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How Old Is Old?
From the collection of the DIA:
Major Resources

Beyer, Barry K. et al. Eastern Hemisphere. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Sands, Stella. Pyramids. Boulder CO: Kids Discover, 1993.
This is a good resource for children. Both the pictures and text are well-organized.

Biard, Delafosse, Jeunesse. Pyramids. New York: Scholastic, 1994.
The illustrations show the progression of events in the building of the pyramids. The text is geared towards children.

Morley, Jacqueline. First Facts About the Ancient Egyptians. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1996.

This lesson plan is part of 4 sessions that can take place over 4 days or up to several weeks, depending on how expansive you decide to make it. The sessions lasted from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

Lesson 1
Teacher prepares enough paper decimeter squares (10cm x 10 cm of various colors of construction paper) for each child to have one for each year, plus one more per child (for example, 10 7-year-olds need 77 squares). Discuss the question, "How old is old?" to elicit from children what their understanding of "old" is.

List childrens´ responses on large sheets of chart paper.(Responses we received included: "grandparents", "single cell life forms", "rings on trees", something 1,000 years old", dinosaur bones", "black and white photos"). Post the charts so that they can be referred to as the concept of old begins to develop.

Ask each child how old he or she is, and have students build their age by gluing decimeter squares to strips of construction paper that have been cut into 15 cm. wide strips. The lengths will vary depending on how the children space the square decimeters, and there will be one extra square representing the year in which each child was born (Note: The extra square should result in a great discussion of how we measure ages.)

Lesson 2
Provide square decimeters and have a child lay out a line representing the most frequently occurring age in the classroom.

Next to it, lay out a line of square decimeters representing the age of the teacher or the age of the oldest living person anyone in the class knows. This is a necessary visual step so that the children can begin thinking about the need for reduction in scale.

Raise the question, "How long ago did the ancient Egyptians live?" Record the children´s responses on chart paper. (Our responses varied from 500 years to 5,000,000 years.) Discuss how long the line of squares would need to be if it were 500 squares long. Could this line fit in the room? Discuss 5,000 years and the length of it. (Our responses included: "We´d use all the paper in the world," and "We´d be out on Woodward Avenue,")
The need for a smaller unit of measure should become apparent. Decide together on the use of square centimeters (which is 1/10 of a decimeter)

Copy enough centimeter sheets to represent 5,000 years. (Each sheet can be cut into decade strips that will represent about 3 centuries, so you will need 17 sheets.) Discuss the relationship between years, decades and centuries. Let one square centimeter represent one year. How long would a decade be? Have each child cut a strip of 10 square centimeters from the sheet. (one of our students noted that if we worked as a group, we could cut out enough decades to build our timeline much more quickly.) Provide a container to store the decade strips.

For lessons 3 and 4 see Activity

Optional Extention activity:
Assign homework that asks for significant events in each child´s life as well as photographs of the same events.

Extend children´s timelines by gluing the assigned photographs and descriptions onto the appropriate squares.


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