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Early Elementary students use decimeter squares to measure their lifespans and create a metric-based time line going back to ancient Egypt.

Barbara Herman and Mary Windram, Roeper School, Bloomfield Hills

  • construction paper cut into decimeter squares
  • sheets of square centimeter paper
  • 50 12" x 18" sheets of same color construction paper
  • string or thread

Have on hand:

  • scissors
  • glue or tape

Constructing classroom time line from centimeters is Lesson 3 and 4 of a 4-lesson series [for lessons 1 and 2 see Preparation and Resources]. This activity is done prior to studying ancient Egypt. Once constructed, the timeline can be used during studies of ancient Egypt.

Lesson 3
Teacher pre-cut 50 sheets of construction paper into strips that are 10 centimeters wide, and puts out glue and tape.

Discuss that the current year is 1997 and that today we are going to build our time line back 1,997 years. These 1,997 years are called A.D., which is "anno Domini", Latin for "in the year of the Lord". Christians traditionally date the current era from the time of Christ´s birth. What part of a decade strip would be needed to show 7 years? To show 90 years? Have some children build and mount this using the previously cut decades onto the strips of pre-cut construction paper.

Ask how many decades would be need to show a century? Have groups of 3-4 children begin counting out 10 decade strips and putting them into bundles while other groups of 3-4 children are attaching the construction paper strips into a long line. Another group of 3-4 children can begin gluing on the first 97 years and then the subsequent centuries.

Lesson 4
Read a selection from the Resources that includes some of the years of ancient Egyptian culture, perhaps Pyramids by Scholastic.

Talk about pyramids being built towards the end of the time of the ancient Egyptians. Then introduce the dating of time known as B.C. (before Christ). Discuss that these dates are counted backwards. Ask the children "How do you explain this?"

Discuss how to use the remaining decade strips to continue building the timeline back 3,000 more years, having the class decide how best to accomplish this task. (Our students actually worked at constructing the timeline over several sessions, as this was a tedious task. However, the end results were worth the effort.)

Once the timeline is constructed, lay it out with the class so that they can see how long it is. Discuss and record their observations. The dimensions should be about 50 meters long x 10 centimeters wide. Discuss where to display the timeline. (Our class decided to hang the timeline from the ceiling lights. We hung markers from string to represent centuries and other dates.)
Look at the timeline at the right for example.


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