Monday, November 14, 2011

Ancient Egypt at the Indianapolis Children's Museum

As if a day of play there isn't educational enough (it IS!), the girls and I occasionally sign up for the homeschool classes offered monthly at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. I've found that these classes work best for us when they're covering a subject that's already in the girls' areas of interest, so that they have some context in which  they can place all of the information that they're cramming in, and all of the projects that they're working on in that short hour and a half.

Fortunately, this recent class that we attended on Ancient Egypt is right in my girls' backyard, academically speaking. They LOVE Ancient Egypt:

There are three really nice things that generally occur in homeschool classes:

1) The kids are of all different ages, and their parents are with them, and it always seems to be a really good mix, so that everyone has a lot of fun with each other.
2) The kids pretty much all want to be there, and all participate eagerly.
3) No matter the subject of the class, at least some of the kids there have obsessively, passionately studied that subject, and so there's always someone able to answer a question.

In this Ancient Egypt class, I happen to have one of the kids who's obsessively studied the subject, bringing to life a fourth pleasure in homeschool classes:

4) You get to watch your kid raise her hand and speak up with answers. Seriously, how cool is that? I imagine that kids are doing that all day long in institutional schools, but on the occasions when my kids are in that particular situation, I'm generally nearby, watching and beaming with pride and reporting their triumphs back to Matt in the evenings.

In the laboratory, the kids got to help the scientist with the dummy mummy. When the scientist was discussing the removal of the organs, Willow shouted out, "But not the heart!" and cackled at her joke, along with a bunch of other little Ancient Egypt obsessives. She was fine with helping to remove the liver, though:

Sydney helped take out the intestines:

While they were in the lab, the kids all started their own experiment:

1) You take four pieces of apple, and put each piece into a little lidded cup.
2) Leave one apple as the control, so all you do is put the lid on that one.
3) In each of the other containers, cover the apple completely with one of three substances available to the Ancient Egyptians--salt, sand, and natron (our natron did not come from the banks of the Nile, but was made in the museum's laboratory):

Check the apples daily, and unlid them in a week to see which substance (if any) preserves the apple the best. Remember that we're not concerned with DRYING the apple, necessarily, but with PRESERVING it, since preservation was the true goal of the Ancient Egyptians.

We also learned about the amulets that the Ancient Egyptians made, particularly the process that they used. Basically, if an Ancient Egyptian carved a really super amulet, they'd press that amulet into clay to make a mold of it, which we did. Then whenever they wanted a copy of that amulet, they'd press more clay into the hardened mold, which we also did:

We got to take our amulets AND our amulet molds home so that when the clay hardens, we can use them to make even more copies of authentic Ancient Egyptian amulets.

We discussed hieroglyphics, specifically cartouches. We took a tour of the museum's exhibit on King Seti I, and found and translated his cartouches (two, of course, since a pharaoh has a given name and a throne name).  The girls used a hierogplyphics alphabet to create cartouches of their names--

--and then they carved their cartouches into clay:

Recently, one of our relatives (after listening patiently to the girls describe their class, and inspecting their salt dough maps of Ancient Egypt and their other work that only those obsessive and passionate about a subject of study can produce), told me that at the school where she works, children study Ancient Egypt in the sixth grade. This brings me to another pleasure, not in homeschooling classes, per se, but more in regards to homeschooling as a whole, for us:

We can learn as and when we choose. Willow and Sydney don't have to wait until the sixth grade to study Ancient Egypt for their school. They don't have to wait until after school and the weekends to study Ancient Egypt in their "free time," while doing a serious of interesting and uninteresting things at school for the greater part of each weekday. When they study Ancient Egypt, they can study as they wish, reading about gods and figuring out whose canopic jar is whose and building pyramids and relief maps and exploring the saga of Moses--they don't have to only do the projects that a teacher asks, in the time that is allowed for the project, producing something that's not as special on account of everyone else is doing the exact same project at the exact same time.

And yes, they can NOT learn something when and as they choose. I don't give a flip that Willow can't tie her shoelaces or tell time. She CAN tell you exactly how the Nile's flood process works, and why the Nile delta is named as such, and which is Lower and which Upper Egypt.

And after she does that, she can take you to ride the vintage carousel three times in a row, because her class just took place at the Children's Museum!


Kim K. said...

I wish we lived closer! Did they give you those cool masks? I'd love to get them for my daughter's Egypt Bday party! Thanks!

julie said...

They DID give us those masks! Isn't that awesome? One of the great things about the homeschool classes at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis is that they send you home with tons of swag. When we did the Ancient China class more recently, we took home a terra cotta warrior clay bust, a Model Magic terra cotta warrior model that we'd made, a set of mineral paints to paint him with, Chinese character tracing sheets, novelty pasta shapes and all the other infrastructure to make a model map of the terra cotta warrior site, and cardstock-weight mix-and-match terra cotta warrior paper doll stuff.