Ancient Mesopotamia was the first big unit study we did together on a major ancient civilisation. Mesopotamia means the land between two rivers and is situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. One of the earliest developed civilisations, it benefited from the yearly flooding of the rivers, with highly fertile land. Fertile land meant that the Mesopotamian people were able to farm, and therefore remain in one place.
Resources we used
When I first tackle a subject I get in the books. I am a self-confessed bibliophile and my children take after me in the extreme. There is little more satisfying than a box of books and a new subject to learn about. These three books were my core books for Mesopotamia:
In addition, I bought these which we enjoyed as add ons but aren’t really essential:
For literature, bearing in mind the children were about 7 during our Mesopotamia study, we enjoyed learning about Gilgamesh, using the following children’s editions:
I always try to sneak in a biography related to the period, so we read the following one about Leonard Woolley’s excavations at Ur aloud: Treasure Under The Sand. Which lead to a fascination in archeology, so we also read:
Even now the children maintain an archaeological site at the bottom of our garden (we’re VERY easy-going parents – what some see as mess we see as education – right now we have a massive viking ship, complete with sails in our back garden!!)
Recording the children’s work
I knew I wanted to have records of everything the children did and I also knew that I wanted to revisit each culture in the future. To me this means going back and studying a topic at a more advanced level applicable to their age for a short period of about a week. I did not want to redo the civilisation in four years time, so I covered everything in huge depth and I’d estimate each major civilisation has taken between 6 to 9 months to learn about. I then build upon that knowledge when I do a fun revisiting week, which we do three or four of each year. ( To see an example of when we revisited Ancient Egypt click on the following links http://angelicscalliwags.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/fun-week-plans/ and http://angelicscalliwags.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/weekly-wrap-up-tutankhamen-unit-study-part-one/ ) In order for me to be able to record their work and also add to it at a later date I chose note booking as our primary record keeping choice. We do the odd lapbook, usually for civilisations we spend less time on, but I stick the lap book pieces on card and file them as note pages rather than doing a lapbook.
This works well for us because we can keep all the Mesopotamia work together, regardless of whether it was written in 2010, 2011 or 2012. We simply date it and place it with the historically similar work. There are so many wonderful ways of using note pages – I truly believe it must be one of the most flexible ways to learn. Jimmie at notebooking fairy has done a fabulous post about all the different things you can put in a note-book: http://notebookingfairy.com/2010/12/50things-to-put-in-a-notebook/
Mesopotamia on the Map
Each time we start a civilisation we do a map. I prefer the children to do their own map and usually it is a simple file folder map. We cut a file folder down to a size that will fit in our note books. When shut it simply has the civilisation written on it. When opened out full it reveals a picture map of the whole area we are learning about, including photos of any well known historical land marks and also geographical land marks.
For Mesopotamia, we included the surrounding countries, the two main rivers (Tigris and Euphrates), the marshlands of the Madan people, the Taurus and Zagros mountain ranges, steppe areas and the major cities of the past (Ninevah,Mosul, Babylon, Ur).