Created by Danaé Clohan
Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto, CA

DISCOVERING THE ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS OF AMERICA - Designed by Danaé Clohan - Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto, CA at the EWYL 2002 Institute


You are part of a team of elite explorers.  You began your latest voyage at the beginning of the summer.  It has been 50 days since you left your home country and you have yet to see land.  You and the rest of the crew are beginning to talk about turning back as supplies are running low.  As you prepare to go to sleep one night, you hear cries of excitement.  Land has been spotted!  The next morning, the crew anchors the ship just off an uncharted coastline.  Plans are made to send you and three others to land to look for food and fresh water.  After you find provisions, you become curious to see more of this new land and eventually convince the captain to stay for a few weeks.  What do you find as you head inland to explore?

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You will be assigned to an Aztec Team or a Maya Team.  On your team, you will find several experts (mathematician, historian, anthropologist, archeologist).  As you explore this new region, you will find an established civilization.  Enter this civilization as an observer.  Collect information, take photos, and collect artifacts all in your interest area.  Keep everything in your personal journal. When you return to the ship for the voyage home, you will discuss and share information with your team.  Before you land at your home country, you and your team will need to prepare a presentation of findings to present to your country's ruler.
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´Each member of your team should choose a specialty area. 
´Keep an e-journal of all findings and resources. 
´Search the sites of your civilization listed in your specialty. 
´Record interesting and informative information in your journal (don't forget to include the sources).
´Discuss and share all findings with your team.
´As a group, be prepared to answer these questions:
    ´How are the myths/folk tales of a civilization related to how the civilization runs itself?
    ´What are the scientific/technological/artistic advances evident in these ancient civilizations?
    ´What are the mathematical/scientific calculations behind the civilization's calendar?
    ´How did the geography affect the farming, agriculture, hunting, and trade practices of the civilization?
    ´How do religious beliefs and common cultural practices compare and contrast to modern day?
    ´What are the common ways that a civilization manages the behavior of its people?
´Prepare a web site with your team's findings. 

As you set off on your inland exploration, keep in mind the following criteria to make note of as you navigate through your civilization's web sites:

Math/Number System
Art and Music
Religious rituals/customs
Folk tales
City and Empire Layout
Farming and Hunting
Trade and Economy
Culture and Daily life

Also keep in mind that your journal  will serve as your notes with which to compose your published piece. You will publish your findings as a web site  to present to your country's ruler.

As a group, you will:

    1. Discuss all of your discoveries with your team.
    2. Use a graphic organizing program to decide upon the content of your web site.
    3. Design your team's web site presentation.
    4. Create a quiz to follow your presentation.
    5. Prepare and plan your presentation for an audience.

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Classroom, school and public libraries

Social Studies Text


Internet: Click on the underlined titles below to go to different civilizations.

Aztec (click here)
Maya (click here)
Inca (click here)
Misc. (click here)

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Now that you have arrived safely at home, what do you tell people about your adventures?  How does your representation affect the attitudes of your country towards these new people and their culture?

How have you been changed by your travels (i.e.: adapting to different cultures, research and reporting methods, and experience of collaboration)?

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You will be evaluated on the thoroughness, accuracy and pride taken in completing your published piece, recreation of your ancient civilization and how efficiently and cooperatively you worked with your team.

Keep the following in mind as you research and prepare your presentation:
´Student designed rubrics for project content, project creation and design, and project presentation (See sample rubrics below).
´Student journals with group KWL chart, research notes, teacher questions, brainstorming, outlining, and storyboarding.
´Teacher and student observation using a checklist of activities to be completed based on criteria created by student and teachers.
´Completion of a student multimedia project with peer evaluation.
´Presentation of project.
´Preparation of study guide and quiz based on group project.
´Notes on peer projects.
´Quiz on peer projects.
´Student self assessment reflection.
´Student/teacher assessment using rubric.

Evaluation of the Overall Effectiveness of the Project:
The overall project will be successful if:
1. All students participate equally in the creation and presentation of their projects.
        ´ Group effectiveness - peer evaluation
2. The students fulfill the given objectives of the project.
        ´ Multimedia design - student designed rubric, peer and teacher evaluation
        ´ Content thoroughness - student designed rubric, teacher evaluation
3. Project is completed within the given time.

Rubrics (examples)

 Web Page Rubric
 Research and Content Rubric
Project Presentation Rubric
 Student Checklist


Self Evaluation 

Answer the following questions:

    ´How did you use your class time? Briefly describe your daily activities.
    ´How did you work with your team?
        ´Did you share information and responsibilities?
        ´Describe how you broke up the responsibilities.
    ´If you were to do this same project again, what would you do differently? What would make this a more meaningful activity for you?

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