current thoughts are creating maps that roughly map out the empire in terms of economic and military pros and cons, along the same level as the game Civilization, and ask them to create their ideal Roman Empire based on a series of challenges. I've also considered using the Vindolanda tablets as a pattern for a writing challenge based on an imaginary late occupation of the fort and the Wall, in which they would consider their own background as a Roman soldier and the changed empire around them.

I'm really excited about this opportunity, and I want to make sure I have an engaging activity to go along with it! So, parents of sixth graders, anyone who remembers an awesome sixth grade world history activity, anyone who has taught or planned museum activities for sixth graders, etc...thoughts? What am I missing? What should I absolutely include? What kinds of short activities are going to best engage the kids and (hopefully) get them to understand how amazing the Roman Empire was?
posted by jetlagaddict to Education (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I remember doing something about Roman roads in Britian. Many of those roads are the major highway system today. I remember that the main highway between London and York, M1 ( I think), is a road first built and laid out by Romans.
posted by Flood at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2012

My current thoughts are creating maps that roughly map out the empire in terms of economic and military pros and cons, along the same level as the game Civilization, and ask them to create their ideal Roman Empire based on a series of challenges.

This is a neat idea. Start with the middle republic, state Rome's resources and needs, the resources of surrounding provinces and the cost of invading them. Get them to go through history asking whether each invasion is worthwhile or not and what direction Roman should go. You can rig the game by making it clear that they have to keep invading for plunder, as the costs of the army keep increasing, and the empire is ultimately unsustainable. It's fun and gets them into understanding history as something more than just "stuff which happened" as it lets them see the causes.
posted by Jehan at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2012

Hrm...Tacitus' Agricola? It's short, pretty easy to follow, and you can trace his campaign on a map.
posted by Vhanudux at 2:25 PM on February 27, 2012

Talk about some well-known landmark near your town that your students should know, then ask them to imagine implication if the governor of a neighboring state brought in troops. Tie this in to an explanation of the tactical and cultural implications of "crossing the Rubicon."

Or talk about the debasement of the currency in the mid 200's.
posted by markhu at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2012

Best answer: If you're doing roads (which are totally neat-o fun! and still important), an activity I've done (with tenth graders... who are just big sixth graders) is to: 1) read Horace's poem about his journey from Rome to Brundisium, while following along on the Omnes Viae website, which uses the Peutinger Tablet plus google maps, and is *really* cool! -- and then we

2) make a Roman road out of food. Ground = chocolate cake, in a glass dish. Dig a big trench for the road and two narrower side channels for drainage. Base = mini size chocolate bars (milky way, or similar) for 'boulders'. Then Rice Krispies = gravel/smaller rocks. Then concrete (vanilla pudding, red sugar, crushed chocolate cookies/Oreos, crushed pretzels; mix in a separate bowl then spread, remembering to camber the concrete, i.e., make the middle higher than the sides for drainage. Then pave with graham crackers broken into smaller pieces (paving stones) and Hershey bars (separate into small rectangles) along the sides (curbstones). It doesn't taste bad, actually, and is a *big* hit with my kids!

Other fun culture activities: make a Roman curse tablet (could be done without any Latin, no problem, just follow the formula in English), using Old Roman Cursive (there's a good model alphabet on the Vindolanda tablets website), then write on tinfoil; build model Roman buildings (sugar cubes are the traditional material: unlike the road above, you can't eat the end result). Reenactment things (mock Roman-style trials, weddings, holidays, soldiers) are always a lot of fun, too.
posted by lysimache at 3:23 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Is there a reasonable way to build a miniature aqueduct? Or how about building a set of Roman arches and seeing how much they can hold? Or have them build a spreadsheet that calculates out how much it would cost to build a Roman technology road through your town. This should estimate out how much it would cost in terms of time, materials, food, lodging, and so on. Bonus if they use Roman currency.
posted by plinth at 5:05 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just wanted to add that it went really well. I ended up using to mount a map of Rome and made up little dossiers for six "sections" of the Empire, along with one for a rebellious and self-crowned Emperor. They had to go through them and pull important reasons for protecting their section against incursions and the rebel general had to pick a defensible area to create a new Rome. Obviously, I elided over a lot of the timing issues and greater defense problems, but I thought it was fun and well-received. Thanks for everything! (And if anyone has any thoughts on teaching Ancient Rome, please memail me!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:40 PM on April 19, 2012

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